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Marijuana and Deadly Car Crashes

Marijuana use confessed by driver in Times Square incident

Yesterday afternoon a man in Times Square drove his car for three blocks on the sidewalk killing one young adult and injuring 22 others. The driver was Richard Rojas, a Navy veteran who lived in the Bronx.

Richard Rojas-Times Square- Marijuana

When he was arrested there was suspicion of either DUI or DWI given his arrest history which is rather extensive. He was arrested just over a week ago for a menacing charge as well as criminal possession of a weapon which consisted of him pulling a holding a knife to the throat of a 45 year old man on May 11.

He was also arrested on 4/23/15 for DWI to which he pleaded guilty to “Operating Motor Vehicle While Impaired by Alcohol.” In 2012 he was arrested for suspicion of battery after he attacked a cab driver, refusing to pay the $44 fare. Rojas was also arrested 8/26/08 for another DWI in Queens.

In 2014 he was, “Other than honorably discharged” from the navy due to his actions.After the crash yesterday he was taken to check for drugs and alcohol in his system and it was reported that PCP, K2 (synthetic marijuana), and marijuana were all found in his system.

Out of the 22 people who were injured, four of those were labeled as “critical” one of those being the deceased’s younger sister.  Rojas has been charged with murder, 20 additional counts of attempted murder, along with aggravated vehicular homicide. See CNN article, New York Times Square Driver Charged.

Woman drives car into Las Vegas Strip

Unfortunately this scene is all too familiar as last year in Nevada a homeless woman drove her car into countless people on the strip while her three year old daughter was in the back seat. The suspect, Lakeisha Holloway, “went up and off these streets, two or possibly three times.

Lakeisha Holloway- Las Vegas Strip- Marijuana intoxication

The subject then allegedly drove off before being apprehended outside the Tuscany Casino. She left her child in the car, approached a valet and told him, ‘she ran over some individuals on Las Vegas Boulevard’.” She is accused of killing one person, 32 year old Jessica Valenzuela, and injuring an additional 37 people.

She picked up 71 different charges, most of them being for attempted murder and battery with a deadly weapon.  After a toxicology report was performed, it was determined that marijuana was in her system but prosecutors said it was unlikely that she would be charged with driving under the influence.

According to Prosecutor Marc DiGiacomo, “The amount of marijuana and marijuana metabolite does not appear to be enough to affect her mental state at the time of the crime, she intentionally drove into the crowd.”  The 3.5 nanogram per milliliter of marijuana in her blood were above the 2-nanogram limit in Nevada and the 23.6 nanograms per milliliter of marijuana metabolites in her system were above the 5-nanogram state limit.

Needless to say it is rather clear that this woman was seriously impaired and she should not have been driving. During an examination after her arrest it was also reported that, “she appeared to be under the influence of a stimulant.”

Driving stoned is never a good idea as these two stories suggest. It does not matter if you think you are able to drive, the drugs can always have a weird effect on your impulse control and decision making.

Neither of the two drivers were injured in the crashes which just reinforces that regardless of whether you are behind the wheel or not you should always be careful when you are out and about. Marijuana should not be used at all, especially now that we are seeing that its use can cause death. Our thoughts go out to the victims and their families.

Marijuana Drivers Deliberately Aim to Kill?

Above are just a couple of examples that have happened recently.

Another eerily similar incident in Oregon is featured in a recent blog on Poppot.org.  A man in Salem Oregon smoked pot and then deliberately mowed down a man in his car, killing him.  See the Poppot.org article, Legalization Prioritizes Profits Over Human Life.

Here is a story on Momsstrong.org which describes a marijuana impaired driver deliberately trying to run over a squirrel. Instead, he lost control of the car and killed his best friend. Read The Deadly Consequences of Marijuana Use.

 

New Study on Long Term effects of Marijuana use

Newly published study (American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry):  Long lasting effects of chronic heavy cannabis abuse.

