SANFORD – Community members who attended the May meeting of the Seminole Prevention Coalition learned about the latest research, emerging trends and common myths about marijuana.
The presentation by guest speaker Christine Stilwell, Orlando Regional Director of Informed Families/The Florida Family Partnership & Grassroots Regional Director, was particularly important given Florida’s pending legislation to legalize medical marijuana. A constitutional amendment was approved by the state Supreme Court and will appear on the ballot this November.
“Twenty one states and the District of Columbia have passed medical marijuana laws,” Stilwell noted.
Made illegal in 1937, marijuana is the most abused illicit drug in the nation, she added. It affects every organ in the body, it is linked to mental illness and can produce a psychotic reaction.
The mind-altering THC content in today’s marijuana is 16 percent, up from just 1 percent a few decades ago, Stilwell said.
Marijuana is the top substance for those entering into substance addiction programs, she said. Its abuse rate is higher than that any other drug, including heroin and pain relievers.
Persistent use of marijuana leads to an average loss of 8 IQ points, according to a New Zealand study. Long-term use of the drug by either a mother or father can cause harmful effects for newborns, such as low birth weight.
After alcohol, marijuana-impairment is the second leading cause of car accidents, Stilwell pointed out. Marijuana doubles incidents of car accidents.
Stilwell also covered new ways of ingesting marijuana – dabbing (inhaling of super-concentrated smoke) and vaporizing – and tackled several myths about marijuana. Just a few of the myths and facts follow:
Myth: Marijuana is not addictive.
Fact: Marijuana is addictive. Nine percent of people who try it become addicted, 17 percent of those who start using it in their teens become addicted, and 20-50 percent of daily users develop addiction.
Myth: Marijuana is safer than alcohol.
Fact: Both have similar dangers, including addiction, birth defects, suicidal thoughts, depression, anxiety and brain damage.
Myth: Marijuana is medicine.
Fact: Medicine that stimulates appetite and reduces nausea and vomiting is already on the market, such as Marinol and other drugs on track for FDA approval.
Myth: We’re locking up all our marijuana users.
Fact: Only 0.1 percent of drug-related offenders in jail are there for using marijuana.
Myth: Marijuana is good economics.
Fact: Social, health care and criminal costs would go up.
The Florida amendment on the ballot in November would allow for edible marijuana products such as butters, baked goods (brownies and donuts) and sodas.
Critics of the ballot wording, including Stilwell, argue that the measure would require no criteria for a caregiver, so that one can list oneself as a caregiver, it sets no age limit, permits unlimited marijuana use for those with a physician’s recommendation, and it allows for pot shops that could offer onsite marijuana use and delivery service. A physician can be an acupuncturists, naturopathic doctors, optometrists, chiropractors, podiatrists and osteopathic doctors are all listed as physicians.
Finally, the Florida law would allow out-of-state visitors to buy and use medical marijuana, which could lead to similar problems that the state had with pill mills.
“This is scary stuff,” Coalition Director Debbie Owens, said, adding that is important for word of mouth to get around to voters about the wording of the amendment. “Educate the people that you know, so they know the facts.”
Additional resources: Drug Free America Foundation, Inc., Don’t Let Florida Go to Pot, Florida Sheriff’s Association, Save Our Society From Drugs, Community Alliances for Drug Free Youth, Smart Approaches to Marijuana