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Free Speech: The hazards of legalizing marijuana
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The debate over the legalization of recreational marijuana condenses down to two fundamental aspects:

•         Marijuana is no less harmful than alcohol.

•         Legalizing marijuana and taxing it will reduce the illegal sales of marijuana that may be laced with highly toxic chemicals, and legalization will provide tax revenue and reduce crime.

Neither of these arguments is valid, except perhaps the prospect that legalization will proscribe the addition of toxic chemicals to a product that, in and of itself, is inherently toxic.

There are rare cases where marijuana has beneficial medicinal value. Glaucoma is one notable example. As for pain relief, a four-year study in Australia clearly demonstrated that the use of marijuana as a pain reliever led to increased pain over an extended period of time. Like alcohol, marijuana is far too weak a painkiller for individuals who need opiates for relief of extreme, chronic pain (such as terminal cancer patients) and/or for whom addiction is not a significant factor.

The psychoactive ingredient in marijuana is THC [Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol] a very complex alcohol therefore soluble in water, lipids (fats) and many organic solvents. THC emulates the action of certain of the natural neurotransmitters in the central nervous system and stimulates the release of others. This accounts for psychophysical phenomena colloquially known as “getting high.”

While ethyl alcohol is generally (and normally) metabolized by the liver at a rate of approximately 1 fluid ounce per hour, THC is far less easily reduced and eliminated by the body's metabolism. The effects of THC may vary with the dosage and the individual's tolerance. Further, some THC is invariably stored in the adipocytes (fat cells) and may be released unexpectedly as lipids are released into the body's natural metabolic cycle, particularly during periods of fasting, and causing unexpected recurrence of the characteristic symptoms of THC intoxication.

We now turn to the symptoms of THC intoxication:

•         Time Dilation is caused by interference with the brain's perception and interpretation of event sequencing; therefore an individual is unable to mark the passage of time accurately. An hour may seem to be extended by up to 100 percent.

•         Spatial Disorientation, deadly to a person operating motor vehicles or machinery, is the result of improper processing of sensory input data. The marked euphoria pontificated by marijuana advocates is the result of interference with external stimulation and an inability to react properly to those stimuli — in particular, retarded reactions or a complete lack of reaction, i.e., stupor. Extended use of THC is known to result in lethargy and a patent neglect of ordinary responsibilities. There is definite evidence of progressive deterioration of the central nervous system.

By selective genetic manipulation, today's marijuana contains 20 to 25 percent THC, far more than the marijuana of the 1970s, which was about 2 percent THC. It requires no prodigal genius to interpret and extrapolate these data. As with alcoholic beverages, the potency of the dose is directly proportional to the result and intensity of the reaction to the drug. It is a very simple restatement of Newton's Law: For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

About 15 percent of Americans used marijuana at least once in 2016, up from 10 percent in 2005. In 2005, 3 million Americans reported cannabis use on a daily basis. In 2017, that number had increased to 9 million, a threefold increase. That is the definition of Cannabis Use Disorder or acute marijuana addiction.

While marijuana addicts account for slightly less than 2 percent of the population, they account for about 12 percent of all serious, violent psychosis cases in hospital emergency rooms. That is one out of eight! It translates to 90,000 cases per year or 250 cases per day … which is triple the number reported in 2006. A 2017 study in Finland and Denmark that tracked the increase in the use of cannabis found that 8 percent of adults age 18–25 met the strict criteria for serious mental illness diagnosis. That is roughly twice the rate reported in 2008.

Advocates for people with mental illnesses do not appreciate the true statistics linking schizophrenia with violent crime; they constantly proclaim that “Most people with mental illness are not violent.” That is quite true because “most” can be interpreted as more than 50 percent. Nonetheless, the seemingly innocuous proclamation is egregiously and very dangerously misleading. (Figures don't lie, but liars can figure!)

The real truth is that people with diagnosed schizophrenia are five times as likely to commit violent crimes as healthy people, and they are more than 20 times more likely to commit a homicide. People with diagnosed schizophrenia (less than 1 percent) commit approximately 8 to 10 percent of all murders. Nearly 30 percent of schizophrenics have also been diagnosed with acute marijuana addiction. In fact, cannabis use is associated with a tenfold increase in violence.

For people with psychotic disorders, particularly schizophrenia, the use of marijuana exacerbates paranoia, which is well known to increase extreme violence; that increase is by a well-established factor of five times.

Prior to the legalization of recreational marijuana in Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington (2014–2015), these four states had a combined 450 murders and 30,300 aggravated assaults. Three years later, there were 620 murders (a 37 percent increase) and 38,000 aggravated assaults (a 25 percent increase).

Suicides and incarceration rates increased proportionately and dramatically.  Cannabis use is related to an alarming increase in child deaths and cases of child abuse and neglect — more than alcohol … and more than cocaine, methamphetamines and opiates combined.

Think before legalizing marijuana.

Dr. David Miller, B.S., M.A., M.A.T., M. Ed. Sc., Ed.D. ScD., is senior lecturer emeritus in Biological Sciences at UW–Platteville and taught Bio-Medical Sciences at Alderson–Broaddus University in Philippi, W.Va., 

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