An Old Message from the Drug War: Just Say No to Marijuana

Print More

Project SAM held a one-day summit focusing on the dangers of marijuana during the National Rx Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit in Atlanta last week, which addressed the growing opiod epidemic.

Just like the abstinence-only approach to teen sex, the abstinence-only approach to marijuana sees itself as offering a realistic path to young people.

Drug laws are being relaxed, four states plus Washington, District of Columbia, have made marijuana legal, and drug criminalization is linked to the problem of mass incarceration — but one vocal group is still urging what amounts to a “just say no” approach.

“Of all of our drugs, the most dangerous drug is marijuana,” said former White House drug chief Bob DuPont, at the SAM (Smart Approaches to Marijuana) Marijuana Education Summit in Atlanta last Thursday.

Project SAM was founded in 2013 by former Congressman Patrick J. Kennedy and Kevin A. Sabet, director of the Drug Policy Institute at the University of Florida. The organization includes doctors, lawmakers, treatment providers, teachers and law enforcement officers.

“We need to be clear that the standard is ‘no use,’” DuPont said in his speech at the conference. “Pediatricians don’t say this.”

DuPont, a psychiatrist who specializes in addiction and anxiety disorders, was the first director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (1973-78) and was drug chief under presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford.

He acknowledged that the message of Project SAM has become counterculture. “[But] this is a public health disaster,” he said.

The nuances of policy don’t make a difference, he said. The message must be a clear yes or no, he said. Don’t use alcohol, nicotine or marijuana for reasons of health, he said.

“It’s all about youth,” he said. Cigarettes, alcohol and marijuana are gateway drugs, he said.

Is abstinence a realistic goal? “Is it something you can say with a straight face?” he asked rhetorically. His answer was yes.

Timely or untimely?

The message comes at a time when more Americans than ever accept the view that marijuana should be legalized.

A Gallup poll in November showed 58 percent of Americans favor legalization. And 23 states now allow the medicinal use of marijuana.

Marijuana is far less harmful than alcohol and tobacco, according to the New York Times.

A review of scientific literature published in the British Lancet in 2010 concluded that alcohol was the most harmful drug, followed by heroin and crack cocaine. Following those, in order of harm to society, were methamphetamine, cocaine, tobacco, amphetamines and cannabis.

The New York Times went on to say in its editorial that great harm has come from laws against growing, distributing and possessing marijuana, “with billions spent on imprisoning people for violating pointlessly harsh laws.”

Howard Samuels would not agree. He is a clinical psychologist who serves on the board of SAM.

“I see firsthand the damage marijuana does,” he said at the conference. “It’s the dumbing down of our American youth.”

Addicted to heroin in his youth, Samuels said he has been clean and sober for 31 years. “For us in the field there can be no compromise,” he said.

Kevin Sabet, president and CEO of Project SAM, said marijuana drains ambition, drive and motivation.

“My message for youth leaders is that they should be looking at legalization with a very skeptical eye,” he said.

He claims there’s a massive industry seeking to become like the tobacco industry and looking to hook young people.

Project SAM (Smart Approaches to Marijuana), co-founded in 2013 by former Congressman Patrick Kennedy, opposes the growing movement to legalize marijuana. It takes an abstinence-only position at a time when 58 percent of the population favors legalization, according to a recent Gallup poll.

Project SAM (Smart Approaches to Marijuana), co-founded in 2013 by former Congressman Patrick Kennedy, opposes the growing movement to legalize marijuana. It takes an abstinence-only position at a time when 58 percent of the population favors legalization, according to a recent Gallup poll.

The new drug problem

The summit on marijuana was sandwiched within the National Rx Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit in Atlanta last week, where President Barack Obama called for a focus on treating opioid addiction as a public health problem.

Between 2000 and 2014, the use of prescription opioid drugs doubled, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In contrast to the larger summit, SAM’s message is an old one from the War on Drugs era. The new drug problem is a heroin and prescription drug epidemic.

On the opposite side of the fence from SAM is NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws), which advocates legalization of marijuana.

