It’s About The Money–Health Concerns Are Being Ignored

Many of our more liberal states are looking for additional sources of revenue. Unfunded liabilities and expanded welfare programs and medical programs have been very expensive to the states that have embraced them. One thing that many states are looking at to increase tax revenue is the legalization of marijuana. On Saturday, Yahoo Finance posted an article about how much income legal marijuana is actually generating in California.

The article reports:

California’s legal cannabis revenue isn’t growing as fast as many state officials anticipated, recent data suggests. And one industry expert believes that taxes and a still thriving black market for marijuana, are partly to blame.

“The legal market is struggling with the set of regulatory rules and tax rates that are pretty onerous and make it fairly uncompetitive versus a thriving black market that’s had the whole industry for 60 years now,” Tom Adams, BDS Analytics managing director, told Yahoo Finance’s YFi PM in an interview this week.

California’s marijuana excise tax produced $74.2 million in revenue for the second quarter of this year, according to the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration.

Yet back in January, Governor Gavin Newsom’s proposed budget predicted the state would generate $355 million in excise tax revenues for the fiscal year. That projection was later revised down again to $288 million back in May.

The shortfall is reminiscent of Michigan, where a nascent medical marijuana market has resulted in lower than expected revenue.

Adams contended the legal market faces additional expenses like the cost of testing, that the illegal market does not.

Meanwhile, there is evidence that marijuana is harmful to the developing brains of young adults. There also may be a link between marijuana and mental illness.

In January 2019 I posted an article which stated:

After an exhaustive review, the National Academy of Medicine found in 2017 that “cannabis use is likely to increase the risk of developing schizophrenia and other psychoses; the higher the use, the greater the risk.” Also that “regular cannabis use is likely to increase the risk for developing social anxiety disorder.”

…These new patterns of use have caused problems with the drug to soar. In 2014, people who had diagnosable cannabis use disorder, the medical term for marijuana abuse or addiction, made up about 1.5 percent of Americans. But they accounted for eleven percent of all the psychosis cases in emergency rooms—90,000 cases, 250 a day, triple the number in 2006. In states like Colorado, emergency room physicians have become experts on dealing with cannabis-induced psychosis.

Cannabis advocates often argue that the drug can’t be as neurotoxic as studies suggest, because otherwise Western countries would have seen population-wide increases in psychosis alongside rising use. In reality, accurately tracking psychosis cases is impossible in the United States. The government carefully tracks diseases like cancer with central registries, but no such registry exists for schizophrenia or other severe mental illnesses.

On the other hand, research from Finland and Denmark, two countries that track mental illness more comprehensively, shows a significant increase in psychosis since 2000, following an increase in cannabis use. And in September of last year, a large federal survey found a rise in serious mental illness in the United States as well, especially among young adults, the heaviest users of cannabis.

Is the extra tax revenue worth it?

When The Federal Government Gets Involved In Medicine

Townhall posted an article today about the lack of logic in the current move to put more restrictions on opioids but decrease restrictions on marijuana use.

The article reminds us that marijuana is very loosely regulated in some states:

For example, in Arizona, where medical marijuana is legal, users can purchase up to 2.5 ounces every two weeks. This is enough to be stoned every day. Once you have a prescription, you can refill it for an entire year without going back to renew the prescription. It’s easy to get a prescription in most states that have legalized medical marijuana, just inform a doctor you have pain. And if you live in a state like California that has legalized recreational marijuana, there aren’t even any limits on how much you can buy (just how much you can have on hand).

Opioids are another story:

By October of this year, 33 states had passed laws limiting opioid prescriptions. They limit the supply a doctor may prescribe to seven days or less. This exponentially increases problems with timely refilling prescriptions. One chronic pain sufferer complained, “The insurance companies are lying to their own subscribers in the Prior Auth Dept, ignoring, transferring to dead lines, long appeals that go nowhere, on & on….” It also means more co-pays. Some states are now requiring doctors and pharmacists to take a course on opioids. 

Many states have limited the maximum dose as well. Federal opioid prescribing guidelines recommend doctors use caution in prescribing above 50 MME/day. But many patients need 90 MME/day or higher. In Arizona, patients are limited to 90 MME/day. There are exceptions for some types of illnesses — but not chronic pain. For those sufferers, they can only receive a higher dose if their doctor consults with a board-certified pain specialist. 

