The Atlantic published an personal essay about the impact of her father’s marijuana addiction on herself and her siblings.
Then there’s my sister, the baby, the one who struggled harder than any of us. She tried so desperately to finish high school, a rare feat in my family. Then she tried community college. As we sat outside at a café this year, talking about my dad’s temper and his rambling mind, she told me how she herself has started to smoke.
“I’m so sorry,” she kept repeating. “But it’s really not that bad, is it? And it’s relaxing. It makes everything okay for a while. Don’t be angry, please don’t be angry.”
I can’t be angry. I understand the appeal of marijuana: its soothing properties, its potential to help chronic pain sufferers, its medical implications. I also believe it should be legalized. In a world where alcohol and nicotine can be purchased at most corner shops, the argument against bringing pot sales out into the open is a weak one.
Yet I can be sad. So very little is understood about how marijuana impacts families. I can’t help but thinking that the cool, carefree users of today will be the parents of tomorrow.
My dad will never stop smoking pot. Sometimes I wonder about the man he might have been, and the lives we all might have had, if he’d never started.
Australia has one of the highest rates of marijuana use in the world, but until recently, nobody could say for certain what, exactly, Australians were smoking. Researchers at the University of Sydney and the University of New South Wales recently analyzed hundreds of cannabis samples seized by Australian police, and put together comprehensive data on street-level marijuana potency across the country. They sampled police seizures and plants from crop eradication operations. The mean THC content of the samples was 14.88%, while absolute levels varied from less than 1% THC to almost 40%. Writing in PLoS one, Wendy Swift and colleagues found that roughly ¾ of the samples contained at least 10% total THC. Half the samples contained levels of 15% or higher—“the level recommended by the Garretsen Commission as warranting classification of cannabis as a ‘hard’ drug in the Netherlands.”
In the U.S., recent studies have shown that THC levels in cannabis from 1993 averaged 3.4%, and then soared to THC levels in 2008 of almost 9%.THC loads more than doubled in 15 years, but that is still a far cry from news reports erroneously referring to organic THC increases of 10 times or more.
CBD, or cannabidiol, another constituent of cannabis, has garnered considerable attention in the research community as well as the medical marijuana constituency due to its anti-emetic properties. Like many other cannabinoids, CBD is non-psychoactive, and acts as a muscle relaxant as well. CBD levels in the U.S. have remained consistently low over the past 20 years, at 0.3-0.4%. In the Australian study, about 90% of cannabis samples contained less than 0.1% total CBD, based on chromatographic analysis, although some of the samples had levels as high as 6%.
This is going to be interesting to watch as legalization creates more space and a market for ultra-premium pot. I’m not predicting anything, just wondering, but it makes me wonder if the relationship between the user and marijuana will change. As Bill White said several years back, “I can’t predict what the major drugs of misuse will be, but I can tell you that they are already here and someone will find a new way to use it.” In this case, could it be a new way to grow it? (BTW-This does not imply they I believe incarcerating people is a wise response to that possibility.)
The Obama administration on Thursday said it will not stand in the way of Colorado, Washington and other states where voters have supported legalizing marijuana either for medical or recreational use, as long as those states maintain strict rules involving distribution of the drug.
In a memo sent Thursday to U.S. attorneys in all 50 states, Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole detailed the administration’s new stance, even as he reiterated that marijuana remains illegal under federal law.
The memo directs federal prosecutors to focus their resources on eight specific areas of enforcement, rather than targeting individual marijuana users, which even President Obama has acknowledged is not the best use of federal manpower. Those areas include preventing distribution of marijuana to minors, preventing the sale of pot to cartels and gangs, preventing sales to other states where the drug remains illegal under state law, and stopping the growing of marijuana on public lands.
Worth noting that the guy was almost Surgeon General of the U.S. He’s changed his mind on marijuana. He says he overestimated the harm and looks forward to more research on medical marijuana.
I didn’t read many conclusions in his piece, but I agree with the questions he’s asking.
As far as medical research goes, he didn’t address one issue that I think is very important–the delivery method. Smoking weed bought at a dispensary does not resemble medicine in the least. It seems a very important step is to come up with a good delivery system that delivers a reliable and known dose.