“We’ve tried [prohibition],” said Danielle Keane, political director for NORML. Criminalization was not effective and was not good public policy, she said; millions of Americans are still consuming marijuana.

Even so, NORML’s message to young people is to beware.

NORML supports laws prohibiting juvenile access, similar to the laws surrounding alcohol and tobacco.

“Marijuana is not a harmless substance,” Keane said. “It’s not perfectly fine for everyone to use as much as they want.”

It can have an adverse affect on the brain, and it has the potential for abuse, she said.

How marijuana can harm

The U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) points out that users of marijuana can become dependent on it. In a Tips for Teens publication, it notes that 957,000 people sought treatment in 2012 to quit their marijuana habit. The drug affects the brain, particularly in the area of memory, and has a major impact on driving ability, according to SAMHSA. Marijuana smoke also has more tar and carcinogens than cigarettes do.

It also remains illegal in the majority of states.

Marijuana today is generally three times more potent than it was 20 years ago and it can impair learning and memory.

Puff for puff, it is more harmful than cigarettes, according to SAMHSA.

For people struggling with other addictions, abstinence from all substances greatly increases the ability to recover.

Both NORML and SAM advocate a greater focus on education about marijuana.

Education is what helped reduce rates of alcohol and tobacco use, Keane said.

However, NORML’s stance begs the question: If prohibition didn’t work and millions are using marijuana, why will prohibition work with youth?

And SAM sends a message reminiscent of the exaggerated “reefer madness” warnings of the past century.

Are the alternatives either just say no or just wait til you’re 21?

  • Ian James

    The greatest danger with pot is cops.

    It’s time to end prohibition and regulate drugs. The War on Drugs has ruined far more lives than pot.

    Abstinence programs are notorious for failure. If you are serious about helping kids, treat addiction as a disease, not a crime.

    • davetimesone

      William F. Buckley Jr. said it best: “Even if one takes every reefer madness allegation of the prohibitionists at face value, marijuana prohibition has done far more harm to far more people than marijuana ever could.”

      The marijuana prohibition movement has never produced a report showing the harms of prohibition. They tell us it’s possible — they tell us that it’s important — despite never having achieved the goal and the current drug epidemic being a direct result of high-potency opioids prescribed by doctors at alarming rates.

  • sbkw1983

    Once upon a time, there was a President of the United States named Richard Milhous Nixon. This individual is noteworthy for several reasons including (but not limited to) the fact that he is the only PotUS to have ever resigned from office; that despite his frank public assertion to the American People that “[he is] not a crook,” a felonious one he in fact turned out to be; and also that his successor (former President Ford) inexplicably pardoned him of any and all criminal offenses precisely one month after his resignation.

    It is also noteworthy to point out that President Nixon – who formally began the so-called war on drugs ~45 years ago, and was responsible for the creation of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) – reportedly was also a frequent recreational consumer of the cancer-causing, hepatotoxic (liver-pruning) drug known as Ethyl Alcohol – the very same one which has conclusively been shown to be carcinogenic in any amount as well as neurotoxic (kills brain cells), and is by leaps and bounds the leading cause of domestic violence throughout the nation, but where are my manners: “Please enjoy responsibly,” or, “Please drink responsibly,” cheers?

    Moving on, when it came to minority groups of Americans whom President Nixon especially disliked (to put it mildly), two in particular stood out above the rest: first and foremost, any and all leftist, anti-war Hippies; and secondly, African-Americans in general – many of whom were Vietnam Vets who happened to return home suffering from often-severe cases of PTSD (left traumatized by the unimaginable horrors of jungle warfare wrought upon them) and a certain drug addiction (typically Diacetylmorphine [Heroin]) which they resorted to as an unfortunately temporary coping mechanism to escape the toll of physical and psychological pain which they solemnly carried with them to their graves; may they rest in the unending peace which insidiously eluded them.