The article concludes:

The reality, according to the National Pain Report, is “America’s so-called ‘opioid epidemic’ is caused by street drugs (some of them diverted prescription drugs)  rather than by prescriptions made by doctors to chronic pain patients.” More people die from illegal opioids than prescription opioids. Opioid prescriptions were already decreasing before the crackdown started. In Arizona, prescriptions decreased every year since 2013, a 10 percent decrease total.  

And just because a few doctors overprescribed opioids does not mean everyone should be treated like a dangerous addict at risk of overdosing. One size does not fit all. Someone who has been taking a higher dosage of prescription opioids for years without incident should be allowed to continue.  

Over 11 percent of the population suffers from chronic pain. It is cruel and bad medical science to prevent this segment from the population from getting the only relief that works for many of them. The laws need to be changed to allow those legitimately suffering to access adequate amounts of prescription opioids, without risk to their doctor or pharmacist. It makes no sense as we’re relaxing the laws prohibiting marijuana.    

Marijuana has somehow achieved something of a protected status. At the same time we have all but eliminated any positive image of tobacco smoking from our culture, we are promoting the idea of legalizing marijuana all over the country. It truly defies logic.

A Story That Needs To Be Told

On October 6, Neal Pollack posted an opinion piece in The New York Times. The title of the opinion piece is, “I’m Just a Middle-Aged House Dad Addicted to Pot.”

The opinion piece details the author’s journey from using marijuana regularly in his 20’s to the realization that he was hooked on the drug.

Some observations from the author:

I started smoking regularly in the ’90s, when I was in my mid-20s. Pot made everything better — food, music, sex, cleaning — and it made nothing worse. I got depressed less often. I laughed all the time.

But I also lost my temper for no reason. Did I yell at strangers in public? Probably. I barely remember, because I was stoned. But I do remember that once, high as a promotional blimp, I got into a bar fight with a former friend and broke his tooth with a beer bottle.

Back when my writing career was booming, I got invited a couple of times to do readings in Amsterdam, a bad gig for a pot addict. Once, after ingesting a couple of THC pills, I dumped a pitcher of water over my head and insulted the Iraqi representative to National Poetry Day Amsterdam. Another time, I pulled down my pants and flashed a crowd of several hundred. If I had any boundaries, weed erased them thoroughly. The boom ended fast.

…In early November (2017), I had the chance to fulfill my lifelong dream of attending a Dodgers World Series game. I spent way too much money on a ticket that turned out to be fake. So high that I couldn’t remember where I’d parked, I started screaming outside the stadium. If I’d been sober, I would have just called the vendor and gotten a refund. That’s what I ended up doing, eventually. But not before security guards surrounded me.

I looked into a car mirror and saw an old man, sobbing over a baseball game. That was the moment I accepted that I had a problem. Three weeks later, I quit.

Mr. Pollack has a few thoughts on how to handle the legalization of marijuana:

There’s a reason that Alcoholics Anonymous started in 1935, two years after the end of Prohibition. Alcohol abuse became rampant, and the country almost drank itself off the rails. Will the same thing happen with marijuana?

Marijuana isn’t alcohol or an opioid. You can’t die from an overdose. It doesn’t really evince physical cravings. So is it better to call my problem marijuana “dependence”? Does it matter?

Cannabis should be legal, just as alcohol should be legal. But marijuana addiction exists, and it almost wrecked my life. If you have a problem, you are not alone.

I personally think marijuana should be limited to medicinal purposes and be a controlled substance. In places where it is legal, children have gotten into mom and dad’s stash and had severe medical issues. There is also an increase in auto accidents due to driving while under the influence of marijuana. I understand that the concept of medical marijuana has been abused in the past, and I have no solution for that. I just think most people function better when they are not under the influence of drugs (or alcohol).

An Interesting Question

CNS News posted a very interesting article today. The article asks the question, “Why No Warning Label on Marijuana?” That is a fascinating question. The government puts warning labels on everything–my hairdryer reminds me not to use it in the shower, my iron reminds me that it can get hot, the coffee I buy at Dunkin’ Donuts (I did live in Massachusetts for a very long time) tells me on the cup that the contents may be hot. So why is marijuana exempt from big daddy government?

The article reports:

The best known warning label, of course, is the one that the United States Surgeon General has required on cigarette packs since 1966. Also well-known is the warning label on alcoholic beverage containers, which states that drinking alcohol during pregnancy may cause birth defects, that people should not drink and drive, and that alcohol may cause other health problems.

That marijuana is a drug there is no doubt. The FDA states that “marijuana and marijuana-derived products” are “drugs.”

