Clearing the Haze

Watch this four-part perspective series that examines health, social, regulatory and financial issues associated with the world’s boldest experiment with legal marijuana here.


 

We Can Do Better. And We Must.

Read the editorial on marijuana here from Michael Mulligan, a teacher, coach, and educator for 37 years. He is a graduate of Middlebury College, The Breadloaf School of English at Middlebury, Lincoln College Oxford, and The Harvard Graduate School of Education. He has served for the last 22 years as the Head of School at The Thacher School in Ojai, California.


 

Vermonters Visit to Colorado Report

In February, 2015, a group of Vermonters spent three days in Denver, Colorado, examining first-hand that State’s experience with legalized recreational marijuana.  Read more about their findings here.


 

Colorado’s New Attorney General: Pot Legalization ‘Not Worth It’

The lawyer charged with defending Colorado’s marijuana legalization laws denounced them Monday.

“It’s not worth it,” Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman told dozens of fellow state attorneys general at a conference in the nation’s capital, referring to $76 million in taxes and fees collected from pot sales last year.

The recently inaugurated Republican rebuked legalization advocates’ long-standing argument that regulating sales will eliminate the black market for marijuana and associated criminal activity.

“Don’t buy that argument,” she told her peers. “The criminals are still selling on the black market. … We have plenty of cartel activity in Colorado [and] plenty of illegal activity that has not decreased at all.”

Read more here.


 

ACAP Marijuana Legalization Policy Statement

Approved by Council on April 15, 2014 By the Substance Abuse and Addiction Committee The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) advocates for careful consideration of potential direct and downstream effects of marijuana policy changes on children and adolescents, and involvement of the medical and research community in policy-related discussions.  Legalization of marijuana for medicinal or recreational purposes, even if restricted to adults, is likely to be associated with (a) decreased adolescent perceptions of marijuana’s harmful effects, (b) increased marijuana use among parents and caretakers, and (c) increased adolescent access to marijuana, all of which reliably predict increased rates of adolescent marijuana use and associated problems.1,2 Marijuana use during pregnancy raises additional concerns regarding child and adolescent development.3 AACAP is aware that, among hundreds of chemical constituents, marijuana contains select individual compounds that, if safely administered in reliable doses, may potentially convey therapeutic effects for specific conditions in specific populations.  Advocacy regarding potential cannabinoid therapeutics, alongside social justice, public policy, and economic concerns, have contributed to marijuana policy changes.  Amid these factors, AACAP remains focused on the specific issue of marijuana use in adolescence, a critical period of ongoing brain maturation. Marijuana use is not benign, and adolescents are especially vulnerable to its many known adverse effects.4,5 One in six adolescent marijuana users develop cannabis use disorder, a well characterized syndrome involving tolerance, withdrawal, and continued use despite significant associated impairments.6,7 Heavy use during adolescence is associated with increased incidence and worsened course of psychotic, mood, anxiety, and substance use disorders across the lifespan.7-10 Furthermore, marijuana’s deleterious effects on adolescent brain development, cognition, and social functioning may have immediate and long-term implications, including increased risk of motor vehicle accidents, sexual victimization, academic failure, lasting decline in intelligence measures, psychopathology, addiction, and psychosocial and occupational impairment.11-18 As child and adolescent mental health advocates, AACAP (a) opposes efforts to legalize marijuana, (b) supports initiatives to increase awareness of marijuana’s harmful effects on adolescents, (c) supports improved access to evidence-based treatment, rather than emphasis on criminal charges, for adolescents with cannabis use disorder, and (d) supports careful monitoring of the effects of marijuana-related policy changes on child and adolescent mental health.References


 

Marijuana and Psychosis Connection

Update, Feb. 16, 2015: Today, in one of the world’s most prominent medical journals, Lancet Psychiatry, a team of 23 scientists published a large study showing that people who smoked high-grade marijuana — about 16 percent THC with no CBD, which is similar to average U.S. varieties of marijuana — were five times more likely than non-users to have a psychotic disorder. Weekend users were three times more likely than non-users to have a psychotic disorder.

England is telling the world it cannot afford these exorbitant tolls on life and public healthcare costs. The United States should, at the very least, bother to calculate these cases and costs before pressing ahead with marijuana legalization.

Read more here


 

Retired Judge Ben Joseph Interviews on Marijuana

See the series of interviews conducted by retired Judge Ben Joseph on various areas of concern around marijuana.  Most recent interviews include, Tim Trevithick, Champlain Valley Union High School Student Assistance Counselor, on the issue of teenagers and drug abuse and Kevin Sabet, PhD, the Director of the University of Florida Drug Policy Institute, and National President of SAM (Smart Approaches to Marijuana). He is the author of Reefer Sanity: Seven Great Myths About Marijuana (2013, Beaufort).

 

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Vermont and Teen Marijuana Usage

Out of all the states in the U.S., tiny Vermont has one of the highest rates of teen marijuana use. Proponents of legalization say that shows how poorly prohibition of marijuana has worked. As in so many other areas, that view looks at a single moment’s worth of data, ignoring the complex history of marijuana use in Vermont.

The Youth Risk Behavior Survey, which measures how many middle- and high-school students are doing risky things like using marijuana, has been given in Vermont’s schools for many years. When we look back along the timeline of marijuana use, we see that usage rates among teens have gone up and down more than once. In 1993, 19% of high school students reported using marijuana at least once in the 30 days before they took the survey. The usage rate went up to 35% in 1997. Then it leveled off, and began to drop, slowly at first (a single percentage point in 1999) but then faster, until it reached 25% in 2005.

Why the drop? Because prevention efforts on the national, state, and local level were working. Smoking rates dropped, drinking rates dropped, and marijuana rates dropped too,  as both adults and teens got the message about using mind-altering drugs  moderately or not at all. The decline was slow but steady across the board. Until 2005.

That year, while smoking and drinking rates continued to fall, marijuana use rates leveled off at 25%. And since then, they have been down to 24%, back up to 25%, and back down to 24% in 2013, the last time the survey was administered. In other words, there hasn’t been any significant change for eight years.

Why is that? Because pro-legalization advocates turned marijuana into medicine. It does, indeed, ease some symptoms in a few diseases, and the pro-pot lobby held this up as firm evidence that it was a cure-all. The message teens in Vermont got was that marijuana was perfectly safe for anyone to use. That it wasn’t addictive. That it made you a better driver. None of which is true, but those voices were drowned out.

We have years of data showing that, when teens think an illegal substance isn’t harmful, more of them will start using it. That’s what has happened in Vermont. Our teen use rate is high when it would be lower and still going down, if the pro-pot lobby hadn’t put a halo over marijuana.

And one other point: Prohibition will always be a fact for teenagers. Their developing brains are primed to change, so drugs like marijuana hit them much harder than they hit adults. No law that allows people under 21 to use marijuana will ever pass in the Vermont legislature. The pro-legalization folks should keep both these points in mind when they try to white-wash marijuana. A good-sized share of our high use rate lies on their shoulders.