Time for Oregonians to learn the facts about marijuana

Sen Doug Whitsett Time for Oregonians to learn the facts about marijuana

by Sen. Doug Whitsett

The facts regarding the medicinal and recreational use of marijuana have changed over the past several decades.

Marijuana contains two compounds that produce significant pharmacological effects. Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the component that produces an intoxicating high when inhaled or ingested. Cannabinoid (CBD) is the medicinal component that helps to reduce nausea, convulsive seizures, and the symptoms of schizophrenia. It also acts as a significant antagonist that acts to block the intoxicating effects of THC on the human brain.

Marijuana also contains a number of other organic compounds. Research has shown that marijuana smoke contains fifty to seventy percent more carcinogenic hydrocarbons than tobacco smoke.

Today’s marijuana is not the same product that was widely used in the 1960’s and 70’s. Growers have been tampering with the genetics of marijuana since the early 1980’s. Their goal has been to increase production capacity and THC concentration while maintaining low levels of CBD.

They have been exceedingly successful. Both the production and intoxicating capacity of marijuana have been greatly enhanced while the medical effects have been minimized. The modern, genetically altered, seedless marijuana plant produces much more of a finished product than its unaltered precursor. It has greater than double the intoxicating THC concentration of the unaltered natural plant.

For instance, in 1983 THC potency averaged less than four percent. In 2009, THC potency of marijuana seized in the United States averaged nearly ten percent. Product recently seized in Oregon and California has tested at well more than thirty percent THC. At the same time, the concentration of the intoxication blocking CBD has remained essentially constant.

The intoxicating effect of genetically altered marijuana is now several times more potent than the natural product. Some genetically altered strains on the streets today are eight to ten times more potent. In fact, modern marijuana users generally call naturally produced marijuana by disparaging names such as garbage, dirt-weed and crap because of its relative lack of potency.

The newer more potent forms of marijuana are unquestionably addictive. In 1992, about 93,000 people were admitted to treatment for marijuana addiction in the United States. Less than two decades later in 2009, more than 360,000 were admitted for marijuana dependency.

The adolescent brain appears to be especially susceptible to marijuana addiction. In fact, two thirds of admissions for drug dependency among U.S. teenagers are for the purpose of counteracting their use of marijuana.

More than one million Americans reported receiving either inpatient or outpatient treatment for marijuana dependency in 2010. Approximately four and a half million Americans meet the American Psychiatric Association’s criteria for marijuana abuse or dependence. Yet, nearly twenty million Americans, twelve years and older, continue to use this dangerous drug.

Oregon ranks about fourth in the nation in that troubling statistic. More troubling still, in 2011 more than one in ten of Oregon’s eighth graders, and nearly one fourth of its high school juniors, self-reported using marijuana during the past thirty days.

The National Survey of Drug Use and Health has reported that youths between the ages of twelve and seventeen, who reported that they had used marijuana during the past year, are more likely to sell drugs, steal, carry a handgun, and to participate in both individual and group violence. Most marijuana offenders are incarcerated for these and other illegal activities. In fact, less than one in a thousand of those currently incarcerated in Oregon prisons is being held for only the possession of marijuana.

The National Organization to Reform Marijuana Laws (NORML) appeared to be on track in its stated efforts to remove all restrictions on the use of marijuana in Oregon. The long range plan included reclassifying marijuana as a medicine, decriminalizing possession of the drug, and then making it legal by 2016.

In 1998, Measure 67 allowed the medicinal use of marijuana when a physician writes a statement of the patient’s qualifying condition. Physicians cannot write an actual prescription for dosage, potency and frequency of use because marijuana is an illegal drug under federal law. Further, the prescribing physicians have no way of determing the THC concentration of the drug, which can vary by an order of magnitude.

In 2006, the state legislature enacted the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act. That law expanded the legal right for medical marijuana cardholders to have as many as twenty four plants plus a pound and a half of prepared marijuana in their possession. The law also provided that caregivers could grow plants for as many as four cardholders allowing the caregivers to possess as many as twenty four mature plants and seventy two immature plants.

The production potential of marijuana plants has also been genetically altered. The modern marijuana plant generally produces several times more product than the natural unaltered plant. That increase in volume is in addition to its several fold increase in potency.

