Let's All Smoke A Fat One
I'm just kidding; I gave up smoking pot on December 1, 1970 in a sweltering parking lot at the Pakistan-India border. It was a godsend-- but so were all the years before that when I was using it. I was happy that voters in Washington and Colorado have decriminalized the use of marijuana for recreational usage and that Massachusetts legalized medical marijuana. Too bad about Oregon's proposal to basically stop treating pot like some kind of dangerous substance. A Fox contributor, Keith Ablow, a psychiatrist, argues that the implications of legalized marijuana could be massive, massively bad, from a psychiatric perspective. and he's for legalization!
[J]udging from the frequent users of marijuana I have met with in my practice, this predicts a likely increase in the number of people suffering with depression, the number suffering with worsening symptoms of underlying psychotic illnesses, the number suffering with attention deficit and memory problems and the number who will be involved in accidents at work and on the roads.And then there's the legal perspective. After all, the federal government says possessing any pot for any reason is illegal. I bet the Justice Department finds it a lot easier to prosecute potheads than banksters. Though it's now legal to one degree or another in 17 states and the District of Columbia, tens of thousands of people are in prison for marijuana-related crimes. The Justice Department said they're looking into it and figuring out how to proceed. A DEA spokesperson said that its “enforcement of the Controlled Substances Act remains unchanged.”
Colorado and Washington should begin very aggressive public awareness campaigns about the dangers of marijuana use right now, to try to reduce the toll of the substance. Perhaps they should earmark a large percentage of all state revenues from marijuana sales for that purpose. The end of Prohibition is an instructive example; alcohol-related illnesses skyrocketed.
It will also be desirable to now devise protocols to test the blood of drivers who seem to be driving under the influence. Breathalizers that detect alcohol won’t suffice. Marijuana can impair driving, too. And marijuana is frequently “cut” with other mind-altering drugs.
Even though I think legalizing marijuana is the correct path, in keeping with giving people autonomy (and in keeping with avoiding the hypocrisy of arresting people for using something a whopping percentage of our lawmakers have used), I believe the substance is dangerous when used for pleasure-- especially, habitually. It has poorly understood and substantial neurochemical effects on the brain.
No matter what anyone says, I am utterly convinced from my 20 years practicing psychiatry, that it does act as a gateway drug, tempting people to use other illicit substances, including opiates. And that’s just the beginning of the trouble.
Marijuana also delays people from actually searching for the root emotional causes of their problems. They get high, instead of getting to the core of what is bothering them.
Marijuana is the antithesis of insight-oriented psychotherapy. It is a Band-Aid over suffering that will not stay covered up forever by inhaling smoke from a burning plant (marijuana) or, for that matter, injecting the byproduct of another plant (heroin, from the poppy).
That’s why, in the longer run, I predict a second, more destructive wave of trouble from marijuana. This will represent the groundswell of unaddressed psychiatric issues that will have been temporarily camouflaged by the drug.
At a time when so many Americans seem anesthetized to their personal challenges, to the facts about our fractured economy and to the challenges we face from enemies, it should come as no surprise that voters are clamoring for mind-altering drugs to perpetuate and deepen their dream state.
Dependence on substances is already an epidemic, of course, but it will get even worse. And the overall effect will be to kick the can of dealing with personal problems and psychiatric illness down the road, building a “reality deficit” to match the staggering fiscal debt we are accumulating.
In the run-up to the latest initiatives, the Justice Department was unusually muted about the possible conflicts between federal and state laws, even as former DEA officials called on Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. to publicly oppose the measures.Maybe the success Obama had and the success for marriage equality and pot initiatives had something to do with the big turnout from voters under 30. Many were infuriated that Republican legislatures tried dienfranchising college students and pulling off lots of backward social policy. The numbers aren't completely in yet but it looks like youth participation was more than the banner turnout in 2008. It looks like between 22 and 23 million young people (under 30) voted.
On Wednesday, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) signaled his awareness of the legal conflict with the Justice Department, cautioning voters that the marijuana initiative violates federal law.
“The voters have spoken and we have to respect their will,” Hickenlooper said in a statement. “This will be a complicated process, but we intend to follow through. That said, federal law still says marijuana is an illegal drug, so don’t break out the Cheetos or gold fish too quickly.”
Colorado Amendment 64 allows individuals 21 and older to buy up to an ounce of marijuana at retail stores that are regulated. Possession of marijuana would be legal, although it would not be legal to use the drug publicly. Washington’s Initiative 502 is similar and allows adults 21 and older to buy up to an ounce of dried marijuana; up to a pound of a marijuana-infused product, such as brownies; or up to 72 ounces of marijuana-infused liquids.