There is strong support for a wide array of stringent post-legalization marijuana regulations to protect minors and the community wellbeing. The research shows intense support (above or near 90 percent) for:
Setting a legal age of 21
Prohibiting marijuana smoking in public places
Severe penalties for driving under the influence of marijuana
Making it illegal to provide marijuana to someone underage (even at home)
Prohibiting the sale of marijuana at grocery or convenience stores
Industry-financed youth prevention education
Taxation for state general fund revenue
An outright ban on marijuana advertising
What is particularly interesting is that support for this slate of regulations remains exceptionally strong even among those who approve of the legalization of marijuana.
The poll dug even deeper into attitudes toward marijuana advertising post-legalization, providing respondents with a list of more than a dozen different advertising media ranging from television to movie-theater advertisements, and asking where it would be acceptable for marijuana sellers/growers to advertise. The number one response, among both parents and the general population at large (including in CO and WA) was “nowhere.”
The data are exceptionally clear: There isn’t just a desire for these kinds of regulations, there is an expectation, among parents and among adults nationwide, that lawmakers put these in place if and when marijuana is legalized.
As of October 2012, a total of 903 physicians had recommended medical marijuana for the 108,000 patients holding valid red cards. Twelve physicians recommended medical marijuana for 50 percent of those patients, including one physician with more than 8,400 patients on the Registry.
Some physicians have recommended what appear to be higher-than-reasonable amounts of medical marijuana. In one case, a physician recommended 501 plants for a patient. In another case, a physician recommended 75 ounces of useable marijuana for the patient.
Do the arithmetic on 8400 patients for one physician. Assume a 50 40-hour workweeks and zero time spent on administrative tasks. That’s a little bit less than 15 minutes per customer. Medical practice? No. Just dope dealing.
The strategy of using quasi-medical legalization as a means of normalizing consumption and moving the political acceptability of full commercial legalization has been a great success … And I’m not unhappy with the outcome. … Still, the whole deal – and especially the role of the “kush docs” – makes me a little sick to my stomach.
Mark Kleiman responds to a WSJ column expressing concern about increases in marijuana use leading to increases in schizophrenia. Kleiman responds to the specific concerns and then steps back to frame the larger policy decisions.
The author of the WSJ piece solemnly announces, “The claim that marijuana is medically harmless is false.” No sh*t, Sherlock! Nothing is harmless. It’s always a question of counting harms, weighing them against one another, and comparing them to benefits. And we should do that not only when embarking on “social experiments” (i.e., making changes) but also when continuing a high-cost and potentially unsustainable status quo policy.
The costs of cannabis prohibition are large (including $35 billion a year in criminal income), and its capacity to keep consumption in check appears to be breaking down. That’s not a reason to plunge wildly into legalization on the libertarian model, but it is reason enough consider, soberly, the options around legal availability. Mere unquantified viewing-with-alarm (about schizophrenia, or workplace impairment, or intoxicated driving, or increased use by adolescents, or increased substance abuse disorder) no longer counts as a valuable contribution to the debate, any more than mindless sloganeering about “The failure of the War on Drugs.”
Some people will get hurt as a result of legalization; some people are getting hurt now by prohibition. The question before us is, “What policy would minimize total damage, net of the benefits of responsible use?” Continued prohibition in some form – at least the prohibition of commerce – might turn out to be the answer to that question; at least, Jonathan Caulkins and Keith Humphreys both think so, and they’re two of the most thoughtful and knowledgeable people around on this issue.
But being “against legalization” does not by itself name a policy position. No one I know has a serious proposal to put the genie back in the bottle, reversing the trend toward more cannabis use, and heavier use, that started around 2003 and seems to be accelerating. So it’s time to try some innovation. Who knows? We might be able to construct a licit market, and norms of responsible use, that would stop the progression toward more potent and less CBD-buffered, and thus probably riskier, cannabis. And then we should evaluate the results of those innovations with as much cool detachment as we can summon up: not to “prove” that one team of culture warriors or the other was right, but to consider what to try next. That’s the way grown-ups make policy.
The Stranger covers the launch of the first national marijuana brand and stock promotion. It even included a former Mexican President!