    And so, in order to boost his Presidential Approval Rating, Nixon (possibly with the aid of Kissinger) eventually hatched an incredibly two-faced plan that would turn out to be the worst investment in the history of investments: he would ban every drug that – for reasons partly related to genetic diversity as well as varying personal tastes and preferences – the aforementioned two minority groups preferred over Alcohol and/or Nicotine. And he would use the preface of “war” to overcome any and all of the intended freedom and the pursuit of happiness which the sacredly honored U.S. Constitution has federally mandated.

    Furthermore, Nixon would make use of the world superpower’s resources at his disposal as a means to viciously scapegoat, stigmatize and criminalize any mind altering substances commonly consumed by Hippies, and to a lesser degree, those used without Uncle Sam’s permission slip by war-scarred Vets who were severely mentally ill (again, typically from PTSD symptoms), as at the time, the concept of ‘mental disorder’ in particular continued to be stigmatized by the mainstream media, and essentially looked down upon in a manner far, far exceeding the norm nowadays. And of note, Alcohol and Nicotine were unsurprisingly exempt and just about completely ignored by what would officially be known as the ‘Controlled Substances Act.’

    Fast forward over 4 decades: America is now the world’s biggest jailer by far with ~25% of the world’s prison population; approximately $1,500,000,000,000 USD in tax payer money wasted on the war on (certain/some) drugs; every prison in America infiltrated with the same ‘street drugs’ for which a countless number of mostly non-violent Americans are rotting away for; drug kingpins either remain completely untouchable, or are able to somehow escape a maximum security prison on multiple occasions, and their yearly combined ~$350,000,000,000 in laundered USD drug trafficking black market continues to yield a never-ending waiting list for street level dealer employment; ‘street drugs’ are increasingly available, increasingly diverse, increasingly adulterated, and competitively priced to consumers without the need to show any I.D; and worst of all, there has been absolutely no tangible progress made by the DEA and their associates – none, zero, zilch, nadda (sadly, that’s no joke).

    So if there is a lesson to be learned from the war on (certain) drugs, it is this: Our government has all but literally handed enterprising criminals the keys to supplying an enormous demand for certain plants and substances which Uncle Sam is not into on a freakin’ silver-platter (and mind you, at a level of risk which has, and will continue to influence nothing more than pricing, as availability is virtually constant). And after comparing other historical events (with important lessons taught but largely ignored) of our species’ very short time inhabiting this planet, it’s clear that the financial exploitation of the war on (certain/some) drugs (in the form of the same pattern of supply and demand established soon after we invented agriculture) leads to an all-too-common eventuality in which – if it isn’t already obvious – we won’t ever be able to arrest our way out of.

    Combine the above with an enduring legacy of blatant, shameless, greedy, long term hypocrisy (“Drugs are bad – stay away kids, don’t ever touch them, okay? Good. Excuse me, I’m gonna go have a smoke.”), deceit (such as the DEA’s views of parity on the acute and long term risks re. Weed vs. Heroin) and double standards (by way of embracing pretty much anything that contains Ethyl Alcohol and is considered fit for human consumption), and eventually, society will sure as hell reach a chaotic tipping point, where no one will stand for it any longer despite the potential consequences.

    The stark reality is that more and more people are turning to clandestinely synthesized ‘street drugs’ because of increasingly-tightening laws regarding their Rx counterparts. And on top of that doozy of a newsflash, more and more law-abiding Americans are increasingly reporting being unjustly exploited by viciously violent law enforcement officers who routinely abuse Asset Forfeiture, Stop ‘n Frisk, Mandatory Minimums and Three Strikes Laws (all meant to be used solely on drug dealers) because they “look suspicious,” and more arrests means greater bonuses and promotions (more money in their pockets each year to spend on the latest iPhone at our expense, and it’s truly sickening to witness).

    All in all, our society has suffered more so from the war on drugs than it has from the street drugs themselves, and still some people believe it’s a good thing to continue the status quo?! No one benefits more from prohibition of anything in constant demand than organized crime. This fact should have been made awfully clear when we tried to ban Alcohol, and a reign of gangland terror soon followed until the very end.

