SAN LUIS VALLEY — A new study released by the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research Dec. 14 shows that marijuana use among adolescents saw a sharp upward climb in 2017, the first significant increase researchers have noted in seven years.
The study shows past-year use of marijuana significantly increased by 1.3 percent to 24 percent for eighth and 12th graders combined in 2017. In grades eight, 10 and 12 specific increases were 0.8 percent (to 10.1 percent), 1.6 percent (to 25.5 percent) and 1.5 percent (to 37.1 percent). The increase is statistically significant when all three grades are combined.
“This increase has been expected by many,” Richard Miech, principal investigator of the study said. “Historically marijuana use has gone up as adolescents see less risk of harm in using it. We’ve found that the risk adolescents see in marijuana use has been steadily going down for years to the point that it is now at the lowest level we’ve seen in four decades” (http://monitoringthefuture.org/pressreleases/17drugpr.pdf ).
Experts are divided on the question of whether marijuana can be considered a gateway drug, with many claiming states that legalized marijuana actually saw lower opioid death rates. An October study in the American Journal of Public Health found legalization of marijuana in Colorado resulted in a short-term reduction of opioid deaths from 2000 to 2015. Colorado legalized marijuana in 2012.
But National Institute of Health (NIH) Director Francis Collins told Congress, “This is a correlation, not a causation.” Collins said more research is necessary before it can be determined that those using cannabis are choosing it over opioids.
Marijuana is known to reduce IQs in children exposed on a regular basis to the drug. When used by pregnant women, unborn children also “using” the drug when mom ingests it are affected to a far greater degree. They often suffer from ADD/HD and later can experience learning disabilities, low reading scores and memory problems.
“Brain development is not complete until age 25 and in men until age 27,” Center Schools counselor Katrina Ruggles informed parents during a drug seminar at the Center Boys and Girls Club last year. “It can lead to addiction and is called a gateway drug because it makes users more likely to experiment with other drugs.”
She went onto explain that youths and young adults experimenting with marijuana “break a risk barrier that leads to other risky behavior.” Center Police attending the seminar added that users “can only get so high, then they want a better and different high.”
This is because marijuana impacts the pleasure centers of the brain, Ruggles observed, and eventually neurotransmitters in the brain regulating the experience of pleasure and releasing dopamine shut down and quit transmitting pleasure signals. This results in tolerance and “natural highs don’t work anymore,” Ruggles related.
Marijuana contains 400 different chemicals, 60 of which interact with the body’s nervous system. Some theorize that the higher THC levels in marijuana today set a higher threshold for intoxication, making opioids the next highest on the list.
Others note certain people are simply more vulnerable to drug use and are more likely to start with readily available substances such as marijuana, tobacco, or alcohol. Because they are socially interacting with those who also use drugs, this increases their chances of trying harder drugs.
What is not mentioned is that often those addicted to methamphetamines will revert to opiates or marijuana to level out their high and so the availability of high grade marijuana facilitates these people’s addictions. This means that whether it is a gateway drug or not, it is a part of the drug culture as a whole, including the opiate crisis.
Is Washington serious about the opiate emergency?
Last week an article ran in this publication detailing an episode of the CBS program “60 Minutes.” Prior to the airing of that episode, another “60 Minutes” episode in October had detailed the efforts of one Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) agent, Joe Rannazzisi, to prevent Congress from passing the Marino Bill. Passed in March 2016, this bill effectively robbed the DEA of its ability to prosecute cases, one DEA official later said.
Pennsylvania Congressman Tom Marino and Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee sponsored the bill, emphasizing that patients who needed these opioid pain medications must have access to them.
Rannazzusi, a DEA deputy assistant administrator and also an attorney, fought hard to stop the bill. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder spoke against it. But Mitch McConnell supported it and Pres. Barack Obama signed it. And given the pressure placed on Congress by drug industry lobbyists, the DEA, who opposed the bill, was forced to accept a deal it wanted no part of.
The drug industry supported the bill strictly in order to continue the industry’s profit from opioid sales, without any concern of the devastation it has caused, DEA agent, Joe Geldorf maintains. He commented during the 60 Minutes episode: “All we were looking for is a good-faith effort by these companies to do the right thing. And there was no good-faith effort. Greed always trumped compliance. It did every time."
Eventually Rannazzusi lost his job, following an investigation launched by Marino. And when Pres. Trump suggested Marino be appointed as America’s next drug czar, Rannazzusi loudly opposed the appointment. Following the 60 Minutes report, however, Marino withdrew his name from nomination.
Joe Rannazzissi is currently a consultant who advises state attorneys general seeking to file suit against pharmaceutical distributors for exacerbating the opioid crisis. It is a move that, if successful, could be the first major clinker thrown into the drug industry’s insistence on making such poisons available to the general population.
To read a transcript of the entire segment, go to https://www.cbsnews.com/news/ex-dea-agent-opioid-crisis-fueled-by-drug-industry-and-congress/
‘Sue the bastards’
Most believe the marijuana genie cannot be put back in the bottle, since it is now legal in so many states. But there is a movement to file a class action lawsuit against opioid manufacturers, similar to the suit filed against the tobacco industry decades ago. And it is headed by the same attorney who forced the tobacco industry to pay $246 billion in damages to tobacco users.
His motto for that suit was “Sue the bastards.”
Michael Moore is the former attorney general for the State of Mississippi. So far he has managed to garner the support of 11 states in filing the opioid lawsuit. Some 46 states joined him in supporting the tobacco industry suit. For more information, go to https://www.cbsnews.com/news/lawyer-who-took-on-tobacco-industry-turns-to-big-drug-manufacturers-opioids/