Supporters of the measures argued that they would bring in hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue, with the funds being used for education, health care and other government services. They also said that the initiatives would give proponents a chance to show that decriminalization of marijuana could benefit the country’s war on drugs.
In Colorado, the measure was supported by more than 300 physicians in the state, including Bruce Madison, the former associate medical director of faculty at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, who said that current laws waste “hundreds of millions of dollars in a failed war on marijuana, by ruining thousands of lives by unnecessary arrest and incarceration, and by causing the deaths of hundreds of people killed in black-market criminal activities.”
Opponents of the measures in both states warned of a federal crackdown and unauthorized drug use by children. They also argued that the states could attract “drug tourists.”
A similar proposal legalizing marijuana use was on the ballot in Oregon but did not pass.
In September, nine former DEA administrators wrote a letter to Holder expressing their concerns about the initiatives. The attorney general did not respond.
“To continue to remain silent conveys to the American public and the global community a tacit acceptance of these dangerous initiatives,” wrote the former administrators, who oversaw the DEA under both Democratic and Republican presidents from 1973 to 2007. “We urge you to take a public position on these initiatives as soon as possible.”
The Justice Department can file suit to try to block state laws that it deems to have violated federal statutes. It did so, for example, after Arizona passed a law in 2010 that the state said was aimed at cracking down on illegal immigrants but that the Obama administration believed was unconstitutional.
On Wednesday, Justice spokeswoman Nanda Chitre would not comment on whether a lawsuit is being considered. “The Department of Justice is reviewing the ballot initiatives, and we have no additional comment at this time,” Chitre said.
UPDATE: Pot Tourism?
I lived in Amsterdam for 4 years. When I graduated from college I spent a lot of time in Kabul and a lot of time in Kathmandu. You know what all three cities had in common? Economically significant amounts of weed tourism. And now entrepreneurs in Colorado and Washington are getting ready to start making fortunes from the same phenomena.
Tourists may not be able to pack their bowls along with their bags, but as long as out-of-state tourists purchase and use the drug while in Colorado or Washington, they wouldn't violate the marijuana measures.
Of course, that's assuming the recreational marijuana measures take effect at all. That was very much in doubt Friday as the states awaited word on possible lawsuits from the U.S. Department of Justice asserting federal supremacy over drug law.
So the future of marijuana tourism in Colorado and Washington is hazy. But that hasn't stopped rampant speculation, especially in Colorado, where tourism is the No. 2 industry thanks to the Rocky Mountains and a vibrant ski industry.
The day after Colorado approved recreational marijuana by a wide margin, the headline in the Aspen Times asked, "Aspendam?" referring to Amsterdam's marijuana cafes... Ski resorts are "certainly watching it closely," said Jennifer Rudolph of Colorado Ski Country USA, a trade association that represents 21 Colorado resorts.
Any plans for an adults-only après lounge where skiers could get more than an Irish coffee to numb their aches?
"There's a lot that remains to be seen," Rudolph said with a chuckle. "I guess you could say we're waiting for the smoke to clear."
The Colorado counties where big ski resorts are located seem to have made up their minds. The marijuana measure passed by overwhelming margins, with more support than in less visited areas.
The home county of Aspen approved the marijuana measure more than 3-to-1. More than two-thirds approved marijuana in the home county of Colorado's largest ski resort, Vail. The home county of Telluride ski resort gave marijuana legalization its most lopsided victory, nearly 8 in 10 favoring the measure.
"Some folks might come to Colorado to enjoy some marijuana as will be their right. So what?" said Betty Aldworth, advocacy director for the Colorado marijuana campaign. Washington state already sees a version of marijuana tourism.
Every summer on the shores of the Puget Sound, Seattle is host to "Hempfest," which according to organizers attracted around 250,000 people over three days this year. For those three days, people are largely left alone to smoke publically at a local park, even as police stand by.
"People travel to Seattle from other states and countries to attend Seattle Hempfest every year to experience the limited freedom that happens at the event," said executive director Vivian McPeak. "It's reasonable to assume that people will travel to Washington assuming that the federal government doesn't interfere."
McPeak draw parallels to Amsterdam where an annual "Cannabis Cup" attracts tourists from all over the world and Vancouver, British Columbia, which has lax marijuana rules that have borne marijuana cafes drawing travelers.