According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, marijuana is “the most commonly used illicit drug in the United States.” According to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), “marijuana is a mind-altering (psychoactive) drug.”

The Surgeon General’s 1996 report entitled “Facing Addiction in America” describes marijuana as one of the “addictive drugs.”

Likewise, marijuana is not safe.

Despite all the recent changes in many state laws over the last five years and the massive public advocacy and lobbying of the emerging multi-billion-dollar marijuana industry, the FDA has not changed its position on marijuana but continues to hold that it “has not approved marijuana as a safe and effective drug for any indication.” Now, within the last nine months, two new reports on the dangers of marijuana have been issued.

So why are reports of the dangers not resulting in warning labels?

The article contains on example of the warning that would be appropriate for marijuana:

WARNING. Using cannabis can lead to the development of schizophrenia, other psychoses and other mental-health problems. Cannabis can cause hallucinations, delusions, and panic attacks. Cannabis can cause an increase in suicide ideation and suicide attempts. Smoking cannabis can worsen respiratory infections and bronchitis episodes. Using cannabis can lead to an increased risk of motor vehicle crashes. Maternal cannabis smoking is associated with the lower birth weight of babies.

The crusade against cigarettes included both warning labels and an extensive public-education campaign. Today, public education about marijuana consists in emphasizing that legalized marijuana will supply both “jobs and taxes.”

The usual answer to the type of question the article asks is ‘follow the money.’ In this case, it seems that many states are more interested in the tax money they will receive from the legalization of marijuana than the damage it will cause to the people using it. I don’t object to the legitimate use of marijuana for medical purposes, but if you look at the ads in the back of the newspaper in states where medical marijuana is legal, you quickly realize that an unethical doctor can write a prescription for marijuana to cure an ingrown toenail. There are so many areas where the government interferes to ‘protect’ Americans, it is interesting that the government chooses to remain silent about a danger that is rapidly becoming socially acceptable.

Common Sense From Patrick Kennedy

Yes, you read that right. Patrick Kennedy, former Congressman from Rhode Island, has started Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM), a group to fight the increasing legalization of marijuana.

Accuracy in Media posted an article yesterday showing some of the reporting on the new group::

The paper (The Washington Post) said Kennedy wants “to shift the debate from legalization to prevention and treatment—despite what appears to be a growing social acceptance of the drug.”

That “growing social acceptance” is being driven by the drug-friendly media, the pro-drug entertainment industry, and a dope lobby led by the Drug Policy Alliance that is mostly funded by billionaires such as George Soros.

I don’t know a lot about marijuana–I am so old that there were no drugs in the schools when I was in high school. The general concept of a drug addict in the early 1960’s was someone with a needle injecting drugs, and there was no way that was socially acceptable. However, I have been exposed to teenagers and adults who have used marijuana, and I can honestly say that I have never seen anyone whose life improved due to drug use. I am not convinced that we truly understand the effect of marijuana on the human body–long term or short term.

The article further reports:

Kennedy’s involvement follows other experts who have been discussing marijuana’s threat. Mental health expert Clayton Cramer tells Accuracy in Media, “The studies that have been done on the subject clearly demonstrate not just a correlation between mental illness and marijuana use, but a causal connection.”

However, the pro-marijuana movement is on the move, with the state of Oregon sinking so low as to authorize the use of “medical marijuana” for a 7-year-old child with leukemia. The child’s father, who is divorced from the girl’s mother, reported the marijuana use to child welfare officials and said that he found the little girl “stoned out of her mind.”

The prospect of Patrick Kennedy’s involvement gives hope to those who believe the U.S. has been surrendering the war on drugs.

It is good news that Patrick Kennedy has taken up this cause. Hopefully we can stop the legalization train before we become a nation of narcissists smoking pot to avoid facing reality.

I would like to mention something that I noticed on a visit to California, where medical marijuana is legal. The last two pages of the Sunday newspaper were filled with advertisements from doctors stating that they prescribed marijuana for headaches, digestive problems, etc. It was obvious from the ads that all you had to do if you wanted to smoke marijuana legally was go to one of these doctors and complain that you had a headache. In states where marijuana has actually been legalized, it is not even necessary to visit a doctor, but in California, a doctor’s visit is necessary before you can legally smoke pot.

I rather doubt that increasing drug use is an indicator of a healthy society. The obvious questions here is, “Who profits by making marijuana legal?” I don’t have the answer to that questions, but I suspect it would explain a lot.

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