Linda Mulley: Reconsider marijuana legalization - VTDigger
 

Linda Mulley: Reconsider marijuana legalization

Editor’s note: This commentary is by Linda Mulley, an autism educator who has taught at University of Vermont, Dartmouth College and the Vermont Higher Education Collaborative; she is the co-author of All Children Matter (White River Press, 2014). She has lived in the Upper Valley for 40 years.

With the first anniversary of my 38-year-old daughter’s death from substance abuse just past, I find myself stunned by Vermont’s serious consideration of a bill to legalize marijuana for recreational purposes. Having followed this discussion now for many months and addressing it as I’ve been able with state and federal senators (including supporter Bernie Sanders), our local representatives, and the governor, I’ve received disappointingly few responses. Comments on the Internet to my objections to legalization have been vitriolic, and I long ago stopped engaging in this way. There clearly is a very vocal base of support for this measure although it is far less clear how representative that base really is.

There has much discussion regarding pros and cons of legalizing marijuana over the past months. However, as a parent whose child died from the disease of addiction, I feel I have to try again to share my daughter’s personal experience with this drug. From her journals, there is no question that marijuana was her first drug of choice and that she was “psychologically” addicted to it – she first encountered it in high school and continued smoking it until she died. From her birth parents, she inherited genes that predisposed her to addiction, and smoking weed was definitely her gateway into far more destructive and, in her case, lethal drug and alcohol behavior.

I am also the mother of an 18-year-old son who has suffered greatly from the loss of his sister. I fear for him and his friends (and all teens and young adults in Vermont and other states who will come here to purchase it) should this bill pass. The message to kids of all ages will be one of general acceptance by our community and this will surely have a psychological effect on them. Although we know that kids can and do find sources for the drug, they will surely have much easier access than they have now. The coupling of those two elements – OK to do, let’s go get some or get someone to get us some – feels ominous to me and I hope it may to you as well.

It seems illogical to me that as part of that approach, we would actually legitimize a drug whose effects are poorly studied and for which little data exists to prove that legalization is not harmful, especially to our youth.

 

Let’s do acknowledge that the marijuana available these days barely resembles the tame weed people smoked in their youth. It’s now become a highly potent drug that can impair judgment and disinhibit minds that are not fully developed until their early 20s. Having met many parents (in person and online) whose children have died from substance abuse, very few do not include marijuana in the inexorable march toward experimenting with and using more dangerous substances. In describing their experiences and my daughter’s addictive pattern, I am not suggesting that every person who uses marijuana will become an addict. Simply, that some surely will, and already, for those people, there are long waiting lists, limited resources, and inadequate treatment options available to them.

Few people disagree that new approaches are needed to help solve the drug problem in our country and state. I am very familiar with the pro arguments – tax revenues, regulation, etc. and, were those revenues really used for education and treatment, some benefit could accrue. However, it seems illogical to me that as part of that approach, we would actually legitimize a drug whose effects are poorly studied and for which little data exists to prove that legalization is not harmful, especially to our youth. In fact, as data comes in from Colorado, real problems are now associated with broad-scale legalization. And I think it does matter that most drug enforcement professionals in our state are not in favor of legalization – so why are we not listening to them? They are concerned about drivers – young and old – under the influence of a drug that is known to impair judgment and reflexes. And without a clear standard or reliable test that can accurately evaluate how impaired or intoxicated a drugged driver is, we are all at risk.

It is important to remember that there is a big difference between decriminalizing and legalizing. Clearly, a person who can benefit medically from marijuana in any form should have easy and sanctioned access to it. And should people be imprisoned for growing or having a small amount of pot in their possession? Definitely not. But it’s a huge leap from making it not a criminal act to possess certain amounts to actually making the drug available legally to the population as a whole.

Those who support waiting for more data from states that have taken this bold step are, in my opinion, both tempered and wise. Why must Vermont take the lead on this issue? I have lived in this state since 1968 and have been proud of its legacy. But I feel no pride in our stand on this issue, and, if you feel similarly, I urge you to contact your House legislators soon and ask that they consider carefully all of the issues before casting a yea vote for this bill. If no other argument comes to mind, we can all simply ask them: “What’s the rush?”

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  • Lori Robinson

    Yes, Linda, we mothers/parents must unite to sound the alarms just as you’ve written about. A group of moms have united to fight the plague of drugs, particularly 21st century marijuana (and all its derivatives). Some of us are speaking out as we watched our teens or young adult children fall victim to the egregious mental health harms this potent turbo-charged morphed marijuana drug causes to the prefrontal cortex of their developing brains. My son began using “recreationally” when he moved away from home at age 19, and overnight at age 23 (two months after marrying his longtime girlfriend in a magical wedding held on a college campus summer 2009) went into a mind-altering psychosis admitting to and testing (+) to just one substance: THC. My son naively believed today’s pot is harmless, just a herb and of course this young generation believes “medicinal” since CA was the first state to pioneer “MMJ” when Shane was just 10 years old. Sadly, my son and bis friends grew up in a culture of pot-even today no one considers pot “a drug”. Shane suffered two episodes of psychosis, 18 months apart, the MH facilities denied marijuana could trigger psychosis, denied him drug rehab despite me asking and waving the scientific studies I found the night my son’s mind experienced these horrific auditory and visual hallucinations. Tragically, no one warned my son, or his family that cessation from marijuana at the 6 month mark is linked with the highest rate of suicide. Shane took his young life at the 7 month juncture – never touched another substance but was dead within 27 months from the first psychosis. How is it our country continues to turn a blind eye to the dangers from this morphed plant? Could it be the > $50 billion revenue the pot industry grossed last year? Please look for the website
    http://www.momsstrong.org which will launch shortly to help educate the sleeping public and warn parents and young people this drug should come with a warning: use of this drug may result, over time, in severe mental illness.

