Amy Dickinson writes a syndicated column for a number of newspapers, including the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times. This question and answer appeared in the April 6, 2017 editions. The marijuana lobby wrote a book, Marijuana is Safer, full of misinformation. We believe it’s important to publish this message from the Ask Amy column.
Dear Amy: I have a 25-year-old granddaughter who will call a taxi or use a designated driver if she is going to be drinking, but she thinks it’s fine to smoke pot and get behind the wheel of a vehicle.
I have told her that she is probably more impaired after smoking pot then if she had a couple of drinks.
She totally disagrees. I have spoken to other pot smokers, and a lot of them agree with her.
How can I get her to understand the severe consequences that could happen to herself or some innocent person if she drives impaired?
Dear Frustrated: I shared your question with a spokesperson with the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which has published studies on this.
Their response: “There seems to be a common misperception — that people can compensate (and in fact drive more slowly than normal) under the influence of marijuana. But the research says something different — marijuana increases your risk of being in a car crash about two-fold, and also increases your risk of being at fault for the accident.”
“These effects are not as dramatic as the effects of alcohol (which increases your risk about five-fold at the 0.08 legal limit), but the combination of the two — marijuana and alcohol — is even worse than either one alone.”
That last point is important. If your granddaughter is using alcohol and marijuana at the same time (as many people do), she should not drive.
Editor’s Note: The number of fatal crashes — especially in the states of Washington and Colorado — caused by THC-impaired drivers suggests that NORML and Marijuana Policy Project need to issue warnings against marijuana and driving.
Policy More than other Factors Creates Problem of Drug Use
However, there’s a group of non-traumatized adults abusing their children because the United States has normalized the use of marijuana. Because marijuana users can be detached from life and are susceptible to psychosis, it’s important not to use pot if you have children.
Up to eighty percent of child abuse and neglect involves substance abuse, a fact that violence prevention groups often ignore.* The denial is helpful to the strategy of making drug use socially acceptable. NORML, Marijuana Policy Project and Drug Policy Alliance wish to normalize drug use.
The same groups that promote legalization suggest that harm reduction strategies work. Policy based on harm reduction promotes “responsible use” of drugs, which doesn’t work. Recently, a five-year-old drowned, because her babysitter used pot at 8:30 a.m. and stopped watching her.
Genetic and environmental factors that influence drug use are compounded by a society that normalizes drug use. Our blog on suicides tells of teens and young adults who lived in environments that normalized marijuana use. For the most part, they did not use marijuana because of trauma, although one was a veteran.
Drug-Related Deaths far Outnumber Deaths by Cars or Guns
The Center for Disease Control recently released statistics about accidental deaths:
52,404 drug-related deaths, up 11%.
37,757 died in car crashes, an increase of 12%.
36,252 gun deaths, including homicides and suicides
As we try to cope with a growing number of children affected by ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences), the United States is embarking on a program to legalize all drugs. Little children are losing their parents at an alarming rate, adding to the trauma and ACE scores of the future.
Taking away children from drug-using mothers is not the answer, because separation from the moms also creates traumatized children. Child protection workers are in a Catch 22 situation. Techniques described in Part 2 can perhaps help the children traumatized by parents’ drug use.
*Our information is mainly from CASA Columbia. A good current reference Ed Gogek’s book, Marijuana Debunked. Several studies are mentioned in our six-part series on child abuse deaths related to pot. Parents Opposed to Pot has tried to share stories with Futures Without Violence, but they banned us from posting on their Facebook page.
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.)
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 Lives
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!
Social Justice is a pretext, the handy catch phrase to get people to support the legalization of pot. The idea doesn’t come from disadvantaged minorities. “Marijuana legalization is the worst way forward to reforming drug policy for the minority community,” claims Will Jones, founder of Two is Enough D.C.
It was easy to cut through the illusion by watching Ethan Nadelmann at the Democratic National Convention last summer. Nadelmann, director of Drug Policy Alliance, was bragging to his supporters about how profitable the marijuana industry is. At the end of the video, when the cameras was on him, he added “and don’t forget social justice.” It sounded like an afterthought. He must have been joking. Nadelmann makes at least $280,000 a year to advocate for marijuana legalization, a salary funded by George Soros’ yearly gifts of $4 million to DPA. The Drug Policy Alliance advocates for the legalization of all drugs.
Jones, whose family has always been involved in the Civil Rights movement, is enraged by the social justice message. “If you aren’t a minority, maybe legalization does look ok because you’re not going to have the deluge of (pot) stores in your community,” Liquor shops are on every block in his neighborhood. Jones admonishes the marijuana industry for “cherry picking criminal justice issues to conveniently pick a statistic that helps them.” Of the places that voted to legalize pot, only Washington DC has managed to stay free of commercial pot stores.
Where’s the Real Social Justice in a Mind-Destroying Drug?
We question the sincerity of those who promote “social justice” as a reason to legalize marijuana. What is the “social justice” in promoting a substance that lowers your IQ, weakens memory and directly contributes to the mental illness as a causal factor? Even without drug testing, using pot makes some people lazy and less likely to get a job.
Legalizers claim they don’t support underage pot use. They say pot is for adults only, but the age limit of 21 doesn’t keep alcohol away from minors. The problem of underage use is more pronounced for marijuana. It’s a fact that 19- and 20-year-olds use marijuana more frequently than other ages. Most people give up weed in adulthood, except for addicts, a statistic the marijuana industry hopes to change.
It’s unfortunate that blacks and Hispanics are arrested more frequently for pot than whites. Instead of encouraging less drug use, DPA, NORML and the ACLU manipulate opinion. Financial opportunists connected to these lobbies pretend pot is harmless and that arrest discrepancies will be solved by legalization. Is an arrest so bad? If it stops a disadvantaged youth from going onto drug addiction, that person’s future will hold more promise. “I want to make sure our children get a clear and unambiguous message as it relates to drug use it is wrong and it is dangerous,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in 2012. At the time, 87 percent of the time cases were dismissed for those arrested in Chicago for marijuana.
Alternatives that don’t involve Legalization
Those who believe in social justice, should look into policies to reduce drug-related crimes and its ugly bedfellow, drug addiction. Even if the “war on drugs didn’t work,” it’s false to claim legalization and incarceration are the only options. Those trying to legalize marijuana intentionally scramble the messages so the public confuses decriminalization with legalization.
Drug courts and treatment have been criminal justice options for more than 20 years. There are many choices for reforming drug policy which don’t involve legalization.
Convincing people that hundreds of thousands of people are in prison for marijuana use only is one of the false narratives of the legalization movement. The Sacramento Bee recently investigated and couldn’t find a single low level marijuana offender in California prisons.Criminal justice experts agree that loosening drug possession laws would have little effect on the total numbers in prison. There are plenty of ways to revise and improve criminal justice without harming people, and drug use harms people.
Since legalization, the number of actual marijuana users has increased to 13% of people ages 12 and older. Thirty percent of those users, or 6 million people have Cannabis Use Disorder. The business model of increasing addiction and making money off of those who are addicted is working.