Governor Now Has Opportunity to Speak up for Youth Brain Health
A group of six parents who spoke at a Moms Strong rally in Sacramento highlighted the egregious ways marijuana harms young brains. Their exposés shed light on how costly it has been to freely give out medical marijuana to 18-year-olds whose brains are still under development. The state legislature had a chance but failed to raise the age for smoking and ingesting medical marijuana to 21. Gov. Jerry Brown now has the opportunity to speak out once again against marijuana legalization, citing a need for taking brain health seriously.
Smoking cigarettes takes off from the end of life while using marijuana increases the risk of mental impairment in early life and increases the risk for suicide by 7x. A poster at the rally showed photos of seven people who died from suicide following psychotic breaks after ingesting or smoking marijuana.
NAMI and Science Provide the Facts
National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI) states that marijuana is the substance of abuse recognized for a relationship to schizophrenia. NAMI’s webpage for schizophrenia states: “A growing body of evidence indicates that smoking marijuana increases the risk of psychotic incidents and the risk of ongoing psychotic experiences. The younger and more frequent the use, the greater the risk. Another study has found that smoking marijuana led to earlier onset of schizophrenia and often preceded the manifestation of the illness.”
Dr. Christine Miller, a neurologist who has studied schizophrenia for 25 years, spoke several times at the rally. She maintains that there is no amount of marijuana that can be safely used and no way to detect who will be harmed. Her handout from the rally cites numerous longitudinal studies from around the world.
State Legislature Sends Wrong Signals
In California, anyone aged 18 or over can find a doctor to give a recommendation for medical marijuana without reason. Given the strength of today’s marijuana, numerous young people have gone into psychosis and have needed extensive mental health treatment, as well as addiction treatment. A hospital in Washington state has one to two new psychosis patients every day, as a result of dabbing and the younger age of marijuana usage.
California does not track medical marijuana users for psychosis, schizophrenia, depression, suicide or other negative mental health outcomes. In fact, the United States and individual states do not have tracking systems for psychosis and schizophrenia.
Canada and the American Society of Addiction Medicine insist that the age limit for “medical” marijuana should be 25 or over, after the brain has fully developed. The State legislature should consider health in early adulthood–when one is completing their education and getting that very first job — as important as end-of-life issues.
Tobacco Cigarettes Versus Marijuana Smoke or Edibles
When California raised the age for buying cigarettes to age 21, Citizens Against the Legalization of Marijuana (CALM) vigorously lobbied the state legislature and the governor to include “medical” marijuana (excluding CBD for seizures or for terminal cancer). It would have been logical to include another smoked product.
When the state banned vape pens and e-cigarettes for those under 21, it excluded medical marijuana. “If California gets a national reputation as being a little bit kooky, sometimes we have only ourselves to blame,” read an article in LA Weekly explaining the new law. It means there is no limit on teenagers vaping marijuana, including concentrated pot products like hash oil, wax and dabs.
Our lungs develop until age 18. When the age limit for buying tobacco products was set at 18, medical research had shown that lung damage could be mitigated by waiting until the lungs had fully developed before starting to smoke.
Our brains continue to develop until age 25, perhaps until age 28 or 29 for males. Therefore, a person who begins smoking or ingesting marijuana after age 25 experiences less brain damage and fewer negative consequences than those who begin below age 25. (While tobacco smoke has its greater influence on the health of our lungs, the THC of marijuana has the more influence on our brains than any other organ.)
Tom Steyer is Silent
Billionaire political donor Tom Steyer is currently running a TV advertisement in favor of raising the tax on cigarettes by $2, but remains silent about the environmental damage of marijuana and Proposition 64. Considering that he is an environmental activist and cares about lungs, his silence is on Proposition 64 is perplexing. It is completely fine to be against BIG TOBACCO, but it is not progressive enough to be against BIG MARIJUANA. The Dark Money behind Proposition 64 comes from George Soros, and from Silicon Valley billionaires. People give BIG MARIJUANA a pass because this greedy industry is promoting itself as quite glamorous.
Here’s news for Mr. Steyer and others: Big tobacco is investing in marijuana. However, Joe Camel is no longer cool or popular but marijuana is hyped as the next big investment.
When California allows doctors to recommend medical marijuana, there are no specifications for dosages. There’s no record-keeping. It can be given over the phone without even seeing the doctor, with a minimal fee.
CALM and Moms Strong, a coalition of drug prevention activists and those who have lost family members to marijuana abuse, demonstrated in front of the capitol on October 4, 2016. In a rousing series of speeches which ended when legislature member Jim Cooper arrived at 1:30, the activists told how their lives had been influenced and changed by marijuana. Jim Cooper is the Assistant Majority Leader in the state legislature and his district includes Sacramento. Maybe he can spread his knowledge to other legislature members.
(Editor’s Note: The parents’ speeches were the core of the rally, but other talks were given by Bishop Ron Allen and other members of CALM, as well as prevention activists and visitors from Colorado)