Tag Archives: Colorado

Dr. Randall’s Letter Exposes Truth of Pot Legalization

Dr. Karen Randall, an emergency physician of Pueblo, Colorado, sent a letter to the physicians of Vermont.  Their state legislature narrowly passed a bill that would legalize marijuana, but it’s hoped that Governor Phil Scott will veto it.  There was not enough time to read Dr. Randall’s at a Press Conference on May, 18, 2016.  Here’s the contents of that letter:

Firstly, I’d like to thank you all for the opportunity to share some of my experiences as a physician in a region with heavy legal marijuana use.

In 2012, Coloradans voted to pass Colorado Amendment 64 which led to the state-wide legalization of recreational marijuana beginning in January of 2014. Since then, the number of medical and recreational dispensaries in Colorado has grown to more than double the number of McDonald’s and Starbucks combined. While individual counties could and did choose to abstain from allowing recreational marijuana sales, my county, Pueblo, was one of many that embraced Amendment 64 and the projected benefits of recreational legalization, even unofficially rebranding itself the “Napa Valley of Pot”.

A homeless camp along the river in Pueblo, one of many makeshift residences

This led to an influx of people looking to smoke without the risk of legal consequences and to cash in on the burgeoning “pot economy”. Unfortunately, many of these people arrived only to find that the supply of marijuana-related jobs was far outweighed by the demand, and few had backup plans. Since 2014, Pueblo’s homeless population has tripled, and our low-income housing have occupancy rates of 98% or more. We have seen a drastic increase in the number of homeless camps, and social services and outreach programs are buckling under the strain.

Our medical infrastructure is also reaching critical mass. Out of the 160,000 residents of our community, roughly 115,000 are on Medicaid. As a result, we have been losing primary care providers at an alarming and unsustainable rate.  The largest local clinic has been looking to hire 15 new doctors, but has only been able to hire 1 in the past two and a half years. My emergency medical group has been able to fill less than half of our open positions. The average wait time to see a new primary care provider is months with the wait for a specialist even longer, and many primary care physicians in the area are no longer taking new Medicaid patients.

Additionally, the legalization of marijuana has led to normalization of behavior that in my professional opinion is strongly impacting our youth. Despite sales being legally restricted to those ages 21 and over, the Healthy Kids Survey of 2015 shows:  16% of Pueblo High School kids under the age of 13 have tried marijuana, 30% of high school kids had smoked within 30 days of the survey, 64% feel that it would be easy or very easy to get marijuana, and that 6.3 and 6.6% of respondents have used heroin and methamphetamines respectively, compared to 2% for the rest of Colorado. The number of ED visits for cannabis hyperemesis syndrome, accidental

Cannabis Hyperemesis Syndrome is an illness that is sending marijuana users to ER rooms.

pediatric ingestions, accidental adult ingestions and psychosis have sharply risen. There has been an increase in the number of babies testing positive for marijuana at birth (many internet and dispensaries are now recommending marijuana for nausea in pregnancy).

The potency of marijuana has risen tremendously since legalization, which is also a cause for significant concern. Almost all of what we do know about marijuana is based on studies where the marijuana was 1-3 mg of THC. Currently, dabbing provides 80-90 mg of THC; edibles provide 10 mg THC per bite and are frequently packaged in quantities to total 100 mg of THC.  Fortunately, legislation has passed so that edibles must be packaged in safety packages and can no longer be sold as appealing candy gummies, suckers, etc.  Currently, law requires that chocolate be labeled with a stamp and dose quantity but it still looks like a chocolate bar to a child.

Ads and claims to the health benefits of marijuana are rampant on the internet with reported cures for almost every ailment, yet there is very little research, if any to support those “health benefits” and frequently people come to the area with a disease process (for instance, Parkinson’s disease) and purchase marijuana.  Many of those looking for cures are seniors who are not toleratant to the dosage/strength of the current marijuana being marked and they come to the ED with side effects.

suicide-risk
Some people compare medical marijuana sellers to snake oil dealers of the 19th century. Certainly, the “snake bites” from the marijuana industry against those who disagree are brutal.

