By Mickey Lohr
As the Pastor of the River Community Church, I have been working with the youth here in Lyons for 9 years. Over the last year or so we have seen an exponentially huge increase in the use of marijuana with the kids in our community. Dealing with families and youth who are affected by marijuana has become the major concern in my counseling load. Not only a higher level of usage as far as the number of kids using, but also starting at a much younger age, specifically, our middle school kids. This increase in Marijuana related problems is now being seen and addressed by schools and school boards state wide. It is the part of this issue that I believe is the most important, and needs to be the primary concern.
Unfortunately, the common response from proponents of Medical Marijuana Dispensaries is, since there are restrictions placed on Dispensaries, there is no way marijuana is ending up in the hands of kids. Even though that is a very debatable point, and has actually been addressed by the Supreme Court in Gonzales v. Raich (see the Drug Enforcement Agencies “Speaking Out Against Drug Legalization,” pg. 7 at http://www.dea.org), that still is not the main issue. The main issue is the Legitimizing and “Harming Down” of Marijuana. This is accomplished by creating the perception that marijuana is “harmless,” and the result is the higher use among teens.
Several highly credible sources have confirmed this fact. The DEA states, “Studies demonstrate that when people perceive the use of drugs as harmless, drug use increases.” With the introduction of Medical Marijuana Shops, the perceived harm has decreased, and marijuana is being legitimized, “making the incidence of use rise, regardless of age-related regulations.”
Colorado’s top law enforcement officer, Colorado Attorney General John Suthers said recently, “A new report from the National Institute on Drug Abuse points to a disturbing rise in drug use among youth, fueled primarily by increases in marijuana use.”
He continues, “These increases in youth drug use are being fueled by the increasing accessibility and acceptability of marijuana use. Marijuana use can have grave detrimental effects on the developing minds and behavior of teens. This report highlights one of the side effects of the increasing social acceptance of medical marijuana and the ramifications of its widespread use.” (Press release from the Colorado AG office, 12/14/2010)
In a statement accompanying the report, Nora D. Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse said, “These high rates of marijuana use during the teen and pre-teen years, when the brain continues to develop, place our young people at particular risk…. Not only does marijuana affect learning, judgment, and motor skills, but research tells us that about one in six people who start using it as adolescents become addicted.” (Press release from the Colorado AG office, 12/14/2010)
Gil Kerlikowske, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, also commented on the survey results, “The increases in youth drug use reflected in the ‘Monitoring the Future’ study are disappointing… Mixed messages about drug legalization, particularly marijuana, may be to blame. Such messages certainly don’t help parents who are trying to prevent kids from using drugs.” (Press release from the Colorado AG office, 12/14/2010)
And finally, John Suthers said the national survey underlined recent Colorado Department of Education data that showed a spike in the number of drug-related expulsions across the state at the same time medical marijuana became widely accessible. (Press release from the Colorado AG office, 12/14/2010)
In one of many examples, in 1975 the Supreme Court of Alaska ruled that the state could not interfere with an adult’s possession of marijuana for personal consumption in the home. The court’s ruling gave a green light for marijuana use. Although the ruling was limited to persons 19 and over, teens were among those increasingly using marijuana. According to a 1988 University of Alaska study, the state’s 12 to 17-year-olds used marijuana at more than twice the national average for their age group. Alaska’s residents voted in 1990 to re-criminalize possession of marijuana. (Source: Johnston, L.D., Bachman, J.G., and O’Malley, P.M., “Monitoring the Future: Questionnaire Responses from the Nation’s High School Seniors,” Institute for Social Research, 1980, pg. 266.)
Another example, that is often used by those who favor lesser restrictions on marijuana, is the Netherlands. However, when the Netherlands liberalized their drug laws allowing the public sale of marijuana, they saw marijuana use among 18-25 years olds double, and the heroin addiction levels triple. They have since reversed this trend, and have begun implementing tighter drug controls. Today over 70 percent of Dutch municipalities have local zero-tolerance laws. (See Drug Enforcement Agencies “Speaking Out Against Drug Legalization,” pg. 5, at http://www.dea.org)
Very simply put, our youth do not see this as a medical issue; most of them actually believe that marijuana has been legalized. And honestly, that’s with good reason. They know that for the most part, what is taking place currently has nothing to do with medicine. What’s going on currently is about legitimizing the recreational use of marijuana.
I know there are some good people with good hearts who honestly believe in the use of marijuana as a medicine. But those who are honest proponents of the medicinal use of marijuana need to look at a couple of facts from the Federal Government.
First of all, Medical Marijuana already exists. It is called Marinol. The medical community and the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) have approved Marinol, and it is widely available through a legitimate medical prescription, and purchased through a pharmacy. It currently comes in pill form and is being researched for approval through such methods as an inhaler or a patch. Marinol is a synthetic THC which has proven to relieve the nausea and vomiting that go along with chemotherapy for cancer patients and help with the loss of appetite with AIDS patients.