In October of 2012, Oregon had nearly fifty seven thousand medical marijuana cardholders. Less than three thousand of those cardholders have qualifying symptoms for the treatment of cancer. More than fifty one thousand have qualifying symptoms for the treatment of some form of undefined pain. Only a few Oregon licensed physicians write the preponderance of authorizations of qualifying conditions for the use of marijuana to alleviate chronic pain.

As many as half of the marijuana smoking juveniles who run afoul of the law in Oregon report that they obtained their marijuana from a medical grower or cardholder, according to juvenile justice and addiction staff.

Ballot Measure 80 that appeared on last Novembers ballot would have legalized the growth and possession of unlimited quantities of marijuana. It also would have allowed the licensed sale of marijuana to licensed state run marijuana stores. Smoking marijuana in public would have been legal in designated areas restricted to people twenty one years of age and older.

Oregon voters wisely rejected the proposal, but not by a very wide margin. Unlimited growth, possession and private use of marijuana would have been legal in Oregon today if only 57,000 people had changed their vote from no to yes.

The 2013 Oregon Legislature adopted, and governor Kitzhaber signed into law, a measure authorizing medical marijuana dispensaries. The measure was strongly opposed by a wide majority of law enforcement, judges and educators  because  they consider these dispensaries to be little more than marijuana stores. They are keenly aware that the greatest access to marijuana for our youth is medical marijuana growers. They see the damage that marijuana use is causing our youth on a daily basis.

 It is time for Oregonians to learn the facts about marijuana. The people in the states of Washington and Colorado actually adopted marijuana legalization statutes last November. NORML is emboldened by their successes in Washington and Colorado as well as their near miss in Oregon. They will be back to try again.

Senator Doug Whitsett is the Republican state senator representing Senate District 28 – Klamath Falls

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Posted by at 05:00 | Posted in Drug Abuse, Oregon Senate | 31 Comments |Email This Post Email This Post |Print This Post Print This Post
  • revraygreen

    game over you lost supporters of cannabis prohibition….now you are grabbing for straws…

  • malcolmkyle

    Let’s Stop the Federal Drug Lord Subsidy Program!

    Keeping various psychoactive plants and their derivatives illegal and unregulated means robberies, home invasions, murders, broken families, shattered lives—all mostly done by law enforcement agencies. Add to that list: environmental devastation, poisoning of lands, streams and wildlife—all preventable by regulated legalization.

  • Britt Storkson

    Senator Whitsett: Thank you for the very informative and up-to-date report about Marijuana.

    • guest

      Preceding and post comments here pose no difficulty discerning how ‘wasted’ US has become. Quite clear as succinctly surmised by Pogo Possum: “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

      Witness, too, our charismatic, sic [oxymoron] POT US has-been recreational user – and, Neville Chamberlain type ‘grinning’ reaper; Who makes believe a New World Order will be next best thing for US since canned beer often causing US to go potty michael mooreso.

      Who – pee! Spicoli – I’m so wasted – youTube

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JTSk5cbaZso

    • Justin Howard

      It’s true cannabis has become more potent. If you actually were a part of the movement you would know there are several strains with less than 4% thc and up to 8% cbd. There is a strain for everyone! These strains are helping children overcome 300 seizures a month. Cannabis can become what ever the people want it to. The black market demanded higher potency and they got it. The medical field asked for higher cbd, they got it. What’s next who knows but this one sided, fact depleted article won’t make more than a ripple in a ocean of reform. Cheers!

  • Sam the man

    Hey man. Like what’s up,with this? I have been smoking weed for decades and nothing has happened to make me think it has hurt me at all.
    In fact, it has helped release my creativity. I am now working on a painting of two old women eating pizza and I am sure it will be my best one yet.
    I plan to sell it to get enough $ to go to CO to score some great manga!
    You know what I am saying?
    Heavy.