I deeply appreciate having been given a platform to share my experiences with you today, and I strongly encourage the physicians of Vermont to consider the broader medical, economic, and social ramifications of the legalization of marijuana.

Thank you for your attention,                                                                                 Dr. Karen Randall, FAAEM                                                                          Southern Colorado Emergency Medicine Associates                             Pueblo Colorado

Dr. Randall presented her experiences at a press conference in Pueblo on October 20, 2016.

To watch the Press Conference of May 18, Orca Media presents the proceedings of the entire Press Conference.

 

Marijuana Can’t Treat the Opiate, Heroin Epidemic

Any marijuana use leads to less intelligence potential, less empathy for life, less motivation and poorer decision making.  A war on drugs is a protection and defense of our brains.   Governor Susana Martinez probably recognizes how Colorado’s marijuana problem leads to the drug epidemic and filters into New Mexico’s substance abuse issues.   Read about her veto in Part 1.

One young man who gave us a testimony explained how his marijuana use led directly to heroin addiction.

In Colorado, Dr. Libby Stuyt, addictions psychiatrist, traces a direct line from marijuana legalization to the heroin epidemic.    Colorado’s recent report on heroin has shown that the number of deaths from heroin overdose have doubled between 2011 and 2015.

In fact, Pueblo County, has suffered from heroin use and addiction more than any other Colorado county.  Pueblo, Denver and Boulder have the highest rates of youth marijuana use.   Southern Colorado is suffering the most from the heroin epidemic. Counties that have banned marijuana dispensaries have been affected the least by the heroin.

Misunderstanding of the Opioid and Heroin Epidemic

Since the government has clamped down on opiate prescriptions, more users have replaced the pain drugs with heroin.  Since the legalization of marijuana, Mexican cartels have replaced much of their marijuana with heroin.  Heroin is now cheaper and addicts find it easier to get heroin than prescription pills.

Politically there is a great deal of misunderstanding about the opioid epidemic. If it was initially caused by over prescribing of medications, that’s no longer primarily the case.   Seth Leibsohn wrote an insightful article on the subject last week. The abuse of opioid prescriptions acquired legitimately constitutes a small portion of the overdose problem, he said. *

A simple crackdown on prescriptions will not solve the problem, according to Maia Szalavitz.  Although Szalavitz misunderstands the  inherent danger in using marijuana,* she explains the underlying causes of substance abuse quite well.  Impulsive children are at high risk of becoming drug users, but so are some highly cautious and anxious young people.   Two thirds of people with opioid addictions have had severely traumatic childhoods, and the more exposure to trauma, the higher the risk.  We need to help abused, neglected, fragile and otherwise traumatized children before they turn to self-medication as teens.  On the other hand, we should also provide tools and teach coping skills to children who are impulsive, ADHD or anxious.   (Overmedicating children doesn’t allow them to develop the skills needed to transition into adulthood.)

Let’s Help People Get off ALL Drugs

Effective treatment for addictions is getting off all drugs, not going to other harmful, brain-altering substances.   “The goal in helping a loved one with a substance use problem is not to reduce their use. It is to stop drug use,” according to Sven-Olov Carlsson of Drug Policy Futures.  He gave the opening address at the World Federation of Drugs Conference in Vienna last year.  As Carlsson said, the current heroin epidemic proves that “harm reduction” is not saving lives.

No one sets out to become an addict.   Fortunately, more people and states are realizing the foolishness of allowing “medical” marijuana for intractable pain.  It opens up a Pandora’s Box of problems, as in California and elsewhere.

Addiction specialists estimate that one in five American adults is addicted to drugs or alcohol.  With such large numbers, there should be no “stigma” attached to addiction or treatment.  A new or revised health care act should maintain the provision to treat addiction.

Those who are addicted have a strong need to protect a secret.  Their brains have been hijacked and there isn’t a straight path back to previous functioning.

Optimum treatment requires a period of time when the person is not using any substance of addiction in order for the brain to heal.  During that time, the person needs to be able to learn new things. The lack of treatment resources which allows this to happen is a big barrier to recovery.   Marijuana cannot be used to treat this current drug epidemic.

