Thursday, January 24, 2019

Dope

The January issue of America had results of a poll entitled “Are you in favor of legalizing marijuana?”  Eighty-nine (89) percent of respondents said they were in favor of marijuana legalization, either for medicinal purposes only (17%) or for both medicinal and recreational use (72%). 

Notable to me was the finding that a reason for legalization was it would prevent the criminal justice system from being overburdened by low-level offenders (67%).  I hadn’t given this reason much thought until now.   Misuse and difficult-to-regulate were a few of my reasons to oppose legalization.

Noteworthy is a September 2017 Washington Port article that read: "In 2016 more people were arrested for marijuana possession than for all crimes the FBI classifies as violent, according to 2016 crime data released by the agency on Monday…

Marijuana possession remains one of the single largest arrest categories in the United States, accounting for over 5 percent of all arrests last year. More than one in 20 arrests involved a marijuana possession charge, amounting to more than one marijuana possession arrest every minute…Overall in 2016, roughly 1.5 million people were arrested for drug-related offenses, up slightly year-over-year. Advocates for a more public health-centered approach to drug use say numbers like these show the drug war never really went away.

Criminalizing drug use has devastated families across the US, particularly in communities of color, and for no good reason,” said Maria McFarland Sánchez Moreno, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, in a statement. “Far from helping people who are struggling with addiction, the threat of arrest often keeps them from accessing health services and increases the risk of overdose or other harms.

…Many public health experts have called for illicit drug use to be decriminalized in the United States, arguing that many of the negative effects of the drug trade — crime, disease, over-incarceration — are a result of strict policies that leaves drug users nowhere to turn but the black market. This is particularly true for substances like marijuana, whose effects at the individual and societal level are typically less harmful than even legal substances like alcohol."

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “Marijuana use can lead to the development of problem use, known as a marijuana use disorder, which takes the form of addiction in severe cases. Recent data suggest that 30 percent of those who use marijuana may have some degree of marijuana use disorder.  People who begin using marijuana before the age of 18 are four to seven times more likely to develop a marijuana use disorder than adults.  

Marijuana use disorders are often associated with dependence—in which a person feels withdrawal symptoms when not taking the drug. People who use marijuana frequently often report irritability, mood and sleep difficulties, decreased appetite, cravings, restlessness, and/or various forms of physical discomfort that peak within the first week after quitting and last up to 2 weeks.

Marijuana dependence occurs when the brain adapts to large amounts of the drug by reducing production of and sensitivity to its own endocannabinoid neurotransmitters. Marijuana use disorder becomes addiction when the person cannot stop using the drug even though it interferes with many aspects of his or her life. Estimates of the number of people addicted to marijuana are controversial, in part because epidemiological studies of substance use often use dependence as a proxy for addiction even though it is possible to be dependent without being addicted. Those studies suggest that 9 percent of people who use marijuana will become dependent on it, rising to about 17 percent in those who start using in their teens." 

Addiction; legalization for seemingly good reasons; promotion of addiction; money to be made by suppliers and through taxation; and children and teenagers having easier access to marijuana will increase dependence, perhaps not for everyone, but certainly for children, in my opinion. 

The challenge is for parents, especially for those who use marijuana, to understand the consequences of dependence.   Happiness should not be sought in a reefer, otherwise known as dope – certainly an appropriate name.

Deacon David Pierce

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