Joannis N. Nestoros MD, PhD1
Elena Vakonaki PhD2,
Manolis N. Tzatzarakis PhD2,
Athanasios Alegakis PhD2,
Markos D. Skondras MD, PhD3 and
Aristidis M. Tsatsakis PhD, DSc2,*
Version of Record online: 17 MAR 2017
DOI: 10.1111/ajad.12529
Copyright © 2017

American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry

Background and Objectives:

The purpose of this study was to evaluate the extent of short-term memory impairment and schizophrenia-like symptoms in heavy and systematic cannabis users and the association between the severity of abuse and the longevity of its persistent symptoms after refraining from such use.

Conclusions:

“The existence of hallucinations, delusions, and organic brain dysfunction in heavy cannabis users seems to be associated with cannabinoid levels in hair. The continuation of persistent symptoms 3 months after the discontinuation of cannabis abuse, was a remarkable finding.”

Scientific Significance:

“We provide evidence that chronic and heavy cannabis abuse results in long-lasting brain dysfunction in all users and in long-lasting schizophrenia-like psychotic symptoms in more than half of all users. These findings suggest a reevaluation of the current classification of cannabis as a “soft narcotic” which erroneously, therefore, is typically considered harmless.” (Am J Addict 2017;XX:1–8)

 Click Here to view the study.

Maryland’s Senators Introduce Marijuana Legislation

The Proliferating Pot Problem in Maryland

On March 3rd, 2017 Senators in Annapolis gathered to introduce two new bills that would call for the legalization of marijuana in Maryland.  The two new bills are being introduced by Democratic Senator Brian Feldman as well as Democratic Senator Richard Madaleno Jr, both from Montgomery County.

Feldman’s bill calls for the citizens of Maryland 21 and over to be able to purchase legal cannabis,  possess up to two ounces of marijuana at one time, and cultivate up to six plants at one time with three of those plants being mature each cycle.

Madaleno’s bill calls for the legalization of marijuana where users will be able to possess up to one ounce or less of dried cannabis, 5 grams of hash oil and 72 ounces of cannabis creams or oils, or any combination of the above.

An experienced marijuana grower can yield up to 5.0 oz per plant when subjected to the right conditions which is absolutely absurd. How many plants do people really need to be growing in their houses?

Marijuana was decriminalized in Maryland back in 2014 and now Senators and delegates are revisiting the issue of making it legal for all citizens over the age of 21.

During the committee hearing many different people showed up to voice their opinion to the proposed legislation. One such person was Aubree Adams, who traveled all the way from Pueblo, Colorado to share her heartbreaking story.

As she got up on the stand to present her testimony she asked for more than the two allocated minutes to speak to which her appeal was rejected, so she began to speak very fast in order to get through her pitch. The committee realized that this was going to get them nowhere so they granted her additional time.

She began talking about  the negative adaptations Pueblo has had to make over years since marijuana has been legal, hitting on the fact that the homeless rate has skyrocketed as well as the crime rate since Amendment 64’s inception in 2012.

Adams’s story turns a corner when she begins talking about her own son and how his addiction to marijuana edibles had triggered psychotic episodes and an attempt at suicide. His addiction developed after proposition 64 passed and access to edible marijuana became extremely easy in Pueblo.

One night while suffering from a marijuana induced psychosis episode Adams’ son attacked his younger brother and put a gun to his own head, but did not pull the trigger. Instead he decided to overdose on 250 ibuprofen pills. “He vomited all night in his sleep,” Adams said. Her oldest son is now part of a treatment community and resides in Houston, Texas.

Other testimonies came from Dr. Amelia Arria, who is the Director of the Center on Young Adult Health and Development and the Office of Planning and Evaluation at the University of Maryland School of Public Health, and Dr. Peter Musser who is a clinical psychologist who received his Ph.D. from the University of Maryland Baltimore County.

Dr. Arria, who has researched marijuana for over 25 years concludes that, “Cannabis use is linked with decreased productivity and decreased cognitive function.”