    • Eric A Rutz

      The thumbs down relative to this comment are thankfully indicative of a small, ignorant, and grossly uncaring percentage of the population.

      Perhaps they don’t suffer from the consequences of their use – not yet anyway. Give it twenty years. When the requirements for having a job and living in the world are far beyond what we see today. The head change you so love now will not bring about positive results or a happy life.

      To the legislators who support this: which one of your grandchildren do you want to roll the dice with, who, after a little or lot of smoking or eating, mirror Lori’s tragic experience? Which one deserves your role modeling, your acceptance, and your promotion of a drug that can cause permanent brain damage?

      You certainly won’t know until it happens. Unless you can tell by looking at them which one is sensitive to mental illness brought on by this “harmless” drug. And by then it’ll be too late for you to do anything about it. Give that helpless feeling two minutes of your time.

      Try going the other way. Stand and deliver a message that recreational drugs are harmful. Talk about how a one hour buzz, with lots of laughing, while downing a pint of Ben & Jerry’s, isn’t worth the risk of ruining your brain’s ability to function for the rest of your life.

    • John Jacobs

      Lori,

      I’m sorry for your loss, however you are making unsubstantiated claims that your sons condition was caused by MJ.

      http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2013/12/09/schizophrenia-usually-strikes-first-in-young-adults/

      • lori robinson

        Mr. Jacobs- unless you have similar credentials and qualifications like the renowned psychiatric researcher Sir Professor Robin Murray of the UK (specialist in cannabis-psychosis research over the DECADES) please educate yourself about what is happening to so many young people, like my son. And don’t presume you know a thing about my son or my family because I assure you, you do not.

        http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b072n96l

  • Don peterson

    There is a reason this is going through the legislature and not being voted upon by the general population. After all, the legislators know better than we do about what’s good for us.

    Call your state representative and demand he or she helps table this issue and put it before the voters in the fall. Enough is enough.

    • John Jacobs

      Actually Don, it is going through the legislature as “Under Sections 2 and 6, Chapter II of the Vermont Constitution only the General Assembly has the authority to enact legislation”

  • Bob Orleck

    Thank you Lori and Linda. Thank you so much for sharing from your heart!

  • Donald Valentine

    I have known Linda Mulley since we were at university together in the mid-1960’s. she was a very serious and knowledgeable woman on issues important to her than and clearly continues to be today. Hopefully more of the right people will take what she has to say to heart and steer themselves in the proper direction. Good for you Linda!

  • Bob Orleck

    Dale Poppot: You are right on and the prestigious Journal of the America Medical Association (JAMA) on Feb 17, 2016, reported on a study of close to 35,000 people (approximately half men and half women) that shows marijuana use is tied to nicotine, alcohol and drug dependence. The study is mentioned in this link in Medscape Specialty and there is a link to the JAMA abstract regarding the study. http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/859197 What is sad about this is that this is a pretty definitive broad based study that will be ignored by the deniers that marijuana puts people at risk of other addictions. It is hard for me to understand how intelligent people like Senator Dick Sears (D) and Senator Joe Benning (R) and other legislators can ignore such evidence with such poor and faulty reasoning that they use to justify. Senator Benning even relied on polls versus sound medical, law enforcement and educational reasons. This report, if nothing else, should convince them not to rush into this. There is no need to rush into this and while it would be unrealistic to believe they can just admit they were wrong, the least they could do for the citizens and especially the children is to refer this to a Commission to study all this new evidence. .

  • It is a shame that this girl died, but her wounds ran deep and were not caused by cannabis nor even by the harder drugs which apparently are the nominal cause of her death. No, her death started when she was cruelly ripped from all of her family and all of her roots and made to live with strangers. I know from first-hand experience that this is a wound that runs deep and takes a very long time to heal and it is one which apparently nobody in your family has confronted. And you are complicit in this crime that was done to her. So instead of blaming cannabis, which had nothing to do with her demise and was merely an attempt on her part to self-medicate, you should instead blame the system that allowed her to be so damaged at such a young age.

