CNN just reported that support for legalizing marijuana is growing across the country.  Is legalization becoming politically correct? Or is this change in opinion a response to the well-funded marketing campaign produced by people who wish to profit from a change in the law, and of course, those who want to be able to get high without being bothered by law enforcement.

Two California ballot measures are circulating that bar state or local aid in enforcing federal prohibitions and limit the ability of employers and local governments to restrict use or sale of marijuana.  Three more measures will soon be circulating that emphasize taxing and controlling marijuana use – while legalizing the substance.  While they tout the cost savings for law enforcement, due to removing the necessity to arrest users, they overlook costs to law enforcement who will have to keep an abundant supply of marijuana out of the hands of underage users and the impact on traffic and child safety.

Beware of signing petitions to qualify these measures that will make marijuana more available to impressionable young people, and those who suffer from addiction.
The following measures are now circulating for signatures:

  1. Marijuana Legalization. Initiative Statute.Summary Date: 12/24/13 | Circulation Deadline: 05/23/14 | Signatures Required: 504,760 Sponsors: John W. Lee, Bob Bowerman, Dege Coutee, and Dave Hodges
    Legalizes under state law marijuana use, growth, cultivation, possession, transportation, storage, or sale. Creates commission to regulate, and provide business licenses for, marijuana cultivation, sales, processing, transportation, and distribution. Applies retail sales taxes to marijuana, unless exemptions for medical or dietary uses apply. Allocates revenues equally among education, healthcare, law enforcement/fire, drug abuse education/treatment, commission expenses. Prohibits discrimination against marijuana users or businesses. Requires voter approval to zone beyond set limits. Bars state/local aid to enforce federal or state marijuana laws. Exempts existing medical marijuana collectives from licensing, regulatory, and local zoning requirements.
  2. Marijuana Legalization. Initiative Statute.Summary Date: 09/25/13 | Circulation Deadline: 02/24/14 | Signatures Required: 504,760 Sponsors: Berton Duzy and Michael Jolson
    Decriminalizes marijuana and hemp use, possession, cultivation, transportation, or distribution. Requires case-by-case review for persons currently charged with or convicted of nonviolent marijuana offenses, for possible sentence modification, amnesty, or immediate release from prison, jail, parole, or probation. Requires case-by-case review of applications to have records of these charges and convictions erased. Requires Legislature to adopt laws to license and tax commercial marijuana sales. Allows doctors to approve or recommend marijuana for patients, regardless of age. Limits testing for marijuana for employment or insurance purposes. Bars state or local aid to enforcement of federal marijuana laws.

NCADD Sacramento joins with law enforcement and other providers of addiction services in opposing the legalization of marijuana.  Why?  Because we see the effects of using this substance every day.

Fact: Marijuana is the most commonly used and abused illicit drug in the United States.  While marijuana contains more than 400 different chemicals, the main mind-altering chemical in marijuana is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC.  The level of THC content in marijuana after cultivation can range from less than 1% to more than 30% and has been increasing dramatically, making marijuana increasingly potent and more addictive.

Fact: According to the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN), in 2010 there were over 572,000 marijuana-involved admissions to hospital emergency rooms. The same report indicated that during the same time frame, an estimated 11,406 emergency department visits involved a synthetic cannabinoid product, sometimes referred to as “synthetic marijuana” and commonly known by street names such as “Spice” or “K2”.

Fact: When someone smokes marijuana, THC is absorbed by the lungs and into the bloodstream, which carries the THC to the brain and all other organs throughout the body, producing the “high” that users experience.  The parts of the brain most affected include those that influence pleasure, memory, thinking, concentrating, sensory and time perception and coordinated movement.

Fact: According to NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse), research has shown that, in chronic users, marijuana’s adverse impact on learning and memory can last for days or weeks after the acute effects of the drug wear off.  As a result, a daily marijuana smoker may be functioning at a suboptimal intellectual level all of the time.  Research has also shown poorer cognitive abilities than non-users, including memory capability, math and verbal skills.  And, marijuana can be addictive.

Fact: Each year more teens enter treatment with a primary diagnosis of marijuana dependence than all other illicit drugs combined.

According to NIDA, long-term marijuana use can lead to addiction for about 9% of users and increases among those who start young (to about 17%) and daily users (25-50%).

Long-term marijuana abusers trying to quit report withdrawal symptoms including irritability, sleeplessness, decreased appetite, anxiety, and drug craving.  The symptoms begin within about 1 day after last use, peak at 2-3 days, and subside within 1 or 2 weeks.

Fact: Numerous studies have shown marijuana smoke to contain 50-70% more carcinogenic hydrocarbons than tobacco smoke.  Marijuana has a higher burn temperature, is inhaled more deeply and held in the lungs longer than tobacco smoke.  As a result, marijuana smokers can have many of the same problems as tobacco smokers like daily cough, more frequent acute chest illness, and a heightened risk of lung infections.

It is important to be armed with the facts and to participate in discussions on this topic with friends and colleagues.  This is not a harmless substance as proponents argue.

We will keep you informed of the status of all measures seeking to qualify for the ballot in California.  And we will continue to educate the public on the reasons why marijuana should NOT be legalized.

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