Opinion/Editorial: Marijuana – Is It For You?

DISCLOSURE: This page does not necessarily represent the opinions of this Ward’s elected GOP Officers, or the position of the BernCo Republican Party, RPNM, or the RNC.

Apparently, the majority of New Mexicans are all for marijuana – not just what we call “medical” marijuana but total legalization of recreational marijuana.  In a September 21, 2018 poll by the Albuquerque Journal, 60% favored and 32% opposed legalization of marijuana.   See https://www.abqjournal.com/1223550/nm-voters-back-legal-marijuana.html?utm_source=abqjournal.com&utm_medium=abqjournal%20oembed|1223550&utm_campaign=abqjournal%20oembed

The New Mexico legislature failed to pass a bill this year to legalize recreation marijuana so the Governor has created a “Cannabis Legalization” task force to study other states’ laws so the groundwork for a legalization bill will be cleared for the 2020 session that she can sign into law. See https://www.abqjournal.com/1334408/nm-governor-creates-group-to-study-cannabis-legalization.html.

The Democrat State party adopted a party platform last year that supports the legalization of recreational marijuana use statewide.

Marijuana is touted as the “safe” option to reduce opioid use and abuse.

Some advocates for marijuana claim that legalization of marijuana has reduced violent crime.

It all sounds good doesn’t it but what are the facts about marijuana?  How dangerous is it?  Do we really want “recreational marijuana?”  Do we really think marijuana can be kept away from our children?

The book, “Tell Your Children – The Truth about Marijuana, Mental Illness, and Violence” is written by Alex Berenson, a former NY Times investigative reporter and a graduate of Yale University and is married to Dr. Jacqueline Berenson, M.D. and senior psychiatrist at the Mid-Hudson Forensic Psychiatric Institute.  Mr. Berenson lays out the “facts” about marijuana based on extensive research.

Alex tells a different story than the rosy picture being painted for New Mexicans and other states to swallow.  “The facts” about marijuana as demonstrated in many documented studies from overseas are provided below.

  • Violence, child deaths, crime, and mental psychoses increase with cannabis use.
  • Marijuana and THC have never been approved as “medicine” by the FDA. In a June 2018 article entitled, “Marijuana as Medicine” it states that “The term medical marijuana refers to using the whole, unprocessed marijuana plant or its basic extracts to treat symptoms of illness and other conditions. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not recognized or approved the marijuana plant as medicine. “(See https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/marijuana-medicine )
  • CBD which comes from hemp is not marijuana; only CBD has been approved by the FDA to treat one specific medical condition. It is important not to confuse CBD from hemp versus THC from cannabis; they are two different entities.
  • Claims about the benefits of marijuana use are mostly myths.
  • Marijuana is a gate-way drug to opiate use and it is addicting.
  • Use of Marijuana by those 25 and younger impacts the brain causing memory loss, lowering of IQ over time and other problems.
  • The United States has lagged in efforts to study the effects of marijuana use and tracking or registry of psychoses to root causes.
  • The claimed economic benefits of cannabis appear to be over-stated and the adverse consequences of more psychoses and violence created by cannabis use may well outstrip the cannabis revenue received by the state.
  • There is no evidence that cannabis use can be regulated or access prevented by those under 25 years of age.
  • Marijuana and THC (delta-9-tetrahyrocannabinol), its active ingredient, is far more potent today than the pot of the 1970s. In the 1970’s, most marijuana contained less than 2% THC.  Today marijuana contains 20 to 25% TCH or even a higher percentage and can be further enhanced to an almost pure form.
  • In the United States, marijuana is a Schedule 1 drug, the same as heroin.

Did you know that:

  • August 21, 2019 the New Mexico Department of Health issued this alert: New Mexico Department of Health Warns about Vaping-Associated Lung Disease. Four people with severe breathing problems that have been hospitalized are being investigated.  All have reported use of vape cartridges, possibly containing Tetra hydro cannabinol (THC) which is marijuana. There have been similar cases reported in at least 14 other states. 
  • Victims of marijuana abuse or addiction made up about 1.5% of Americans in 2014. But they accounted for 11% of all the psychosis cases in emergency rooms – 90,000 cases.  In Colorado, emergency room physicians have become experts on this subject.
  • There is no effective tracking or registry of psychosis cases in the United States so claims that there is no problem cannot be proven or dis-proven.  However, in Finland and Denmark where mental illness is tracked, a significant increase in psychosis since 2000 has been found following an increase in cannabis use.
  • Marijuana is most commonly prescribed for pain relief but has not been tested against other pain relief drugs such as ibuprofen.
  • A four-year study in Australia of patients with chronic pain showed cannabis use was associated with greater pain over time.
  • A January 2018 paper in the American Journal of Psychiatry states that cannabis users were almost three times as likely to use opiates three years later.
  • Marijuana can cause or worsen severe mental illness, especially psychosis. Teenagers who smoke marijuana regularly are about three times as likely to develop schizophrenia, a devastating psychotic disorder according to the National Academy of Medicine in 2017.
  • In 2006 about three million Americans used cannabis at least 300 times a year; in 2017 this has grown to eight million.
  • Psychosis is a shockingly high-risk factor for violence. In a 2009 paper in PLOS Medicine by Dr. Seena Faxel of Oxford University, found that people with schizophrenia are five times as likely to commit violent crimes as healthy people and almost 20 times as likely to commit homicide.  The risk for violence skyrockets for schizophrenics.
  • A Swiss study of 265 psychotic patients published in Frontiers of Forensic Psychiatry last June 2018 found that over a three-year period young men with psychosis who used cannabis had a 50% change of becoming violent. A 2013 paper in an Italian psychiatric journal examined almost 1,600 psychiatric patients and found that cannabis use was associated with a ten-fold increase in violence.
  • Since their legalization of marijuana in 2014-2015, the first four states to legalize marijuana (Alaska, Colorado, Oregon & Washington) have seen their rates of murder and aggravated assault increase much faster than the United States as a whole.
  • Canada with a high number of cannabis users has also seen a similar trend with homicides rising 30% between 2014 and 2017.
  • Cannabis use is also associated with a disturbing number of child deaths from abuse and neglect – many more than alcohol, and more than cocaine, meth amphetamines, and opioids combined- according to reports from Texas, one of the few states to provide detailed information on drug use by perpetrators.
  • The relationship between marijuana and madness was shown and documented over 150 years ago by the British. Individual states in the U.S., on the other hand, moved to encourage wider use of cannabis and opiates over 20 years ago.
  • Cannabis is addicting. About 10% who try marijuana become addicted.
  • Cannabis can cause insomnia, depression, anxiety, and nausea when users try to quit.
  • Chronic inflammation is connected with dementia and other degenerations. Cannabis trigger receptors in the brain that become inflamed.  Prolonged inflammation damages everything from blood vessels to nerve cells.
  • Data also shows that marijuana “cannot” help people stop using opiates. In fact, it can lead users to switching to stronger opiates.
  • Marijuana is the world’s most widely used illicit drug, trailing only alcohol as an intoxicant.
  • Cannabis is linked to child fatalities. In FY 2017 Texas reported that cannabis use was the most common drug used in 90 of 172 child death cases.
  • Legalizing and “regulating” marijuana has not prevented violence and crime as proponents argue. There is a black market.  Oversupply and the fact that marijuana is easy to grow makes it cheap in both legal and illegal markets.  Direct economic benefits appear to be vastly overstated.
  • The cost of cannabis psychosis and violence may well outweigh the taxes paid by the cannabis industry.

Are you sure that we want New Mexico to legalize “recreational” marijuana?  Don’t you think our Governor and legislators should be required to respond to all these concerns?  If you want more information, please read on.

There are many other articles from health experts, National Academy of Sciences, Center for Disease Control, the New England Journal of Medicine.  Some of the key findings in these articles are provided below:

  • March 6, 2019 Marijuana use in teens may change brain volume levels

With recreational marijuana being legalized in many states, the rates of its use amongst teens are increasing. It is reported that about 35% of American teens have reported having used marijuana.  Evidence shows that consuming even a small amount of marijuana can change the grey matter volumes in teens. (See https://www.medicalnewsbulletin.com/marijuana-use-in-teens-may-change-brain-volume-levels/ )

