COMMENTARY | COLUMNISTS | THOMAS ELIAS

Marijuana harm ignored in push for legalization

Four potential ballot initiatives completely legalizing marijuana are in the works for California’s next general election, with pot advocates yet to choose the variation that will get their concerted push.

But one thing is for sure: Whichever one they send out for signature gathering will say nothing about the detrimental effects of the mind-altering weed, well known as a proven demotivating factor for heavy users.

The eventual pot legalization initiative (its official name is yet to be determined) will likely tax pot producers and dealers just like other businesses. And it will contain rules against anyone under 21 obtaining it, like measures adopted in Colorado and Washington.

There will also be no nonsense about doctors’ recommendations, now required for medical marijuana use under Proposition 215, the Compassionate Use Act of 1996. Those recommendations, often faked, now facilitate cannabis use for plenty of folks with no discernible medical problem.

This, of course, does not change the fact marijuana has helped plenty of cancer patients and others who need their pain alleviated, as well as helping vision problems and other ailments marijuana often eases.

Essentially, all this means there is no longer much, if any, stigma attached to using marijuana. Entrepreneurs all over California are already gearing up to market products ranging from bongs to cannabis-laced fudge the moment legalization arrives.

But as acceptance of marijuana has increased, both nationally and in California, the dangers also have risen. A 2014 study in the medical journal Current Addiction Reports found that using pot only once a week can lead to cognitive decline, lower IQ and memory problems.

Other studies published in the New England Journal of Medicine and other peer-reviewed medical magazines report a link between recreational pot use and brain abnormalities in young adults. Some law enforcement officials report more serious problems, too.

Not to worry, legalization advocates say, because the age limit will keep marijuana away from teenagers. The identical rule, of course, applies to alcohol, and how successful is that in preventing teenage and college drinking?

Acceptance of pot is so widespread that two of California’s most conservative Republican congressmen, Tom McClintock of Roseville and Dana Rohrabacher of Orange County, along with liberal Democrat Sam Farr of Monterey County, are now pushing to prevent any federal interference with legalizing the weed.

The GOP-dominated House of Representatives passed the so-called Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment earlier this year on a non-partisan vote, seeking to prevent the federal Justice Department from stopping legalization anywhere.

And a McClintock-sponsored amendment that barely failed in the House would have forbidden federal prosecution of pot dealers and users anyplace where state laws allow recreational marijuana.

All this ignores the sometimes fatal effects of pot use reported in a new study from the Arizona Department of Health Services. Examining all deaths of Arizona children under age 18, the department concluded 128 fatalities in 2014 resulted from substance abuse.

Marijuana was the most prevalent substance associated with child deaths, linked to 62, far more than alcohol or methamphetamine. This, when just 7.5 percent of Arizonans use marijuana regularly, compared with 52 percent who use alcohol. So there’s little doubt pot is a more serious problem for youngsters who use it than beer or liquor.

Translate the Arizona numbers to California, six times as large but with no similar tracking of teenage deaths, and the likelihood is that more than 300 youthful fatalities here were tied to pot use last year.

Says Sheila Polk, county attorney for Yavapai County, Ariz., northwest of Phoenix, “Legalizing an addictive drug that is linked to … increased psychosis and suicidal ideas, lowered IQ, memory loss, impaired learning and academic failure means more damaged lives and lost opportunities for our youth. It’s unconscionable to experiment this way.”

Wrote Republican William Bennett, the nation’s first drug czar and a former secretary of education, “Overseeing or encouraging more marijuana use is just about the last thing a government trying to elevate (living conditions) would do. At stake is the safety of our youth.”

Sadly, it’s unlikely voters will hear anything much like this when the drumbeat for legalization begins in earnest late next year.


Elias is the author of "The Burzynski Breakthrough, The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It," available in a softcover fourth edition.

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11 UserComments
Dale rostamo 12:00am August 15, 2015

Ha! We win you lose, sore loser! Facts just get in your way, huh? Herb is relatively harmless as compared scientifically or even anecdotally, to the drugs your version of society blesses, Booze and the carcinogenic plant of choice, the actual gateway drug tobacco.

elelo* 12:00am August 12, 2015

new studies from the UK have proven cannabis not to detrimental even for folks that used as teens. the herb is harnless and in most cases beneficial.

elelo 12:00am August 11, 2015

new studies from the UK have proven that the herb is harmless even to those who start to use in their teen years. legalize move on.