    “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” – Albert Einstein + “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” – George Santayana = the war on drugs in a nutshell.

    • malcolmkyle

      Nixon consulted a psychotherapist, Dr Jack Dreyfus, in 1970, after becoming depressed over the hostile public reaction to the bombing of Cambodia. Dr Dreyfus, an enthusiastic user and promoter of the drug Dilantin, told The New York Times that he gave Mr Nixon a bottle of 1,000 capsules of the drug “when his mood wasn’t too good”, and later gave him a further 1,000. Dilantin is an anti-convulsant used to counter epileptic seizures, is also effective in combating “fear, worry, guilt, panic, anger and related emotions, irritability, rage, depression, violent behavior” and a host of other ailments.

  • kelley davis

    Project SAM or how to get kids hooked on pharmaceuticals. Let project SAM take away that nasty marijuana to clear the way for your kids to have some nice Oxycodone!!! Come on kids, it’s cultural!!

    Any parent selling out there kid to project SAM is like having Jerry Sandusky

    coach your kid. You must be a real moron xDLOL

  • massman

    SAM causes more harm to kids than marijuana ever could. Misinforming, or lying, as SAM does, to parents and children about a substance which has never caused disease or death, is extremely dangerous. It’s what got us into this damn mess. Legalize 2016.

    • malcolmkyle

      Yes, Prohibitionists like SAM are even willing to commit murder rather than admit defeat:

      “Frustrated that people continued to consume so much alcohol even after it was banned, federal officials had decided to try a different kind of enforcement. They ordered the poisoning of industrial alcohols manufactured in the United States, products regularly stolen by bootleggers and resold as drinkable spirits. The idea was to scare people into giving up illicit drinking. Instead, by the time Prohibition ended in 1933, the federal poisoning program, by some estimates, had killed at least 10,000 people.”

      —an extract from: The little-told story of how the U.S. government poisoned alcohol during Prohibition with deadly consequences.

  • malcolmkyle

    When fascism came to the USA it was not simply labelled “Made in Germany” or marked with a swastika, it was not even called fascism. It actually had many names, like Prohibition, War on (some) Drugs, DEA, CIA, Nixon, Kleiman, Sabet, Sembler, Fay, Frum, Chabott, Schuette, Scott, Volkov, Wasserman Schultz, Leonhart, ….

    Prohibition has finally run its course; the lives and livelihoods of hundreds of millions of people, users and non-users worldwide, have been destroyed or severely disrupted; many countries that were once shining beacons of liberty and prosperity have, through scientific ignorance and blind political fanaticism, become repressive smoldering heaps of toxic hypocrisy and a gross affront to fundamental human decency. It is now the duty of every last one of us to insure that the people who are responsible for this shameful situation are not simply left in peace to enjoy the wealth and status that their despicable actions have, until now, afforded them. Former and present Prohibitionists should not be allowed to remain untainted or untouched by the unconscionable acts that they have viciously committed on their fellow human beings. They have provided us with neither safe communities nor safe streets. We should provide them with neither a safe haven to enjoy their ill-gotten gains nor the liberty to repeat such a similar atrocity.

  • Franklin

    Organized crime are the only people selling to children. The harm in continuing to teach kids a lie is that when they do go off to college and discover that marijuana is closer to coffee than alcohol. People have a hard time believe any drug education is accurate after that. This creates a huge risk that we are seeing today as a result of NIDA’s complete failure of Oxycontin.

    SAM is listed as being founded by Sabet but Mel Sembler put up the money, provided the materials and contacts. Mel Sembler has caused more harm to children in his 83 year on the planet that marijuana has caused in 5000 years of human consumption.

    The reality is that the prohibition of marijuana is an extension of Jim Crow laws. No one can deny the racial disparity and the sheer volume of prohibition arrest in comparison to all real crime. The State Sheriffs Associations, strong SAM supporters just happen to be the clubs where industry reps meet with deputies, prison guards, religious leader and other community leaders to manipulate the government from a very narrow minority.

