As Colorado tightens restrictions on the sale of marijuana edibles, the problems with pot candies have reached other states. Children all around the country have accidentally eaten pot-infused sweets and turned up in hospital emergency rooms. Continue reading →
What Does it Take to Admit the Failures of Legalizing Pot?
This past week a butane explosion rocked a North Portland neighborhood killing two men, the home owner and a man working on the home. The force of the explosion was so great that it leveled the home, damaged the two adjacent homes and threw debris across the street into a park where children were playing. When will Oregonians say “Enough is enough”? Legalization may not have caused this deadly incident, but it sure did contribute to it.
Oregon’s beautiful city, Portland, gained fame through the TV series Portlandia. People are nice and the drivers are generally more polite there. Although most major cities saw declines in real estate values during the recession, Portland’s real estate values rose very high. With its food culture, microbreweries and movie theaters, Portland has become the place “young people go to retire.” How long will the reputation last?
Marijuana labs — sometimes called hash oil labs or BHO labs — were exploding before legalization, but the problem grew bigger after marijuana possession became legal in July 2015. The number of burn victims rose from 7 to 30 within a year. Today marijuana users can buy “wax” or “dabs” from licensed dispensaries, but it is cheaper to make at home using butane. Unlicensed chemists who run the marijuana labs may be trying to sell their own supply to undercut the legal market. Or they be so addicted that risking death is not enough to stop them.
(Washington and Colorado outlawed the BHO labs after legalization; Oregon and California passed laws against the practice before legalizing weed. Since those laws aren’t working, some places in California are banning the sale of butane.)
What about mental health care?
The Vermont legislature failed to legalize pot this year. Vermont’s savvy governor probably recognized the need for more mental health care before legalizing a substance that assaults the brain. Former Congressman Patrick Kennedy, who makes mental health care his mission, had been warning of this problem. Oregon illustrates the problem of not having a rock solid, foolproof mental health care system in place before legalizing marijuana.
Twice this year, psychotic stoners brought knives onto the public transportation in Portland and terrified the public. On May 26, Jeremy Christian killed two men who were defending the Muslim women he was attacking. He had declared his love for cannabis on Facebook. Christian’s behavior was consistent with marijuana-induced psychosis.
On May 10, a 24-year-old in a mental health crisis terrified a group of people on the train, including a 17-year-old. Unfortunately a policeman shot Terrell Johnson to death. An investigation has cleared the officer of wrongdoing. Johnson began smoking pot at age 12 or 13. He was a healthy, “normal” young guy before THC assaulted his brain. The police officer had no choice when the guy pursued him. Anthony Bonofiglio, a man on a train the night before the final incident, described Johnson’s bizarre behavior in the police report. Johnson was in full-blown psychosis! His toxicology report revealed marijuana and a small amount of alcohol.
Psychosis is not a condition that the brain can just snap out of once it’s triggered. A hospital in the state of Washington gets one or two new psychosis patients every day. The medical staff at Providence St. Peter’s in Olympia stabilizes the patients with a drug Risperdal to stop the psychosis. It’s a temporary treatment which doesn’t solve the problem.
Other Accidents and Lawsuits in Portlandia
A stoned driver killed pedestrian Elizabeth Kemble within a week of the opening of commercial pot stores. Two months later, a driver high on pot killed bicyclist Martin Greenough in Portland. His family is suing the city of Portland. Furthermore, a construction worker who was burned in a hash oil explosion at a legal marijuana facility in Oregon is suing also. The District Attorney of Clatsop County Oregon, Josh Marquis, warned ahead of time that only the lawyers would benefit from legalization.
Marijuana is already popular and adults have a right to do what they want with their bodies. These popular arguments reveal how little our society cares about the young, mostly males, who go psychotic from marijuana. If they die or lose their minds, it was their choice to use substances, the legalizers say.
On the other hand, how long can we persist in ignoring the rights of others who are affected by this failed experiment? Marijuana labs do affect the neighbors, and they overwhelm our fire departments and burn centers.
Other marijuana-related emergency visits overwhelm the hospitals. All of us must pay for it in some way. We know marijuana legalization is not working in Washington, Colorado or California.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is reporting that between 30,000 and 40,000 Americans are dying each year from opioid overdoses. Most of these are not suicides but, are the consequences of people using “stuff” which is profoundly more potent than they imagined. From our local communities, to the state, and federal government levels, we are alarmed and we should be.
Parallel to the “opioid epidemic” is the “cannabis epidemic” which is going unnoticed and unreported. We see weekly hype about so called “medical marijuana,” but, little about the tragic consequences of cannabis overdoses.
Why? One reason is that opioid overdoses kill and cannabis takes the lives of its victims in a less dramatic way. Cannabis-induced psychosis robs the victims of their meaningful life.
The proverb says, “There are many ways to lose one’s life and dying is just one of them.”
The parallel to opioids is that the “weed” of today has been hybridized (genetically engineered) to be 5 – 6 times more potent than the weed of 20 years ago (4% THC compared to 19% THC). In addition, the contemporary delivery systems (example- vaping) increase the amount of THC getting to the brain. These unexpectedly high “doses” of today may include manic psychosis and schizophrenia like symptoms. The victim didn’t understand what she/he was getting. What was expected to be a few hours of pleasure has become a life-changing psychosis.
I predict that our fascination with “medical marijuana” will only accelerate this tragic epidemic of THC-induced psychosis.
If there is to be a place for “medical marijuana,” give it to the FDA where it can be studied by legitimate scientists who are not funded by the producers, distributors and charlatan practitioners. Clearly, the profits are huge and the costs to human lives are huge.
There may be a few serious conditions in which a small amount of cannabis helps to relieve suffering. Example: End stage cancer. Responsible physicians will use it wisely and compassionately just as they do with opioids.
The tragic hidden problem is aided by a very small number of “charlatan physicians” who will sell their souls to the callous industry. For a fee and without being seen, cannabis users can receive a “certificate of need.” This document allows the user to go into a retail cannabis dispensary and purchase whatever he/she wants from a large inventory of cannabis products.
Said again, opioids kill by suppressing respiration. Cannabinoids ruin lives by inducing psychosis. Both are tragic.
Dr. Dossett is a pediatrician in Hershey, Pennsylvania