Blowing smoke at our children

Tim Throckmorton

So here’s the deal, if you know my heart at all you know that first and foremost I serve the Lord in my calling as Pastor. I love my family and I strive to be God honoring as a parent and grandparent. As a citizen of this great nation I pray that I am a good steward of all that God has entrusted to my generations care. I would much rather bring a smile to your face and share timeless truths from the scriptures today however there is a very pressing issue to discuss… ISSUE 3. Please afford me a few minutes to address the issue of marijuana and the possibility of our state, the state of Ohio legalizing the sale thereof in just one short month. In my column last week I spoke of the dangers apparent with regard to health, public safety and the economy among other things. Today I share with you with regard to the children. After spending some time with Pastors and leaders from Colorado this year I sense an urgency in mentioning this now and not after a potentially bad decision is made based on well produced advertising that in no way reflects the dangers that await a great state like ours. In this writing I lean heavily on the experts and those who are dealing with the aftermath of Colorado’s decision to legalize this controlled substance.

First you must know there’s big money in legalized marijuana. In the first quarter of 2015, retail cannabis shops sold $118 million worth of marijuana. That number is increasing every quarter, the department says, and recreational sales will likely top $472 million this year.

But for the marijuana industry, Colorado is just a launch pad. The state’s population of 5.3 million people represents only one-sixtieth of the nation’s population, where the real money could be made. Ben Curt, director of the Colorado Center for Dependency, Addiction and Rehabilitation at the University of Colorado, sees that reality up close. “It’s not about pot as a leafy plant to smoke, but about edibles clearly designed to appeal to children,” he explains. Diane Carlson, co-founder of Smart Colorado, a youth advocacy group that works with many schools. “The potential for harm and the implications for their future is unfathomable.” “We’re in it. This is the reality for our kids,” she says. “They use fake asthma inhalers and other products, and can take it in class. Many of the pot edibles are practically identical to mainstream products—so much so that once out of the wrapper, it’s nearly impossible to tell them apart. But when Carlson’s group and some legislators tried to get a basic marker on candies and foods to let consumers know which ones were laced with pot, they met heavy resistance.

Marijuana use by kids between the ages of 12 and 17 is 58 percent higher in Colorado than the national average. The rate of use among college-age adults is 54 percent above the national average. Drug-related suspensions from Colorado schools jumped 34 percent from the 2005-2009 period to the 2010-2014 period, while alcohol-related suspensions stayed flat. According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, THC levels in marijuana averaged about 4 percent 30 years ago, when smoking a joint meant a gentle high. The national average now is 12 percent and rising. But in Colorado, THC levels exceed 20 percent in many of the retail edibles, and can reach 95 percent in the case of concentrates. That exacerbates the drug’s mental and physical impacts, sending addiction levels soaring. “Potency levels have come to a place no one imagined possible. Even (the marijuana industry trade publication) High Times has been amazed at how potent it is,” says Cort. “There is zero research on how to treat it at this level.”

In 2013, the American Psychiatric Association added cannabis withdrawal to the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) as a recognized condition.

“Cannabis takes a lot longer to withdraw from than most any other substance we deal with,” Cort says. And addiction is spiking: According to the RMHIDTA, the number of people admitted to Denver’s Arapahoe House drug rehabilitation center who listed marijuana as their drug of choice rose from 284 in 2013 to 471 in 2014. “Our kids are getting access to the potent marijuana edibles. Adults are absolutely shocked,” Carlson says. They range from traditional joints to candy (lollipops, gummies and cherry drops), desserts (brownies, chocolates and cookies) and even drinks (cappuccinos, fruit punch and sodas). And the levels of its main psychoactive ingredient, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), are 400 percent higher than they were three decades ago, according to a plethora of sources, including the New England Journal of Medicine. “We are very concerned at how expansive a law it is and how expansive implementation is, because of the very powerful commercialized marijuana interests,”

So there it is! I have done my best to share the facts regarding this issue. Because I am a Pastor, a father, a grandfather and because I strive to honor God with my life and influence… I want you to know the facts. I encourage Pastors and anyone of influence to share the truth regarding Issue 3… for the sake of the children.