    There are billions of dollars a year in marijuana prohibition. Not just the billion of dollars in assets seized before a person has even been to court. But the average of 25k per prisoner in a private for profit jail. Anyone who is invested in the private prisons knows that the state pays the same amount for a violent inmate who is going break things and need medical attention as it pays for a person caught with marijuana. Private prisons have managed to get low level criminals assigned to their cages with dramatically increases profits. Prohibition offenders aren’t criminals.

    This is all billed to the empty federal treasury and passed on to the deficit. The parasite industries don’t care about anything but profit. Quest labs is billion dollar corporation that test urine and only find marijuana half the time. Half all other positive tests account to the dozens of banned substances they test for. But it’s a court ordered profit. There is no other business that is more profitable the social engineering by threat of a gun and a cage. Court order drug treatment that don’t seem to work for anyone but they provide jobs to social workers who couldn’t be employed anywhere else with those skills.

    We aren’t even talking about public safety or any of the other weekly madness reports. SAM is running interference for people who make a lot of money for every single day that America has more people in prison than any country in the world. Crime is worse than it was 40 years ago. Our government wasted a trillion dollars on this drug war that we can’t get back, and it accomplished nothing but harm.

    The latest APP University of Chicago poll show that America voters are 61 per cent in favor of ”making marijuana legal”. We’re past this nonsense of gateway. No one want to give marijuana to kids unless a doctor is recommending medical marijuana for a serious condition. What marijuana reform does do to protect children is they won’t have to worry about men in black masks kicking the door in like a military operation to arrest a parent and break up a family because someone has a marijuana plant growing in the back yard. That is inexcusable and SAM is responsible for supporting this ongoing prohibition of a plant.

    • HK_EXPAT_IN_NEW_ZEALAND

      Kevin Sabet was trained up by Melvin and Betty Sembler who founded Straight Inc now Drug Free America Foundation (DFAF), Kevin Sabet is not the leader of Project SAM, he’s put there because the Semblers control him

      • Franklin

        People can’t handle that level of truth. Of course he’s a Mel Sembler puppet.
        SAM is listed as being founded by Kevin Sabet, but record also shows Mel and Betty put up 100 thousand dollars and set up the legal framework for SAM. They are still using Mel Sembler articles, changing the names and dates and releasing them as news.

        Thanks for spreading the truth. Mel Sembler is a monster. Anyone who has kids has to take a look at the harm this man has caused and wonder why he isn’t in prison.

        • HK_EXPAT_IN_NEW_ZEALAND

          Kevin Sabet’s Department at the University of Florida: http://drugpolicyinstitute.psychiatry.ufl.edu/our-fellows/

          There is also suspicion within the Cannabis and Drug Reform Movement that Melvin Sembler paid for Kevin Sabet’s position and some people including the deceased Wes Fager has exposed that the Drug Policy Institute is also a Melvin Sembler front, also one of the key people who is the DPI is none other than James Mcdonough aka the fungus man

        • HK_EXPAT_IN_NEW_ZEALAND

          This will give you a good outlook on how DFAF formerly Straight Inc has control over the US Cannabis and Drug Policy: http://www.thestraights.net/pickets/dfaf-and-drug-policy-5page-short.doc

  • Cassius King

    Patrick Kennedy couldn’t control himself around drugs and alcohol and now he wants to make it so no one else can use them either. Ted Kennedy was right, Patrick is an embarrassment to the family.
    [Marijuana] “has a major impact on driving ability according to SAMHSA”. According to NHTSA, drivers who consume cannibis are only 5% more likely to be in an accident as opposed to 400% for drivers with a BAC of .08

  • Youssef Ismail

    They should join the global warming deniers and have an idiot 3 ring circus. Marijuana is the most dangerous drug on earth everyone, run! Reefer madness 2.0 is now showing at theaters, the same (black man rape white woman) stupidity, simply repackaged with fresh boogiemen like the “big marijuana” monster.

