Marijuana Today – It’s Not the Drug of Your Youth!

By S. Alexandra Tuttle

To paraphrase the late Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, the states are the laboratories of democracy, meaning of course that states offer the opportunity to experiment with new or innovative ideas.  With ten states and the District of Columbia now allowing for the recreational use of cannabis by an adult, the Maryland State Legislature has formed a workgroup this year, which includes Delegates Nic Kipke and Kathy Szeliga, to review issues related to the legalization of marijuana.

“I am honored to be serving on the interim workgroup on the legalization of marijuana,” said Kathy Szeliga. “We will be taking a deep look at the effects on the people in states that have already legalized recreational marijuana. I am particularly interested in learning how recreational marijuana is impacting our youth, workforce and driver safety.” Formation of this work group is a welcome respite in an atmosphere where there seemed to be a rush to pass legislation, in particular by several members of our Montgomery County delegation, seemingly with no concern for the consequences. 

As someone who has worked in an Emergency Room for several years now, I have become very concerned about this situation. With only anecdotal stories to tell, it is not unusual for me to see patients who are psychotic and out of control, with no mental health history and only marijuana onboard.  While the level of THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, has increased over the years (which in itself in concerning), we have seen marijuana cut with other drugs, including synthetic marijuana or k2.  The results can be devastating with tangible and intangible costs not only to the patient, but to the family as well.

Chronic use, especially in teens and young adults, can result in dangerous consequences for the prefrontal cortex where executive functioning takes place, “affecting the ability to think, plan, solve problems, make decisions, and exert self-control over impulses,” as noted by the National Institutes on Drug Addiction in their June, 2018 report. If you combine drug use with mental health issues, you can expect to be on a long roller coaster ride with a loved one, as it becomes hard to ‘tease out’ which may have come first.

As a society, it appears that we have normalized marijuana use.  Former governor and presidential candidate Gary Johnson, who is in favor of legalization and has a financial stake in its outcome, says to go ahead and legalize it because that ‘horse has already left the barn.’ Even our Democrat presidential candidates seem eager to outdo one another in this area, as recently noted when Senator Kamala Harris  carelessly observed that “I think it (marijuana) gives a lot of people joy, and we need more joy.”   Would she be saying that about alcohol?  Such minimizing statements are harmful, coming from our political leaders.  To that point, a 2018 report from NIDA notes that “drug use decreases when drugs are perceived as harmful, and vice-versa."

LaTonia Rich, Executive Director of Tree of Hope, a local Montgomery County organization that is on the front lines dealing with client addictions, notes: “I think legalization is a double-edge sword.  On one hand, criminalization of the drug community has been a major contributor to broken families and deaths of people who struggle with addiction.  On the other hand, I’m seeing the biggest influx of people entering treatment for marijuana use.  If legalization happens, I would like to see monies from those distributors go to creating more beds for treatment, transitional housing and programs for women with children.  We already have so many people trying to recover from addiction, my fear is that legalization will create a new generation of addicts.”  

Montgomery County Republican Party