Evidence is mounting that regular marijuana use increases the chance that a teenager will develop psychosis, a pattern of unusual thoughts or perceptions, such as believing the television is transmitting secret messages. It also increases the risk of developing schizophrenia, a disabling brain disorder that not only causes psychosis, but also problems concentrating and loss of emotional expression.  (See https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/teens-who-smoke-pot-at-risk-for-later-schizophrenia-psychosis-201103071676 )

  • American College of Pediatricians -April 2017 Marijuana Use: Detrimental to Youth

Although increasing legalization of marijuana has contributed to the growing belief that marijuana is harmless, research documents the risks of its use by youth are grave. Marijuana is addicting, has adverse effects upon the adolescent brain, is a risk for both cardio-respiratory disease and testicular cancer, and is associated with both psychiatric illness and negative social outcomes. Evidence indicates limited legalization of marijuana has already raised rates of unintended marijuana exposure among young children, and may increase adolescent use. Those who used medical marijuana had an earlier age of regular marijuana use, and more marijuana abuse and dependence symptoms than those who did not use medical marijuana.

There is evidence legalization of marijuana limited to medical dispensaries and/or adult recreational use has led to increased unintended exposure to marijuana among young children. By 2011, rates of poison center calls for accidental pediatric marijuana ingestion more than tripled in states that decriminalized marijuana before 2005. In states which passed legislation between 2005 and 2011 call rates increased nearly 11.5% per year. There was no similar increase in states that had not decriminalized marijuana as of December 31, 2011. Additionally, exposures in decriminalized states where marijuana use was legalized were more likely than those in non-legal states to present with moderate to severe symptoms requiring admission to a pediatric intensive care unit. The median age of children involved was 18-24 months.

Marijuana use by adolescents has grown steadily as more states enact various decriminalization laws. According to CDC data, more teens now smoke marijuana than cigarettes.   (See https://www.acpeds.org/the-college-speaks/position-statements/effect-of-marijuana-legalization-on-risky-behavior/marijuana-use-detrimental-to-youth )

  • April 3, 2014 – 150+ Scientific Studies Showing the Dangers of Marijuana

Marijuana can cause – Brain Damage (Lowered IQ, Memory Loss, Paranoia, Psychosis, Schizophrenia); Mood Disorders (Aggression, Anxiety, Depression, Irritability); Cancer; Heart Attacks; Gum Disease; Impaired Motor Skills; Lung Disease; Obesity; Osteoporosis; Pregnancy Complications; Sexual Dysfunction; Strokes, Viral Infections and even Death.  (See http://www.populartechnology.net/2014/04/150-scientific-studies-showing-dangers.html )

  • April 16, 2014 Casual Marijuana Use Linked to Brain Abnormalities

CHICAGO — Young adults who used marijuana only recreationally showed significant abnormalities in two key brain regions that are important in emotion and motivation, scientists report. The study was a collaboration between Northwestern Medicine® and Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School.

This is the first study to show casual use of marijuana is related to major brain changes. It showed the degree of brain abnormalities in these regions is directly related to the number of joints a person smoked per week. The more joints a person smoked, the more abnormal the shape, volume and density of the brain regions. (See https://news.northwestern.edu/stories/2014/04/casual-marijuana-use-linked-to-brain-abnormalities-in-students )

  • April 22, 2016 – Heavy teen marijuana use may cut life short by 60

Heavy marijuana use in the late teen years puts men at a higher risk for death by age 60, a new long-term study suggests.  Swedish researchers analyzed the records of more than 45,000 men beginning in 1969 and 1970. The scientists from the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm reported that 4,000 died during the 42-year follow-up period, and men who’d used marijuana heavily at ages 18 and 19 were 40 percent more likely to die by age 60 compared to guys who hadn’t used the drug.

“Cannabis users have poorer health in general. You’d expect there to be increased mortality risk,” Krakower told CBS News. He pointed to another long-term study linking early heavy marijuana use with lung cancer, and a second study that associates the drug with increased heart problems.

Earlier cannabis use is linked to cognitive problems. Hills said, “One 2012 study showed early, regular use of marijuana – the kind of level they describe in this study — led to an eight point decline in IQ over time.”  (See https://www.cbsnews.com/news/heavy-teen-marijuana-use-may-cut-life-short-by-60/ )

Natural April 25, 2018  Smoking marijuana found to have the same weakening effect on the blood vessels as cigarettes  (See http://www.dcclothesline.com/2018/04/25/smoking-marijuana-found-to-have-the-same-weakening-effect-on-the-blood-vessels-as-cigarettes/ )

  • October 16, 2014 updated June 5, 2017 – Your kid’s brain on pot: The real effects of marijuana on teens

Like it or not, your kids will probably try marijuana. So will their friends. Canadian teens are more than twice as likely as adults to smoke pot – and have the highest rate of cannabis use in the developed world. Marijuana has become as much a part of Canada’s youth culture as hockey or Katy Perry.