  • nodrog

    I’m always amused when prohibitionists trot out the “oh gosh, this stuff is SO much more potent than it used to be” together with “look at all the carcinogenic stuff in marijuana smoke!”. The higher potency is an excellent way to mitigate any damage from smoking, because you need less. From a public health perspective, the increased potency is a benefit because it will result in less smoking. And “addictive”? No, it’s not. Marijuana is not physically addictive like opiates, alcohol, or nicotine. It can be addictive as a behavior, in the same way you can speak of gambling or mountaineering as addictive. To conflate the two just weakens your already weak arguments for continued prohibition. Mostly, though, if i want to smoke pot, it should be my decision as it doesn’t affect YOU. I also am amused by marijuana being described as a “dangerous drug” by a politician. I rather prefer the well-known legal opinion of the DEA’s own law judge, Francis Young, who wrote “In strict medical terms marijuana is far safer than many foods we commonly consume. For example, eating 10 raw potatoes can result in a toxic response. By comparison, it is physically impossible to eat enough marijuana to induce death. Marijuana in its natural form is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man.”

  • http://www.drugwarfacts.org/cms/ Doug McVay

    So many errors, so little time. Let’s start with the THC percentages. The real test results from the University of Mississippi’s Potency Monitoring Project – which as the sole federal contract for testing seized samples of cannabis – have been published by the Office of National Drug Control Policy, they’re reprinted here:
    http://www.drugwarfacts.org/cms/Marijuana#THCTable

  • Impacts

    Game just beginning and if you recall, Oregon said no
    twice to pot storefronts, and again said No to pot legalization in November of 2012.

    Thank you Senator Whitsett for sharing the truth about pot.

    As District Attorney Jackie Lacey from the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office in California noted in a letter to Governor Kitzhaber regarding HB3460: “Although regulating marijuana activities in

    your state maybe a noble endeavor, legalization marijuana sales through the storefront model is not the answer. We know this first-hand. Our empirical evidence proves that storefront pots shops are merely fronts for drug dealing.Drugs, money and crime are inextricably linked. Directly tied to the influx of storefront pot shops is the increase in crime and drug abuse. We are also experiencing an increase in illegal commercial warehouse grow operations,mobile delivery services and injuries and property damage caused by explosions from the volatile THC chemical extraction labs operated by “patients.”

    In Colorado, regulation and enforcement of marijuana dispensaries cost the Denver Police Department approximately $640,000. This number did not reflect Patrol involvement, Public Nuisance Abatement involvement, civilian employee involvement, such as the crime lab testing and complaint database maintenance or other agency involvement such as the City Attorney’s Office which has had to
    devote staff specific to medical marijuana issues; also Zoning, DFD, NIS, Environmental Health, Building Inspection, E&L, etc. who all have some involvement.

    There is no such thing as safe and regulated pot when it is still a federallyillegal drug.

    Below is just one example of the impacts Oregon marijuana program has had on our communities.

    http://www.katu.com/news/investigators/West-Linn-Police-Bust-Major-Marijuana-Ring-Involving-High-Schoolers-234339201.html

    WEST LINN, Ore. – After serving search warrants in West Linn and Eugene last month, West Linn police have seized about 10 pounds of pot, other drugs and more than $18,000 in cash, in a bust that involved high school students, the West Linn Police Department said Monday.

    Francis said investigators learned during the course of the investigation that many of those who delivered the marijuana were part of the Oregon Medical Marijuana program but were selling to people who were not in the program.

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  • Jack Lord God

    Is marijuana more potent now than it was several decades ago? Of course. Anyone who has smoked it in those two time periods can attest to that. Anyone who denies that is an idiot.

    But so what? Really the only result of this I see between 1970’s pot use and today is about the same as sitting down with a group drinking beer as opposed to Jack Daniels. If they keep drinking at the same rate, the JD crowd will be real drunk real fast compared to the beer crowd. Same with pot.

    That said, it is not what I observe. Most who sit around smoking pot seem to do so to a far lesser extent than those who sit around drinking. Eventually the drinkers will get into fights or abusive language, the pot smokers will tend to insist on massive government solutions for the slightest societal hangnail.

    Are there harmful effectsto pot? Most definitely, and anyone who denies this is also an idiot. The fact that being in a crowd of drinkers is far more risky than being in a crowd of pot smokers (fights break out more often, physical effects are far more debilitating) does not mean that pot smoking is risk free.

    Pot abuse, like any drug abuse, will tend to induce apathy for all activity but doing that drug in a certain percentage of those who use it. To deny this is the case is to deny reality. Is it possible pot use has the lowest correlation of this effect? Sure, but that doesn’t mean it is zero. We all knew plenty of people in high school who smoked pot and pretty soon showed little interest in any other activity. Likewise, we all have known those who drank and had the same behavior.

