Every year the federal Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) conducts a survey on Drug Use and Health (DUH) and releases reports on perceived trends. If the survey finds that drug use is down, government officials say “Our approach is working, give us more funding.” If drug use is up, they say “We’re in an epidemic, we need more funding.” This year they get to make both pitches because drug use was found to be up in some age brackets and down in others.
SAMHSA released an “initial report” Sept. 7 based on the 2005 DUH Survey. “Youth Drug Use Continues Downward Slide, Older Adult Rates of Use Increase©˜ was the headline. In the 12-to-17 age group, current marijuana users (those who acknowledged using within the past month) declined from 8.2 percent in 2002 to 6.8 percent in 2005. Among adults aged 50 to 59, however, “the rate of current illicit drug use increased from 2.7 percent to 4.4 percent between 2002 and 2005, reflecting the aging into this age group of the baby boom cohort.”
In 2005, the average age of first-time marijuana users was 17.4 years – a five-month increase since 2003. Drug Czar John Walter commented, “Something important is happening with American teens. They are getting the message that using drugs limits their futures.” Or maybe they’re becoming more afraid to level with government survey takers. The DUH Survey has some 67,500 respondents nationwide. There were 14.6 million past-month marijuana users in 2005, supposedly.
If one trusted the data, one could conclude that the increasingly prevalent image of marijuana as medicine encourages older people to use it while making it less appealing to kids.
For everything spin, spin, spin
There is some research spin spin spin
And a line for every product under heaven
“Today’s illegal market didn’t really begin until large numbers of American teens born during the post-World-War-Two baby boom began smoking pot in the mid-1960s,” says Tom O’Connell, MD, a California cannabis specialist who has collected and analyzed demographic info from more than 3,000 patients. “The market has grown steadily ever since, despite all attempts of the federal government to eradicate it… Adolescence is precisely when chronic pot use began for the great majority of current users. My data show the opposite of a ‘gateway’ effect -pot use in adolescence is associated with diminished initiation of more problematic drugs and diminished use of alcohol and tobacco.”
There was a pot bust Sept. 6 at a UC Berkeley residential co-op Sept. 6 after some 30 students had adverse reactions to some marijuana-laced brownies they’d eaten at a meeting. Twelve students wound up in the ER with symptoms that included anxiety, rapid heart rate, chest pains, “and a feeling of doom,” according to Alameda County Fire Capt. Tim Dillon.
The alleged brownie suppliers -two students and a recent grad- were arrested amid rumors that they had added psychedelic mushrooms to their product. Our source discounts those rumors. “There were lots of people who didn’t know how strong a marijuana brownie can be. They may have eaten a couple. A marijuana overdose is not only unpleasant, it lasts and it lasts. They started having a mass bummer and called for help.”
Dr. O’Connell adds, “Pot doesn’t have as much user control as most users require/need/would like unless it’s smoked, which for most people is a paradox. Smoking almost completely avoids the ‘first pass’ effect in which everything absorbed by the gut and scrutinized by hepatocytes [enzymes in the liver] and a significant fraction may be metabolized into something entirely different. Since the major site of pot’s action on the emotions is the brain, the first pass frustrates the titration smokers have become used to in two ways. First, they have to wait for digestion and then they have to do without the familiar anxiolytic [anti-anxiety] benefit that induced most of them to become chronic users to begin with.
“Add the fact that the duration of action of the liver’s variant product is tripled and you’ll understand why most chronic users either give edibles a wide berth or reserve them for week-end use at picnics, concerts, etc.”
A Split Verdict on Prop 215
This Labor Day Weekend is the official start of the “10th Anniversary of Prop 215” season. Expect a split verdict from the pundits.
Prop 215 is a success. The genie is out of the bottle and can’t be put back.
More than 250,000 people have gotten doctor’s approval to medicate with cannabis and no pattern of adverse effects has been discerned -in fact, not a single death from overdose has been reported! Word-of-mouth keeps expanding the number of medical marijuana users. From Humboldt to Orange County, doctors who specialize in issuing approvals have no appointments available for months ahead. The California experience has clearly established that cannabis cam be safe and effective medicine.
Dispensaries keep opening -there are some 300 now operating statewide. Cities and counties, including Los Angeles and San Francisco, have developed regulations for dispensaries. On no other issue are the American people so united in their belief that the government is lying. “Weeds” on Showtime reflects a level of acceptance unthinkable 10 years ago.
Prop 215 has been successfully contained by law enforcement. Ten years after its passage, in a state of more than 30 million people, only 250,000 have gotten a doctor’s approval to medicate with cannabis. The doctors are so frightened that a small group of 15-20 specialists have issued at least half the approvals -and the Medical Board is actively investigating five of them.
The Supreme Court’s ruling in the Raich case has created the widespread impression that “federal law trumps state law,” i.e., marijuana is illegal no matter what its use. Municipalities are banning dispensaries; their operators and suppliers are being tried and convicted. Growers who thought they had some legal protection–Dustin Costa, Robert Schmidt, and others–languish in prison. A moral inversion has occurred. Whereas in 1996 a majority knew that truth was on the side of Dennis Peron and the SF Cannabis Buyers Club, today most people think that hordes of able-bodies young men are feigning ailments to score marijuana. Cynicism pervades the movement itself. “Weeds” reveals medical marijuana for the scam that it is.
“There are stores on Sunset Blvd doing $40,000 a day selling OG Kush for $80 an eighth to people running in while their girlfriend’s sitting in the Beamer,” says an honest activist.