Legalizing ‘medipot’ would be dangerous

I am writing in response to The Herald’s irresponsible editorial last Thursday concerning the legalization of medical marijuana (medipot). One of the goals of York County All On Board is to prevent youth alcohol and substance abuse in York County, and I write this from that perspective.

We know several things about youth substance abuse that are pertinent to this issue. First, we know that 57 percent of our 11th-graders in York County perceive little or no harm in smoking marijuana (2015 York County Youth Perception Survey). Second, we know that, according to one national school youth survey, that one in 17 high school seniors uses marijuana daily. Third, two-thirds of the high school students who abuse prescription drugs say they get them from their parents’ or grandparents’ medicine cabinets. Guess where they will soon get their marijuana.

The point? We know that the legal status of alcohol, tobacco and prescription drugs have, unfortunately, not kept them out of our children’s hands. While marijuana would continue to be illegal under the age of 21, it is increased access and availability that have caused these problems to rise. And now, some of our legislators, a few short-sighted citizens, our federal government and The Herald want to put another addictive, potentially destructive substance within our children’s reach.

Think about it. Senate Bill S-672 allows for the purchase of two ounces of marijuana (for medical purposes, of course) with no restrictions or regulation on how often purchases are made. Insane.

From the start of this debate, York County All On Board and other substance abuse prevention agencies in our county and across South Carolina have tried to focus on the science and the harm of marijuana use. We have purposefully stayed away from the emotional aspects. Consider this: One in six youths and one in 11 adults become addicted to marijuana. Teen users are four times more likely get lower grades in school. Teen users are twice as likely to drop out of school.

Regular use can lower IQ by as much as 8 points by age 38. Marijuana is harmful to the teen brain, which is not fully developed until age 25. Marijuana impairs driving; three times as many teens say they have driven after smoking than after drinking.

THC (the chemical high) in today’s marijuana is triple that of 20 years ago. The American Medical Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, American Society of Addiction Medicine and the American Psychiatric Association all say marijuana is not safe, endangers our children, and legalization should be opposed. I call this information alarming. The Herald calls it “unwarranted fears.”

We all need to understand that the marijuana issue in America is driven by big industry, greed and money. Big Marijuana has adopted the Big Tobacco model of the ’30s and ’40s. They want you to believe it is good for you. Remember the doctors in white lab coats pictured in cigarette ads? Big Marijuana is not going to stop with medipot. Recreational is next. Like Big Tobacco, Big Marijuana wants our kids. That’s why they market it using Santa Claus and the Cookie Monster, and bury their product in fruit drinks, brownies, gummy bears and candy. They claim to have noble motives when appealing to the emotions surrounding sick children and the elderly.

I submit to you that they are more concerned about the economics of the issue than nobility and compassion. And it appears that many in South Carolina, including The Herald, are drinking the THC-laced Kool-Aid. The evidence from those who have gone down this road tells us what we can expect. In Arizona’s medipot program, as of June 30, 2014, 52,374 individuals had been approved to legally purchase it. Nearly 72 percent of those approved were male, and the largest age range was 18-30. Their medical condition? Pain. Wouldn’t you think that age 18-30 would be the healthiest segment of our population? This is what’s coming if we continue down this road.

Everybody, including the prevention and treatment community, wants those who suffer to find relief. But the relief should come from a proven, studied, FDA-approved process like all other medicine. When was the last time we voted on whether medicine should be approved? There is no proof that marijuana will bring relief to all the ills listed by proponents of legalization.

The Herald calls delaying legalization “illogical and heartless.” Well, there are 1.5 million children living in South Carolina, and we all have an obligation to them, too. I submit that it would be illogical and heartless to turn our backs on them and the potential harm this dangerous experiment would cause. Also, it seems logical to me that The Herald should have considered the professional prevention/treatment experts as the voice of reason for their opinion. It is The Herald’s viewpoint on this issue that is unwarranted.

Joe Lumpkin, vice chairman of the SC Impaired Driving Prevention Council, in a letter to state Sen. Harvey Peeler, chairman of the Medical Affairs Committee in the S.C. Senate, said it best: “We fear that our state’s attempt to bring relief and comfort to a very small, yet important segment of our population, will create an environment that will yield greater illegal drug use ultimately jeopardizing the safety of our roadways and, ultimately, our children”.

Bob Norwood is executive director of York County All On Board.