    The moral here is there is little to indicate pot is a more dangerous drug than alchohol and plenty to indicate it is less dangerous. However to gloss over the dangers of it, which I feel has been done to some extent in the effort to legalize it, is not a great idea.

    I would legalize heroin tomorrow. I think one has the right to take whatever drug they choose. However I am not crazy enough to say that legalizing a drug is an acknowledgement it is risk free or even safe at all.

    After all, way more people die of alcohol than herion – yet I have a feeling if I put a gun to someones head and said “you either drink a beer or shoot up that heroin” most would choose the beer as the less risky option.

    We have way more things in society to worry about than some idiot sitting around smoking pot. I would support full legalization and massive, and I mean stunningly massive, taxation of it. I would start taxes of marijuana at 105% and go on from there. In that way marijuana would go from being the most absolutely boring substance ever invented to a party hilarity as millions of dope smokers suddenly start bitching about taxes as they light up.

    Always look on the bright side.

  • Chains of Mind

    Hashish has been around for centuries. Hash has way more THC than even the best modern super weed. Like liquor over beer, you simply consume less of a high potency product. But unlike liquor, cannabis can’t kill you if you do over do it.

  • Chains of Mind

    CBD is being rediscovered as a very important constituent of cannabis mainly due to it’s medicinal properties, but also as an enhancer to the recreational properties. Many CBD rich strains are now available, some with more CBD than THC. There is at least one highly desirable strain that has a lot of CBD and virtually no THC.

  • Chains of Mind

    By regulating cannabis, it could potentially make it more difficult for teenagers to obtain. Black market sellers don’t check your age. Education is important. Kids should understand the true risks, not some exaggeration like the above article, or denying any negative effects whatsoever by some legalization proponents.

    • Impacts

      You cannot regulate a federally illegal drug.

      You cannot apply market rules to illicit enterprises. States that “legalize or try and regulate” pot will never be able to “compete” with the cartels that pay no income taxes, business taxes, real estate taxes, and do not provide healthcare per Obamacare or any other benefits to its employees. Thus, the “legalization or regulation”of pot in the US will provide a windfall for the Mexican cartels who will have so much more to fight over. Moreover, the cartels will make more money under legalization or regulation than under prohibition. The reason is that with legalization, prices are set based on overhead and other government-imposed add-on’s. The cartels that do not have such deadweight costs will increase their prices to be just under the “legal” prices. That increase will be above fair market values because of artificially inflated pricing brought about by
      government intervention.

      Chabot on CNN Dec 31 2013

      • Jack Lord God

        >You cannot apply market rules to illicit enterprises.

        Why not? Why in the world would something being illegal mean market forces somehow were totally suspended?

        I don’t care what the illegal drug is, if you have one guy selling the same thing for twice the price of another guy, the high priced guy likely wont do as much business.

        >States that “legalize or try and regulate” pot will never be able to
        “compete” with the cartels that pay no income taxes, business taxes,
        real estate taxes, and do not provide healthcare per Obamacare or any
        other benefits to its employees.

        Obviously you don’t know much about the marijuana market then. Prices have been falling dramatically here in Oregon since medical marijuana was passed. I don’t even smoke pot yet I am aware of this. How could anyone miss this?

        > Moreover, the cartels will make more money under legalization or regulation than under prohibition.

        Nonsense – I cannot think of a time in recorded US history where legalization of a substance aided illegal drug cartels. Can think of plenty where the reverse was true.

        >The reason is that with legalization, prices are set based on overhead
        and other government-imposed add-on’s. The cartels that do not have such
        deadweight costs will increase their prices to be just under the
        “legal” prices.

        You are kidding right? Let me put it to you this way – tobacco is just about the easiest thing to grow, and will grow in every state of the union. It is perfectly legal to grow for self consumption, illegal to sell. Now, tell me, how many illegal tobacco grows get busted up generally? None. In other words, this is total nonsense. Making something legal does not spur giant illegal cartels in any of our experience.

      • Chains of Mind

        The only thing that makes it federally illicit is because they say it’s illicit. According to their drug ‘schedule’ it’s more dangerous and addictive than heroin and cocaine! Give me a break! The gig is up and the people know it. After all, the federal laws will change, just like they did on alcohol prohibition when the states started defying them.