Flanked by lawyers, a state lawmaker, and former Mexico president Vicente Fox, Shively said he is a “couple weeks” from an initial $10 million milestone, and within three years, he fully expects to open—some medical marijuana and some recreational marijuana—a dozen branded stores in Washington State, another dozen stores in Colorado, and as many as hundreds in California (a state where only medical marijuana is currently legal but where voters are widely expected to legalize recreational pot in 2016).
A glimpse into the the commercialized pot market was evident in a menu of marijuana strains that hung in the back of the room, designed to capture the classic Latin American esthetic of tequila or cigar marketing, promoting future products with the gusto of a fast-food signboard: The “exclusive hand-selected variants” featured familial homages like “Diego Reserva” (the firm, Diego Pellicer, is named after Shively’s great grandfather) to local nods like “Juan de Fuca,” also the name of a waterway northwest of Seattle.
Despite connotations to Big Tobbacco, he says the reputation of Big Marijuana “is not a problem for us. We are honored to have this place in history. We intend to be the number one brand in both markets”—both medical and recreational marijuana—”on a worldwide basis.”
The project will begin by re-branding the Northwest Patient Resource Center and other local medical cannabis outlets, and soon stores will open under recognizable franchises across several states.
The NY Times recently had an Op-Ed based on an interview with Mark Kleiman about his plan for implementing Washington’s new pot policy. (They voted to legalize it last fall.):
If you read the proposal Kleiman’s team submitted to Washington State, you may be a little boggled by the complexities of turning an illicit herb into a regulated, safe, consumer-friendly business. Among the things on the to-do list: certifying labs to test for potency and contamination. (Pot can contain, among other nasty things, pesticides, molds and salmonella.) Devising rules on labeling, so users know what they’re getting. Hiring inspectors, to make sure the sellers comply. Establishing limits on advertising, because you don’t want allowing to become promoting. And all these rules must account not just for smoking but for pot pastries, pot candies, pot-infused beverages, pot lozenges, pot ice cream, pot vapor inhalers.
One of the selling points of legalization is that states can take a cut of what will be, according to estimates, a $35 billion to $45 billion industry and earmark some of these new tax revenues for good causes. It’s the same tactic used to win public approval of lotteries — and with the same danger: that some worthy government function comes to depend on creating more addicts. And how do you divvy up the revenues? How much goes to offset health consequences? How much goes to enforcement? How do you calibrate taxes so the price of pot is high enough to discourage excessive use, but not so high that a cheap black market arises? All this regulating is almost enough to take the fun out of drugs.
Andrew Sullivan directs us to a story on “dabs”, a highly concentrated cannabis product:
Most commonly created by a technique in which high quality pot is blasted with butane that is then extracted, these cannabis concentrates approach 70%-to-90% THC. … Brad Gibbs, of Greenest Green, which has just opened a new state-approved lab in Denver Co., filled with $100,000 in equipment, specializing in BHO, says that the new product is so superior, buds will eventually disappear, at least among, “our generation,”—users under 40. “Dabs are the future of cannabis, both recreational and medicinal,” he adds.
The article links to a High Times article expressing concern about the PR impact of this product for the legalization movement:
Assuming we’re able to dismiss the health risks, there is still the public-relations issue: namely, that because the techniques used to make and consume BHO bear an eerie resemblance to those used for harder drugs like meth and crack – and because its potency is so much higher than regular weed – dabbing is ripe for exploitation by the prohibition propaganda machine. At a time when the acceptance of marijuana among the general public is higher than ever, there’s a fear that seeing teenagers wielding blowtorches or blowing themselves up on the evening news might incite a new anti-pot paranoia that could set the legalization movement back decades.
I am reminded of a talk by Bill White on drug trends. He closed by saying something like, “I can’t tell you what the major drugs of abuse of tomorrow will be, but I can tell you that they are already here, and that they will become a problem when someone develops new ways to use them.” To understand his point, consider the impact of the syringe on opiate use and the impact of “rocking” cocaine into crack on that drug’s use. With crack, in particular, it’s worth noting that everyone knew about freebasing for years, but the real innovation in crack was a cheap and easy way to make the freebase experience available to large numbers of users.