Marijuana concerns

Over the past several years, there has been a growing concern over why there is such an issue over marijuana arrests in Kansas when border states have legalized this drug. I know this will open up a can of worms both pro and con, but I would like the public to see this from our standpoint.

I have had the opportunity over the years to visit personally with many people and inmates who have admitted that they are recently addicted to the “new marijuana.” They have even expressed their concerns over how this will affect young people, especially those who are new users. Some explain this as a craving that they never had years ago.

Some are users from many years ago who agree that the potency is much greater now than it used to be and agree that the “new marijuana” is very concentrated and addictive. Their words. Some agree that the edibles give a whole different effect and can be easily over ingested, causing medical concerns or overdose.

I’ve had others who have expressed justification for legalizing marijuana and feel that there is no issue with addiction and feel that alcohol is just as abused or even more so. You can see why this is such a controversial area. I feel, we are not too far away from legalizing marijuana, but until we do, we will enforce the laws, as they should be. At times, we have to protect people from themselves and their choices.

The same is true of alcohol offenses. Arguments are made that alcohol is no different from marijuana and on many levels this is true. We do enforce illegal alcohol offenses as we do illegal drug offenses. Another key factor is on most of our cases involving marijuana is that METH and other much harder drugs are present, including heroine and cocaine. Most I have talked to agree that marijuana is now considered a “gateway” drug.

When you have older adult drug users express their concerns for our young people over the addictive properties of this “new marijuana,” you will better understand why we do what we do. When we receive complaints of criminal activity or when we are on a traffic stops or routine patrol, we do our best to determine what is at hand, regardless if they are drug/alcohol related, theft, car stop, felony, etc. This is what you pay us to do. We investigate appropriately on what is presented to us at the time, whether it be casework or assisting the public.

There is much information from both sides of the issue and you can see from the following information and statistics why this is should be a concern to us all.

Marijuana Leads to Soaring Crime Rates

By: Joshua Denton, on Oct. 28, 2016, in Law, Liberty, Life

Numerous reports of marijuana use in Colorado have led to episodes of psychotic activity and subsequent homicide or suicide including:

1. After smoking marijuana, 18-year-old Daniel Juarez ran around wildly, stripped naked then stabbed himself with a knife 20 times, killing himself.

2. In 2014, Levy Pongi, a 19-year-old student, ingested marijuana edibles before acting irrationally, upending furniture in his hotel room, then running to the hotel balcony and jumping to his death.

3. Kristine Kirk called 911 to report her husband was acting erratically after ingesting marijuana edibles. While she was on the phone with the 911 dispatcher, her husband shot and killed her in front of their three children.

4. Brant Clark, a 17-year-old high school student, committed suicide after ingesting large amounts of marijuana at a party and suffering major psychotic episodes requiring emergency care over a three day period. A suicide note said, “I wasn’t thinking the night I smoked myself out.”

5. Luke Goodman fatally shot himself after ingesting marijuana. His family said he was acting irrationally after eating the drugged edibles.

6. Nineteen-year-old Mark Chafant was allegedly trying to sell a bag of marijuana to other teenagers when he was shot and killed. Three juveniles were charged with the 2016 crime.

Marijuana use also doubles the risk of being in a car accident if you drive soon after smoking it, and it causes more car accidents than any other illicit drugs, according to Columbia University researchers. They found it contributed to 12 percent of traffic deaths in the U.S. in 2010, triple the rate of a decade earlier.

What’s up With THC limits?

For the last year, the idea of limiting THC has taken off at state and federal level. In fact, in the spring of 2021, the US Senate’s Caucus on International Narcotics Control released a report recommending THC caps on state’s licensed and regulated products. To put the concept into perspective – currently, cannabis flower in legal markets typically contains THC levels from 18 to 23 percent, while cannabis concentrates contain anywhere from 70 to 90 percent or more in THC.

Regulators and legislators alike want to now set limits on how much THC a product can contain, with most proposals proposing a limit around 15 percent. But why? All in the name of public safety. Advocates of THC limits seem to believe that the limit will protect public health and consumer safety, although don’t explicitly indicate how.

“Frequent consumption of high-potency cannabis can result in serious health conditions, including neurotoxicity and substance use disorders,” Lawler wrote in his legislative justification. “Capping the potency of recreational marijuana will allow New Yorkers to use marijuana as they see fit, while working to reduce the risk of long-term health impacts, including the impacts on our health care system.”