___________________________________________________________________________*  Another recent article explains how doctors began to take pain seriously, treating it as a fifth vital sign.  Szalavitz based her 10% addiction rate for marijuana on the weaker pot of the ’70s and ’80s, not the pot of today.  She also disregarded teen users of pot.

 

Governor Martinez Denies Marijuana to Treat Opioid Addiction

On April 7, New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez vetoed a bill which would have made opioid addiction a qualifying condition for medical marijuana.  Governor Martinez has consistency shown leadership in working to prevent drug addiction.  Earlier this year, legislators in New Mexico wisely rejected a bill to legalize pot,.

Maryland legislators recently proposed using marijuana to treat heroin addiction.   They removed the provision from the  bill after researchers explained there’s no evidence that cannabis is effective in treating addiction.

The mass insanity surrounding cures from “medical” marijuana sometimes comes from the Press.  As the number of newsprint subscribers dwindles, newspapers are looking to marijuana for new sources of advertising money.  (The New York Times, Seattle Times, Los Angeles Times and Denver Post are pro-marijuana newspapers.)  Another problem is that the marijuana industry’s paid lobbyists are pumping unscientific information to state legislators.   Many of these lobbyists have advanced degrees in Social Policy, Law or Political Science, but not the biological sciences.

Marijuana , Opioid Addiction and Heroin

Tyler Martel, finally free of opioid addiction, was getting his life back on track when the state of Washington legalized marijuana.  On December 5, 2012, marijuana became 100% legal for those ages 21 and over.  A few days later, Martel refused to drink with his parents, but smoked marijuana before driving.  His car crossed the center lane, and both he and his fiancé, also 27, died.  Another man was badly injured in that crash.  Martel died a victim of the “safer than alcohol” phrase that the marijuana lobby used to gain acceptance for legalization.

His death also demonstrates the public’s ignorance of marijuana as a dangerous drug.  Brain science reveals a connection between marijuana and the opiate/heroin epidemic.

Dr. Mark Willenbring, an addictions psychiatrist,  believes that alternative treatments are needed for pain, but not another drug of abuse.  He doesn’t believe you can solve the problem of addiction with another drug of abuse.  “The concept on its face is absurd,” he said.  “It doesn’t work,” he said. “Like trying to cure alcoholism with Valium.”

Pam Garozzo and Carlos, who lost his life Dec. 23, after 10 months of being off drugs. She told Gov. Christie’s panel at the White House that marijuana had been a gateway for her son.

Stop Denying the Potential Gateway Effect

Generally speaking, marijuana is already in the mix of drugs used by those who abuse opiates.   Those who use heroin invariably are using other drugs, including marijuana.   In fact, a group of parents in Massachusetts recently made a video tribute to 79 of their children who died from drugs.   In all cases, the deceased sons and daughters had started their drug use with cannabis.

When Governor Chris Christie convened a panel on the drug epidemic at the White House last week, a mother, spoke.  Pam Garozzo, whose son Carlos died from drugs in December, said her son had started smoking marijuana at age 15-1/2.  For him it was a gateway drug, and he’d be the first to tell you.   He died of heroin that had been laced with fentanyl–after being clean for 10 months.

Read Part 2 to learn how marijuana leads to opiates and heroin.

The Qualities Needed for Our New ONDCP Director

The New Director of White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) must deal with urgent problems. There’s a drug overdose epidemic from heroin, opioids and onslaught of synthetic drugs entering our country.  Furthermore, 25-34-year-olds are dying from drugs at a rate 5 times what it was in 1999.   (In 2000, NORML attacked ONDCP Director Barry McCaffrey’s campaign against drug use in the television ads.  McCaffrey, ONDCP Director from 1996-2001, is pictured above.)

For the next ONDCP Director, we need someone who acknowledges that marijuana causes psychosis, mental illness and addiction.   We need someone who recognizes that allowing states to legalize marijuana contributed to the growth of heroin addiction and deaths. This person must be familiar with addiction to all classes of drugs, as multi-substance abuse is the trend today.