Dr. Musser similarly has seen in his research that the more normalized marijuana becomes in the communities, the amount of people who go to the ER for psychosis had increased. Dr. Musser also mentions that treatment centers in Colorado have been adding more beds and expanding in order to keep up with the influx of new patients. Shouldn’t our government be trying to stop the problem, not try to avoid the issue by just putting up with it? These two bills would also cost Maryland taxpayers around $2.1 million to implement. These two issues will be on the ballot for voters to decide later on in 2018.

Click Here to view the Senate Committee Hearing

Ivanka Trump; New Nancy Reagan?

Ivanka Trump gets an office in West Wing, Washington Post 3/21/17

“Although Ivanka Trump lacks a formal White House job, the president’s older daughter is moving into her own West Wing office, an administration representative said — a move that increases her profile as an influential, although unofficial, adviser to her father…President Trump has named Ivanka, 35, the mastermind behind his child-care and maternity- leave plans, the first proposals on such issues from a Republican president…”

This may be a good fit for Ivanka Trump to fill the Nancy Reagan chair as the nation’s top drug prevention advocate supporting the millions of drug-besieged Parents currently suffering over 500 drug-related deaths of their loved ones EVERY DAY– and the millions more enslaved to drug-incapacitated family-member addicts.

When Nancy Reagan served as honorary chairman for Parents’ drug prevention organizations throughout the nation with her direct access to the President, that collaborative effort was credited with reducing teen drug use by 50% during the Reagan era saving many lives and preventing many family drug crises.

A specific example is when Parent Drug Prevention leaders told Nancy Reagan about the blood-bath being created on the nation’s highways that resulted from teen drunk driving fatalities that skyrocketed after the drinking age was lowered to 18 from 21. One of our parents at a local meeting lamented at that time, “I’m getting tired of going to teen age funerals.” Nancy immediately responded by bringing to President Reagan’s attention this horrific tragic outcome from the lower drinking age promoted by the alcohol industry assisted by misguided liberal theorists. The President immediately coordinated a bi-partisan initiative with leaders of Congress to enact a federal law mandating returning the drinking age to 21. As a direct result of Nancy Reagan speaking up for us, 21 became law and teen drunk driving fatalities decreased by over 70% saving many lives since then.

In Nancy Reagan’s keynote address at the D.C. National Federation of Parents annual conference in 1986, she counseled us not to give up out of frustration at the slow rate of progress in preventing drug-related tragedies. She told us the “Starfish Story” about the retiree at a beach community who walked the beach every morning at sunrise and observed the great number of starfish that had been stranded on the beach as the tide went down. He knew they would die as the sun rose and dried them, so he tossed them back in the water as he walked along. A friend watching him commented that with all the starfish along the beach his efforts would not make any difference. To which he responded as he tossed another starfish back into the water, “It makes a difference to this one.”

Today, over three decades later, Parents are increasingly suffering from failing national drug prevention policies. But we keep trying, hoping to save at least “this one” once in a while. But under the overwhelming influence of addictive substances massive profits, government officials at all levels are failing to initiate effective policies to stem this nationwide public health crisis of drug-related deaths and disabilities. See our recent article citing this crisis at link:  Lawmakers Corrupted by Drug Money Ignore Marijuana Harms.  It includes many other links to valid studies and reports.

As a young mother with children who could become as endangered by the nation’s failing drug policies as millions of our children are, Ivanka Trump may be perfectly positioned to understand and be motivated as Nancy Reagan was, to provide the high-level leadership needed to “make a difference to all families” in this nation’s war on drugs.

We Parents should welcome Ivanka Trump’s new White House position. Especially if her influence as a Nancy Reagan type drug prevention spokesman should result in serious new effective drug prevention policies that will prove their benefit by recording major reductions in drug-related death rates in confirmation of President Donald Trump’s legacy of success similar to that of our beloved Nancy and President Ronald Reagan.

NICAP 3/22/17

DeForest Rathbone is a Board Member, Parents Affected By Addiction (PABA). DeForest Rathbone is a leader in the parent’s movement which has been active since Nancy Reagan’s campaign which was credited with a 50% drop in youth drug use during the Reagan era. He can be reached in Leonardtown, MD, 301-994-2733, DZR@prodigy.net.

Photo Credit: Marc Nozell