Since 1906, The Pure Food and Drug Act ensured any drug marketed in the US must go through rigorous scientific testing. “The approval process mandated by this act ensures that claims of safety and therapeutic value are supported by clinical evidence and keeps unsafe, ineffective and dangerous drugs off the market.” (“Medical” Marijuana - The Facts, http://www.justice.gov/dea/ongoing/marinolp.html)
“Any change to the legal status of marijuana must be done through the mechanisms established by the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), which requires action by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the DEA, or by Congress.” (Drug Enforcement Agencies “Speaking Out Against Drug Legalization” at http://www.dea.org)
Second, there are no FDA-approved medications that are smoked, including marijuana.
Until, if and when the U.S. Government reclassifies marijuana from a class 1 controlled substance, and legitimate prescriptions can be written by legitimate doctors, then this isn’t about medicine.
“Marijuana remains a Schedule I controlled substance under the CSA (Controlled Substance Act). This is consistent with the fact that the drug has never been approved by the FDA for marketing in the United States because scientific studies have never established that marijuana can be used safely and effectively for the treatment of any disease or condition. Marijuana’s placement in Schedule I of the CSA results in the following legal consequences: marijuana may not be dispensed for medical use in the United States; it is illegal to manufacture, distribute, or possess marijuana for any purpose (other than government-approved research); and there is no “medical necessity” defense to the CSA prohibitions relating to marijuana.” (Drug Enforcement Agencies “Speaking Out Against Drug Legalization,” pg. 6, at http://www.dea.org)
In a recent ruling by the United States Supreme Court (Gonzales vs. Raich), the Court stated: “The CSA designates marijuana as contraband for any purpose; in fact, by characterizing marijuana as a Schedule I drug, Congress expressly found that the drug has no acceptable medical uses. Moreover, the CSA is a comprehensive regulatory regime specifically designed to regulate which controlled substances can be utilized for medicinal purposes, and in what manner... Thus, even if respondents were correct that marijuana does have accepted medical uses and thus should be re-designated as a lesser schedule drug, the CSA would still impose controls beyond what is required by California law. The CSA requires manufacturers, physicians, pharmacies, and other handlers of controlled substances to comply with statutory and regulatory provisions mandating registration with the DEA, compliance with specific production quotas, security controls to guard against diversion, record keeping and reporting obligations; and prescription requirements. Furthermore, the dispensing of new drugs, even when doctors approve their use, must await federal approval.” (Drug Enforcement Agencies “Speaking Out Against Drug Legalization,” pg. 7, at http://www.dea.org)
Here is a quote from the DEA, “Smoked marijuana has never been and will never be scientifically approved medicine. According to the Institute of Medicine, there is no future for smoked marijuana as medicine. However, the prescription drug Marinol—has been studied and approved by the Food and Drug Administration as safe medicine when used as prescribed. The difference between Marinol and marijuana is that you have to get a prescription for Marinol from a licensed physician—you can’t buy it on a street corner, and you don’t smoke it.”
Third, Marijuana is a dangerous, addictive narcotic.
Drug Enforcement Administration SAC Timothy J. Landrum said, “Marijuana is the most commonly abused illicit drug in the United States, and more young people today are in drug treatment programs for marijuana dependency than any other drug.” Please read that paragraph again. (http://www.justice.gov/dea/pubs/states/newsrel/2008/la080708.html)
Marijuana is a dangerous, mind-altering drug. That is the conclusion the Food and Drug
Administration came to after reviewing all of the available information. (Drug Enforcement Agencies “Speaking Out Against Drug Legalization,” pg. 4, http://www.dea.org).
That is also the experience of my life. This is a very personal issue to me. I started smoking marijuana as a sophomore in high school. By the time I was 18 it had cost me a baseball scholarship, and shortly thereafter, cost me my freedom and my family. This was not the result of being “genetically predisposed” to addiction to marijuana. It was the result of a dangerous, mind altering, addictive narcotic called marijuana. By God’s grace, and the fact that there were people in my life who cared enough to step in and rescue me, I am here today. That is why this issue is so close to my heart. That is why focusing this on the real issue, our youth, is so important.
I believe the best use of our town government’s time and manpower is not spending hours looking at how to regulate this, but taking the simple, and, I believe, right direction at this point, the same direction so many other towns in Colorado have taken: do not allow dispensaries in our town. Period. Again, dealing with this as a drug, medically and legitimately, like any other drug is a different issue. That is the way it needs to be handled.
I would like to see our town government work with the community and our schools, to replace the dangerous message that has been sent, and reach our youth with a right, healthy message about drugs. I will give my time to help in any way possible.
There is so much more to say, too much to write here. I would encourage you to go to http://www.justice.gov/dea/ongoing/legalization.html and get the facts on this issue.