        I don’t see a huge amount of alcohol bootleggers these days trying to avoid the regulated market and taxes. Sure, there are some, but for the most part, people would rather stay legal. The majority of users are otherwise law abiding citizens. A legitimate product avoids the shadiness and inconvenience and real danger of the black market.

  • Stop Smoking

    The danger of pot is that long term use turns you into a loser. EVERY SINGLE person I knew who smoked pot in high school, and still smokes (about a dozen), is a loser by almost every definition of the word. They all have crappy jobs, many of them the same kinds of jobs they worked right out of high school. Only one owns a home. Most have never married and haven’t had a girlfriend in years, or decades. They have no social lives beyond video games, TV, and getting high. They have no hobbies, unless you count video games, TV, and getting high. Their community participation is zero. In short, they have done absolutely nothing in thirty years. These were bright kids from upper middle class families, with every opportunity and advantage, who threw it away to become useless stoners.

    • nodrog

      Funny, all the stoners I know are well-employed adults in their 40s. Real jobs (eg, teachers, engineers, editors, IT, scientists), kids, mortgages, business owners, careers, no video games. Yeah, real losers. I’ve been a highly productive stoner all my life, had my corporate job for 8 years now. So there.

  • Rharris

    If you want to stop the legalization of Marijuana, just point out that that it’s been genetically modified. GMO Marijuana ! That may cause a civil war at the county democratic party meetings.

  • thevillageidiot

    Sorry Senator you trot out “facts” that have no backup of proof. There is no doubt that long term and heavy use of ALL forms of recreational substances has detrimental effects. Not all pot smokers are stoned losers as stopsmoking suggests. I have no doubt that it is a motivation killer. acholism is just as bad. Smoking tobacco increases risk of dying just like too much weight too little exercise. did you talk to any law enforcement that shot a stoned person because they got aggressive and wouldn’t stop? how about an alcoholic? High on meth pcp etc.I must agree with Jack that it is up to the individual to partake of anything or not and not for the state nanny such as yourself. You probably voted to prohibit suntan beds for any one under the age of 18. that is really stupid especially without the research of other potential carcenogenic things such as sun screens. which block nearly all UVB but not UVA which causes more cancers. Vitamin D inhibits cancers. UVB is the light wave length for the body to produce Vitamin D. Were those teenagers with increased cancer risk and diagnosed with cancer ever checked for usage of such screens with aluminum oxide or zinc oxide and for how many years.
    So you little tirade against Marijuana is pretty much useless in convincing people to vote against it or quit using. how about using all the money for the “drug war” to offer rehab and education to everyone who wants it.
    I voted against the legalization for the following reason, Regulations. The states of CO and WA are greedy for revenues and see it as the solution to financial problems. this will make the black market even more profitable while increasing the “crime of possession” and how can you tell? to protect the children is out of the question. That horse left the barn many years ago and cannot be corraled without gestapo type policing. we alread have that an the war on drugs is lost. I will continue to vote against the legalization until it is treated as an agricultural product just like any other crop. Taxation and regualtion don’t stop crime or prevent abuse. The state cannot regulate personal responsibility although that doesn’t prevent you or any other legislator either D or R from trying.

  • bob clark

    Our moral edicts seem so arbitrary these days, and marijuana and tobacco point to one of numerous confusing social goals. The politics favor liberalizing the use of marijuana smoking; and yet simultaneously, the politics are successfully reducing tobacco smoking. It seems our moral compass is more about being hip and cool than anything of true substance.

    I’ll vote against the marijuana initiative even though libertarian philosophy would have me vote for freedom of individual choice. There’s more than ounce of truth in the old adage: ‘they don’t call it dope for nothing.’

  • Zen

    Doug Whitsett is a complete numbscull!You need a big shovel for that much Bulldung. This article was written by someone with Zero knowledge on the subject.
    It is a SCIENTIFICALLY PROVEN FACT that THC Cures Cancer.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DttdDOqQMuY

    • Parlez Vous Fricasee

      Blow’n to bytes…a Hillaryous 4/20 schlubfest Zen Ghazzi sublimaton.

  • Drew Lunn

    Senator. I laugh at you. That is all.

  • nodrog

    This is the most sane, reasonable, grounded viewpoint on marijuana I’ve yet seen. http://www.mademan.com/dr-lester-grinspoon-on-david-brooks-weed-been-there-done-that/

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