  • lovingc

    SMART is the last thing these people are.They are money hungry liars.The distort the truth or use reefer madness histeria to try to convence people that don’t know that they are being lied to.There is no reason for cannabis to be illegal at all.

  • As long as alcohol is legal, marijuana will be the
    choice of many as a safer, healthier, and more enjoyable alternative.

    Keeping marijuana illegal ensures easy access to children by keeping it unregulated on the street instead of in the drug store where it belongs.

    The current system is a prison industrial welfare system that benefits the advocates who spew the nonsense listed here.

  • The main reason marijuana is more potent today is because prohibition sets penalties according to weight.

    When prohibition is ended, the potency will return to what it was.

  • HK_EXPAT_IN_NEW_ZEALAND

    For those who don’t know Kevin Sabet, he was trained up by Melvin and Betty Sembler who founded Straight Inc now Drug Free America Foundation (DFAF), Kevin Sabet is not the leader of Project SAM, he’s put there because the Semblers control him:

    http://www.substance.com/we-need-to-talk-about-kevin-sabet/19316/

    “But just as I was wrapping up my exchange with Kevin, Maia Szalavitz, who I’d spoken with about the whole activist thing, brought up some names I hadn’t heard in a while: Mel and Betty Sembler.

    The Semblers are notorious anti-drug crusaders and the masterminds behind Straight, Inc., a drug program so misguided and cruel that lawsuits resulted in millions being paid out to abuse victims. The courts heard terrible reports of young people held on the floor so long that they soiled themselves, sleep deprivation, gagging and more. Despite the horror stories, the Semblers remain key players in the anti-drug movement, although of a very different stripe to the image Project SAM wants to project.

    “You know something,” Maia told me, “I’ve always wanted to ask Kevin about when he worked for them…”

    So I asked him, and once again got a flat denial.

    “I never worked for them,” he said. “I am against the use of any of those techniques for treatment or anything else. DFAF [Drug Free America Foundation, the Semblers’ new project] has nothing to do with SAM—it has zero involvement. No money. No influence. Nada. We agree on some issues, yes, but I think you’ll find we are different organizations with different approaches. And I only became aware of any allegations after a few articles on the subject some years ago.”

    Which seemed definitive enough. But then Maia sent me something very interesting: the 2007 DFAF Annual Report, which listed a certain Kevin Sabet as a member of their advisory board in the role of “drug prevention expert.” Sabet was also listed as a member of the editorial board for the journal of the Institute of Global Drug Policy, a division of DFAF.

    I reached back out to Kevin to ask, “What gives?”

    This time, his answer was rather different.

    “Tony, I was on the advisory board along with Jeb Bush, Bob DuPont and others for a few years—that’s all unpaid.”

    Robert DuPont was the US “Drug Czar” from 1973 to 1978, and now makes a lot of money running Besinger DuPont & Associates, a workplace drug testing company. He’s also advocated that unhealthy patterns of drug use “warrant ‘stigma’.” Worried perhaps about what would happen to those piss-test profits if marijuana were legalized, DuPont once compared legalizing marijuana to “legalizing drunk driving.”

    “And I’ve published in their journal and reviewed for them,” Sabet continued, “as have about 100 other academics. In fact their journal is peer reviewed (blindly) and people like Jon Caulkins and other reputable academics have published in it.”

    Just to give you a flavor of the kind of guff that the Journal of Global Drug Policy and Practice has preached, take a look at this study, which comes to the conclusion—contrary to the World Health Organization and every other reputable body—that the effectiveness of needle exchanges in reducing the spread of HIV among intravenous drug users is “overrated,” and that access to clean needles for HIV-positive drug users as the major method for combating the spread of HIV among this population is “not correct.”

    Given such claims, it’s little wonder, in light of his efforts to rebrand himself as some kind of anti-pot centrist, that Sabet is now eager to distance himself.

    He was quick to add: “That work was 8-9 years ago. I’ve never been an employee of theirs. And they have never given a penny to SAM and there’s no connection between them and SAM. Making any connection between DFAF and SAM or me personally and DFAF would be false and unrepresentative of the truth.”