Independents, Democrats and Republicans support Parents Opposed to Pot, as well as a large number of parents in Mexico and Canada.  What we do in the USA, helps other countries, or in the case of marijuana, harms them.  We’re bi-partisan, like the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988, which created the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

Parents Opposed to Pot has more advocates in Colorado than any other state.  Colorado parents were blindsided with legalization and forced to address an aggressive marijuana industry.  The next ONDCP leader will need to speak out about how decriminalization is different from legalization.  Minorities are hurt by legalization more than others, because commercial marijuana preys on communities of color or impoverished places.

The next director will know that marijuana legalization did not replace cartels, but expanded the cartels’ US heroin sales. The heroin epidemic has many causes, but legalization of marijuana provided an opening and the cartels took advantage.   As one former prosecutor said, “Legalization doesn’t discourage the drug dealers and cartels; it emboldens them.”

The next ONDCP director will know that marijuana use is directly connected to heroin abuse.  (A video on the bottom of this article explains  this concept well.)  Currently, six percent of high school seniors are daily marijuana users.  These heavy, early pot users are conditioning their brains for other addictive substances, too.  Moreover, the studies of Yasmin Hurd find evidence that marijuana primes the brains of offspring for heroin addiction.  (Professor Hurd is Director of the Center for Addictive Disorders, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York.)

BillBennett
William Bennett, author of the Book of Virtues, as ONDCP director in 1989-1990, was a forceful spokesperson against drug usage. He had served as Education Secretary and head of the National Endowment of the Humanities, and had a commitment to children.

The United States leads the world in drug use, with about 56% of the world’s drug users.  Demand reduction and prevention education should be a priority of the new ONDCP director.   Although there are useful aspects of “harm reduction,” it is far less effective in saving lives than “demand reduction.”  The evidence is in the US death rate from drugs.  We need renewed education efforts in elementary schools.

We’ve Screwed up Our Country, Now Let’s Get it Back

Since legalization means promotion, the ONDCP director will need to counter the fact that legalization equals commercialization.  The marijuana industry is looking for more and future users and the youth of America fits the bill.

Colorado has gained the most notoriety of the legalization states.  Much of the American public doesn’t understand the difference between decriminalization and legalization.  Diane Carlson, co-founder of Smart Colorado explained: “Many people thought they were voting to decriminalize marijuana.   Colorado already had decriminalized marijuana.  To the surprise of many, legalization led to full-blown marijuana commercialization practically overnight.

It’s not a “state’s rights” issue because commercial pot from legal states gets into the other states.  Interstate drug commerce is still illegal.  The problem is so widespread that other states have sued Colorado.

The next director will need to understand why marijuana does not replace pain medications. Promoting non-medical ways to address pain, such as MBSR and EMDR, should become a priority with Americans.  For those with addiction, substituting one addictive substance with another addictive substance only compounds their problems.  The ONDCP Director should be someone who can be outspoken on this issue.

Bringing Back Cabinet Level Status to the Drug Czar Will Save LivesONDCP Seal

Parents Opposed to Pot believes this position needs to be elevated to the cabinet level position it once was.  If it is reinstated as the “Drug Czar” position, it will have some moral standing working against  the scourge of drug deaths.

Attorney General Eric Holder made the bad decision to allow marijuana commercialization in Colorado and Washington in 2012.  Holder acted as if it was state’s rights issue, a big mistake. His Justice Department issued eight guidelines that states had to follow to avoid federal prosecution if they legalized pot.  Then the Justice Department did not follow its own guidelines.

President Obama’s first ONDCP Director, Gil Kerlikowske, had been the Police Chief of Seattle.  Marijuana activists thought he would be sympathetic to their cause, but he recognized the relationship between marijuana and crime.  Michael Botticelli followed Kerlikowske as ONCDP Director.  He recognized the dangers of marijuana and did not support it.

President Obama’s downgraded the role of ONDCP Director which is no longer a cabinet level position.  This re-assignment went along with a massive escalation of drug use and drug-induced deaths.   President Obama may have responded to pressure by the drug lobbyists.  Ironically, former Vice-President Joe Biden had coined the term “Drug Czar” in 1982.

Let’s put strength back into America’s resolve to end addiction and death by drugs!

Jon Daily, a rehabilitation therapist in California explains the connection between heroin and marijuana: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dcsp4dzLP1w&feature=youtu.be