Fully 28 per cent of Canadian children aged 11 to 15 admitted to using cannabis at least once in the past year (compared to 23 per cent in the United States, where pot is legal in the states of Colorado and Washington, and 17 per cent in the weed-friendly Netherlands), a 2013 United Nations Children’s Fund study found. As much as 5 per cent of Canadian adolescents – and as much as 10 per cent of Grade 12 students – smoke pot every day, according to the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse.

Marijuana hijacks normal brain functioning in teens, and many scientists believe the drug may have permanent effects on brain development.

A more recent study, published in April in the Journal of Neuroscience, found structural changes in the brains of 18- to 25-year-olds who smoked pot at least once per week, compared to those of youth with little to no history of marijuana use.

Adolescents with a “wake-and-bake” habit risk permanent losses in IQ. While marijuana activists can probably list examples of teen potheads turned successful lawyers, it’s tough to argue with the findings from a long-term study conducted in the New Zealand city of Dunedin.

The ongoing study has followed 1,037 people born in Dunedin during 1972-73, from birth to their early 40s.

In a 2012 report, researchers from Duke University analyzed data from Dunedin and found that the earlier and more frequently a person smoked pot, the greater the loss of intelligence by age 38. Compared to their IQs measured at age 13, people who had started using cannabis as teens and maintained a daily pot habit into adulthood had, on average, a six-point drop in IQ. The decline was not trivial: By age 38, their average IQ was below that of 70 per cent of their peers, according to the report, published in the journal PNAS.

Teens who smoke pot daily are 60 per cent less likely to finish high school or get a university degree than their weed-free peers, according to a high-profile study published in September in the Lancet.  (See https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/potent-pot-vulnerable-teens-trigger-concerns-in-first-states-to-legalize-marijuana/2019/06/15/52df638a-8c9a-11e9-8f69-a2795fca3343_story.html?utm_term=.0935499226a8 )

  • June 16, 2019 Potent pot, vulnerable teens trigger concerns in first states to legalize marijuana 

The first two states to legalize recreational marijuana are starting to grapple with teenagers’ growing use of highly potent pot, even as both boost the industry and reap huge tax windfalls from its sales…. “Horrible things are happening to kids,” said psychiatrist Libby Stuyt, who treats teens in southwestern Colorado and has studied the health impacts of high-potency marijuana. “I see increased problems with psychosis, with addiction, with suicide, with depression and anxiety.”

Though the legal purchase age is 21 in Colorado and Washington, parents, educators and physicians say youths are easily getting hold of edibles infused with tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the psychoactive component that causes a high, and concentrates such as “shatter,” a brittle, honey-colored substance that is heated and then inhaled through a special device.

Each poses serious risks to adolescents’ physical and mental health.

“Underage kids have unbelievable access to nuclear-strength weed,” said Andrew Brandt, a Boulder, Colo., software executive whose son got hooked while in high school.

With some marijuana products averaging 68 percent THC — exponentially greater than the pot baby boomers once smoked — calls to poison control centers and visits to emergency rooms have risen. In the Denver area, visits to Children’s Hospital Colorado facilities for treatment of cyclic vomiting, paranoia, psychosis and other acute cannabis-related symptoms jumped to 777 in 2015, from 161 in 2005.

“The brain is abnormally vulnerable during adolescence,” said Staci Gruber, an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School who studies how marijuana affects the brain. “Policy seems to have outpaced science, and in the best of all possible worlds, science would allow us to set policy.”