    Making “any connection,” one assumes, except for the whole “being on their advisory board, writing and reviewing for their journal, and doing consulting work at the UN for them under the SUNDIAL moniker” thing. (SUNDIAL was, in effect, a “let’s keep prohibition tough” campaign, built around ensuring that the UN drug laws didn’t change and that all signatories stuck to them.)

    “While a student in the mid-2000s I did do some consulting work for them regarding the UN—that’s what SUNDIAL was,” Kevin says. “A project I led for them to support the UN conventions, which I’m proud of. We got 1 million signatories to show support. They along with some other groups around the world supported me to do that…”

    I wonder if Kevin was really so “proud” of his work with them, when he refused to even acknowledge it until I sent him the evidence.

    Looking at the things DFAF believes, it becomes harder to see Kevin’s shift toward the “third way” as anything but opportunistic. DFAF advocates drug testing all school children, and an approach to “harm reduction” that would shutter needle exchanges and methadone clinics around the country, leading to the kind of public health emergency that hasn’t been seen here since the onset of the AIDS epidemic.”

    Also Wes Fager (deceased) has a very interesting site on Straight Inc (http://thestraights.net)

  • Jernee Montoya

    None of what any of you have to say makes any sense. You have to understand addiction, who is at risk for addiction and what the real consequences are for people who overuse or become addicted to MJ. This is not about drug deaths or disease related to drug use. Those are not the only ways to measure the harmful impact of overuse of any drug. We measure the impact that a drug has on our lives by how it affects the quality of our lives, our relationships, how it affects our opportunities and our mental/physical health. MJ is much more harmful now than 20 years ago b/c of higher THC content. There is much more of a risk for developing a psychotic reaction from using or overusing MJ now than there was 20 y/a. For those who are lucky, the psychosis will be temporary. For those who are genetically predisposed to mental illness, it will trigger a psychotic break and the person may develop schizophrenia (which is a life long disease). Do you want your child to take the risk of this happening? It’s like playing Russian Roulette. Sure, it’s not going to happen to everyone, but for the ones it does happen to, there is no going back. Ever. I saw a beautiful intelligent young man have this happen to him and he went from being an architect scholar to someone living on disability.
    That’s not the only risk. Chronic overuse of MJ leads to memory impairment. This means that you will never ever know how much your child will have been capable of learning if they become dependent on MJ.
    If you have addiction in your family, and often we do not know if we do, then starting MJ use earlier sets the child up for developing an addiction whether it be to MJ or something else b/c of the genetic predisposition involved. Do you want your child to find this out the hard way?
    A person’s brain continues to develop until they are 25 years old. At 25 years old, we will know what we are capable of intellectually and emotionally. Studies show that any type of overuse of MJ prior to this age affects brain development. This means that a perfectly well adjusted child who inadvertantly starts using MJ daily b/c it relaxes him or her may never develop that part of the brain that teaches them to cope with difficult emotions.
    Students who use MJ daily are much more likely to drop out of school or to get lower grades. They become isolated and irritable. Some lose jobs, or never excel b/c more and more of their income goes to buying weed and less goes to taking care of themselves, paying rent, showing up. Their tolerance goes up and they begin to feel hopeless.
    This is not about what is worse, alcohol or MJ. It is about protecting our children (and I include college kids in this group) for as long as we can from the POTENTIAL to become dependent on something that initially works and feels good. I just don’t see how it is worth the risk for anyone we love.
    I am not at all in favor of criminal punishment for MJ offenses, so that certainly is not my point. MJ is a schedule I drug for a reason. If it is illegal and someone gets caught, evaluate if they have a problem (b/c not every one who uses MJ will develop a problem, just to be clear), and send them for help.
    I have no political agenda, am not affiliated with any group. I’m writing from the perspective of someone who has studied addiction, drugs and alcohol, who has lived it, and, who works with people whose lives have been destroyed by it. I come from the perspective of a clinician, a consumer and a human being who cares about preventing unnecessary suffering.