Florida lawmakers have proposed a 10 percent THC limit on marijuana flowers and a 16 percent THC limit on edibles sold in Florida’s medical marijuana marketplace. California limits the THC in edible products but not in products that can be smoked, while Illinois places a 15 percent tax on cannabis with THC levels of more than 35 percent.

U.S. Senators, Diannen Feinstein, D-California, and John Cornryn, R-Texas, are asking the National Institutes of Health to research the impacts of high-potency cannabis and to make a recommendation with the Food and Drug Administration if states should limit THC in marijuana sold in state-sponsored markets.

A June 2020 study by University of Colorado at Boulder researchers found that smoking high-potency marijuana concentrates boosts blood levels of THC more than twice as much as smoking conventional marijuana, but it doesn’t necessarily result in a greater high. The paper was published in JAMA Psychiatry and assessed the acute impact of cannabis among real-world users of legal market products.

In the 1990s, THC percent was as low as 2 to 4 percent, now it can go as high as 25 to 28 percent. An “eighth” is 1/8th of an ounce and is equal to 3.5g. An “eighth” will make 10 joints of 0.35g each, or seven joints of 0.5g.

One study compared people involved with current and former long-term, heavy use of marijuana with a control group who reported smoking marijuana at least once in their lives, but not more than 50 times. All participants had similar education and income backgrounds, but significant differences were found in their educational attainment: fewer of those who engaged in heavy cannabis use completed college, and more had yearly household incomes of less than $30,000.

When asked how marijuana affected their cognitive abilities, career achievements, social lives, and physical and mental health, the majority of those who used heavily reported that marijuana had negative effects in all these areas of their lives.

Studies have also suggested specific links between marijuana use and adverse consequences in the workplace, such as increased risk for injury or accidents. One study among postal workers found that employees who tested positive for marijuana on a pre-employment urine drug test had 55 percent more industrial accidents, 85 percent more injuries and 75 percent greater absenteeism compared with those who tested negative for marijuana use.

A recent analysis using data from three large studies in Australia and New Zealand found that adolescents who used marijuana regularly were significantly less likely than their non-using peers to finish high school or obtain a degree. They also had a much higher chance of developing dependence, using other drugs, and attempting suicide. Several studies have also linked heavy marijuana use to lower income, greater welfare dependence, unemployment, criminal behavior and lower life satisfaction.

Marijuana Addiction

Contrary to popular belief, marijuana is addictive. Research shows that one in six people who start using the drug before the age of 18 can become addicted. One in ten adults who use the drug can become addicted.

Over the past few decades, the amount of THC in marijuana has steadily climbed. Today’s marijuana has three times the concentration of THC compared to 25 years ago. The higher the THC amount, the stronger the effects on the brain — likely contributing to increased rates of marijuana-related emergency room visits. While there is no research yet on how higher potency affects the long-term risks of marijuana use, more THC is likely to lead to higher rates of dependency and addiction.

Marijuana Risks

Marijuana use can have negative and long-term effects:

Brain health: Marijuana can cause permanent IQ loss of as much as eight points when people start using it at a young age. These IQ points do not come back, even after quitting marijuana.

Mental health: Studies link marijuana use to depression, anxiety, suicide planning and psychotic episodes. It is not known, however, if marijuana use is the cause of these conditions.

Athletic Performance: Research shows that marijuana affects timing, movement and coordination, which can harm athletic performance.

Driving: People who drive under the influence of marijuana can experience dangerous effects: slower reactions, lane weaving, decreased coordination, and difficulty reacting to signals and sounds on the road.

Baby’s health and development: Marijuana use during pregnancy may cause fetal growth restriction, premature birth, stillbirth and problems with brain development, resulting in hyperactivity and poor cognitive function. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and other chemicals from marijuana also can be passed from a mother to her baby through breast milk, further impacting a child’s healthy development.

Daily life: Using marijuana can affect performance and how well people do in life. Research shows that people who use marijuana are more likely to have relationship problems, worse educational outcomes, lower career achievement and reduced life satisfaction

In closing, I would like to add that since becoming legal in multiple states, the THC content is much greater than the marijuana of years ago. I have talked with law enforcement and individuals from states where marijuana has been legalized and even though huge revenues have been gained, it does come at a cost as you can see from above.

I have talked with people who have had terminal family members and those taking chemo, etc., and I do feel that in those cases, medical marijuana would be a benefit. There are also those who would abuse this, unfortunately. The fact of the matter is that marijuana is still illegal in Kansas and when encountered, we have to do our jobs. I do encourage everyone to do their own research on this issue.

John Merchant23 Posts

John Merchant currently serves as Brown County (Kansas) Sheriff.

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