The critics also insist that more must be done to maintain tight regulation of the industry. That’s not been the case so far, they argue, with dispensaries opening near high schools in Seattle and with retail and medical pot shops in Denver outnumbering Starbucks and McDonald’s locations combined.  (See https://www.familyfirst.org.nz/2019/06/potent-pot-vulnerable-teens-trigger-concerns-in-first-states-to-legalize-marijuana/ )

  • August 1, 2014 A New England Journal of Medicine Article about Marijuana

Addiction to marijuana is 2 to 4 times more likely in those who start using the drug as adolescents than in those who start using as adults. About 1 in 6 teenagers who experiment with marijuana become addicted. This means that it is imperative to discourage young persons from initiating marijuana use. Younger age of first use predicts more problems. 

“Both immediate exposure and long-term exposure to marijuana impair driving ability; marijuana is the illicit drug most frequently reported in connection with impaired driving and accidents, including fatal accidents.”  While either alcohol consumption or marijuana use alone has adverse effects on driving, the combination is particularly dangerous. What happens when a young person who is stoned and has had a few drinks decides to text while driving?

The use of marijuana is associated with “measurable and long-lasting cognitive impairments, particularly among those who started to use marijuana in early adolescence.” Early use of marijuana has significant adverse effects on school performance and may have longer-term adverse effects on brain structure and function in adulthood.

Marijuana use is associated with increased risk of psychotic illness, especially in those genetically predisposed to such illnesses. The mechanisms underlying this association are under active investigation. Marijuana use is a significant risk for anyone who has either an existing psychiatric disorder or a predisposition to psychiatric illness.  (See https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/demystifying-psychiatry/201408/new-england-journal-medicine-article-about-marijuana )

  • August 21, 2018 – Largest Brain Study of 62,454 Scans Identifies Drivers of Brain Aging

Schizophrenia, cannabis use, and alcohol abuse are just several disorders that are related to accelerated brain aging

In the largest known brain imaging study, scientists from Amen Clinics (Costa Mesa, CA), Google, John’s Hopkins University, University of California, Los Angeles and the University of California, San Francisco evaluated 62,454 brain SPECT (single photon emission computed tomography) scans of more than 30,000 individuals from 9 months old to 105 years of age to investigate factors that accelerate brain aging. SPECT tomography) evaluates regional cerebral blood flow in the brain that is reduced in various disorders.

Researchers studied 128 brain regions to predict the chronological age of the patient. Older age predicted from the scan compared to the actual chronological age was interpreted as accelerated aging.  The study found that a number of brain disorders and behaviors predicted accelerated aging, especially schizophrenia, which showed an average of 4 years of premature aging, cannabis abuse (2.8 years of accelerated aging), bipolar disorder (1.6 years accelerated aging), ADHD (1.4 years accelerated aging) and alcohol abuse (0.6 years accelerated aging).   (See https://www.iospress.nl/ios_news/largest-brain-study-of-62454-scans-identifies-drivers-of-brain-aging/)

  • July 2018 The Impact of Legalization of Medical and Recreational Marijuana

Although nine and 29 states have legalized recreational and medical marijuana, respectively, debate continues about the impact of marijuana use by teenagers, with inconsistent results among studies looking at this question (see AJN Reports, October 2017).

A recent study, however, found that marijuana-related ED and urgent care (UC) visits to a tertiary care children’s hospital system in Colorado increased significantly over a 10-year period among adolescents, “most notably” in the years after the state legalized medical marijuana in 2009 and recreational marijuana in 2014.

In the retrospective study, the investigators looked at ED/UC visits from 2005 to 2015 by patients ages 13 through 20 years that were determined to be related to marijuana based on diagnostic codes or positive urine drug screens. There were 4,202 such visits during this period and, in 67%, a behavioral health evaluation was also conducted.  (See https://journals.lww.com/ajnonline/Pages/articleviewer.aspx?year=2018&issue=07000&article=00009&type=Fulltext )

  • Marijuana: Facts Parents Need to Know provides a good overview of issues and definitions related to marijuana that should be helpful to all parents (See http://www.healthieryou.com/mjparent.html ) to read the letter.
  • Marijuana Use and ADHD

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, is very common, affecting nine percent of children in the United States between ages 13 and 19. It can carry on to adulthood, affecting 4.1 percent of adults over age 18, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Similarly, the National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug in America. Combining the two can have dangerous consequences.

A study performed by the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry showed that while seven percent of American teenagers with an average age of 17 use marijuana, a much higher 13 percent of teenagers who also suffer from ADHD abuse the drug.  (See https://www.dualdiagnosis.org/marijuana-abuse/