    Adopted kids suffer mental disorders at higher rates than kids who are raised by their real parents and they are at higher risk for exactly the sorts of troubles that your adopted daughter exhibited. I am familiar with the arguments about unwanted children going to families that want them but I also know that in the majority of cases this is a lie; maybe the birth mother was not ready for parenthood but when babies are taken from their moms they lose not just her but their whole families and they are typically prevented from ever even knowing their own names! Instead, they are sent to live with strangers who typically did everything they could to conceive before settling for what is obviously in their minds an inferior product. So maybe, instead of reacting with hate and superstition towards this innocuous plant that literally had nothing to do with your daughter’s death, you should examine this issue under full illumination and address the root cause of your daughter’s misery.

    • Bob Orleck

      I am surprised that your post such an attack on adopted parents and that it was allowed. The act of adoption is an act of love and your comments, which may come from some feelings of damage you have sustained as a result of adoption, cannot and should not be attributed to others. Maybe you would be more satisfied if the state banned adoption, built more institutions to house children who lost there birth parents or were unable to be cared for by their parents for no fault of their own or those parents. There are many reasons and many lives involved here and you should not generalize about them. I have empathy for you but you should not be so insensitive to them. Broken families are created my many things, not the least of which is drug abuse but adoption helps mend much of the brokenness. You don’t even know this mother yet you spoke as if you know that her adopted child did not have a genetic predisposition to cannabis and that her death started when she was put out for adoption. This is so wrong and you should apologize to this lady.. Not only that you are wrong about the connection of marijuana and its relationship to other addicting substances.

  • Edith Johnson

    In Vermont’s stagnant economy, politicos are grasping at weed to generate a “sin” revenue stream they believe will be the saving grace. Weed users are thrilled, of course, as are our free thinkers out there. But rational voices are not. Thank you for adding your voice to the growing chorus who understand the unintended consequences this economic promotion of a mind bending drug will spawn.

    • Bob Orleck

      Thank you Edith: The Journal of the America Medical Association (JAMA) on Feb 17, 2016, reported on a study of close to 35,000 people (approximately half men and half women) that shows marijuana use is tied to nicotine, alcohol and drug dependence. The study is mentioned in this link in Medscape Specialty and there is a link to the JAMA abstract regarding the study.http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/859197 What is sad about this is that this is a pretty definitive broad based study that will be ignored by the deniers that marijuana puts people at risk of other addictions. It is hard for me to understand how intelligent people like Senator Dick Sears (D) and Senator Joe Benning (R) and other legislators can ignore such evidence with such poor and faulty reasoning that they use to justify. Senator Benning even relied on polls versus sound medical, law enforcement and educational reasons. This report, if nothing else, should convince them not to rush into this. There is no need to rush into this and while it would be unrealistic to believe they can just admit they were wrong, the least they could do for the citizens and especially the children is to refer this to a Commission to study all this new evidence.

      • John Jacobs

        Bob, making claims and then linking to a pay-walled article that no one can read is not helping you in advancing your message.

        • Bob Orleck

          Sorry but I’m not going to buy it for you and maybe the free things out there are those that are a bit less trustworthy. You spend money on getting Direct TV, maybe you should subscribe to this prestigious medical journal, that is if you really wish to learn something other than the misguided, deceived propaganda that so many are pushing. Tell me how the thumb down votes on something that no-one bought can be of any value. It shows mindless voting. Let me ask you this. Did you vote thumbs down on that post John? Look at all the other thumbs down, especially on those comments that show a bit of compassion for the lady who lost her child. It sure says a lot about those doing the thumbing. I don’t know if you read the Medscape reporting or the abstract but that alone should put you on alert that there is some valuable information that our legislators should look at and after all they have tax money to spend so they could subscribe to such a valuable piece. Be honest now, John, did you thumbs down these things and on what factual basis did you do that?. Remember this was a study of 35000 adults over a period of years. Not something you should write off for want of a few bucks.

          • John Jacobs

            Hi Bob,

            I down-voted your comment because it added nothing to the discussion. If you wanted to add anything to the discussion, you could have linked to the actual abstract.

            http://archpsyc.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=2491944

            However, it is no surprise that you, a pharmacist, wouldn’t want people to actually read the research, given you hand out pills for a living.

            FYI – I don’t have a cable or satellite subscription.

  • Michael Shane

    That study you cited doesn’t prove anything except that people who tend to use marijuana also tend to use alcohol. If you had read the entire Russian Times Article to the end you would have seen this: “He stressed that although the study cannot prove that cannabis caused the addition problems, the possibility should be considered.” When scientifically rigorous studies are done, here are the findings: “(1) individuals have a non-specific random propensity to use drugs that is normally distributed in the population; (2) this propensity is correlated with the risk of having an opportunity to use drugs and with the probability of using them given an opportunity, and (3) neither use nor opportunity to use marijuana is associated with hard drug initiation after conditioning on drug use propensity. – Reassessing the marijuana Gateway Effect, Addiction, Volume 97, Issue 12, 1493-1504, 2002.

  • John Everclear

    How many times can the argument of gateway drug + “won’t somebody please think of the children” be repackaged, re-branded, and regurgitated onto people who’ve heard the same tired arguments for countless of years? It’s time to remove emotion from the equation and get rational.

  • Averill Tinker

    Thanks, Linda for your views. I agree totally.

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