Ernest Agee 12:00am August 10, 2015

I see that the anti-marijuana people are out there trying to lie to everyone again.

Alan Felix 12:00am August 10, 2015

Marijuana is a non-toxic plant. There have been a total of 0 deaths resulting from the use of cannabis. Prision and loss of employment resulting from the use of cannabis are far more damaging to society than weed ever will be. It's time to be able to freely smoke a blunt before bed without feeling like a criminal. Legalize it already.

nicholasvidrine 12:00am August 10, 2015

"All this ignores the sometimes fatal effects of pot use reported in a new study from the Arizona Department of Health Services. Examining all deaths of Arizona children under age 18, the department concluded 128 fatalities in 2014 resulted from substance abuse" see that last word there? not marijuana but substance abuse lol worried about being called a fat liar? decided to take the misdirection route instead? I look up every single negative article about marijuana and have not seen one. ONE. that shows any conclusive proof of anything. Really. I'm looking for it. Because it would make me feel SOOOOOO much better not being able to use cannabis if it actually harmed me. But alas another BS article getting my hopes up. Sad.

Von 12:00am August 10, 2015

Every harm in this refeermadness propaganda piece has been proven to be not true. The 2014 study released did not account for alcohol use, while another study released the same year showed no drop in iq with heavy marijuana use but showed a drop in iq with alcohol users. My question for the author of this fact twisting story teller, is how many lives have been ruined from a plant being a crime? How many trillions of dollars have we wasted trying to lock people up and eradicate a plant? How many has these oppressive laws prevented from using?

Charlie 12:00am August 10, 2015

Really? You are going to sit there and with a straight face say that pot is more dangerous to youth than alcohol? You sir are a bald faced liar! COUNTLESS people have been KILLED either directly or indirectly by alcohol and you want to throw out the number 62 as your reason? Then you extrapolate from there to 300 teen deaths in California likely due to pot use but you have NO proof of this! Then you want to talk about damaged lives? How about the damage caused by an arrest for possession of cannabis? How about the inability to get a job or to get a student loan or to join the military? You people are seriously deranged and in need of a mental health intervention. And, by the way, you write a book about a break through cancer treatment that the government is trying to hide? Really? I give up...you folks are really just too obtuse to even think about never mind having to actually LISTEN to.

Michael Buck 12:00am August 10, 2015

Fake facts are always a fun read to laugh at. Take this into factor though for substance abuse and deaths from accidental OD, Utah is the highest from opiates and pain killers, which are highly addicting, mind altering and the next step to those is heroin because it's easier to obtain and cheaper. So please explain how marijuana is more dangerous than prescription pain killers, that are legal.

Dusty Relic 12:00am August 10, 2015

The AZ report does not support the claim that "[…] 128 fatalities [among children] in 2014 [sic] resulted from substance abuse" or that "… pot is a more serious problem for youngsters who use it than beer or liquor". The Arizona report labeled any death of child as "[a]ssociated with Drugs and/or Alcohol and/or Prescription Drugs" if "the child, the child’s parent, caretaker and/or if the person responsible for the death, during or about the time of the incident leading to the death, used or abused substances [...]". The same report says that “the term ‘associated’ is used because it is not always clear if or how the substance use had a direct or contributing effect on the fatality[…]" Cannabis can show up in a drug test weeks after the effects have worn off, and it was counted as a factor even when mixed with other more dangerous substances. Meanwhile, previous editions of the report show that these types of death plunged after medical cannabis became available in AZ!

Duncan20903 12:00am August 10, 2015

I've said it before, and I'm sure I'll say it again. With enemies like Mr. Elias, the re-legalization of cannabis doesn't need any friends. Keep up the good work Mr. Elias. Your dishonesty is a big part of why cannabis prohibition is falling apart so quickly. Rest assured that when you make nonsense claims like the hysterical rhetoric in your article above, we'll be there to present the evidence that the truth is obviously not a welcome visitor in your home. Here's an article which dismantles the phony claim that 62 Arizona youths (or even just one) actually died from cannabis consumption: http://www.phoenixnewtimes.com/news/state-health-agency-has-no-evidence-that-marijuana-killed-anyone-7424243