The Impending Disaster of Legalized Cannabis

Before the elections that legalized cannabis, legions of forecasters, naysayers and seers predicted impending doom if we allowed cannabis into our society. Freeway fatalities would increase, airlines would fall from the sky and junior wouldn’t pass his college entrance exams.

We now have four states that have passed pro-recreational cannabis laws with more states to follow. Have the future skies darkened with failure? Is the end of society near?

The truth is we, as a society, are changing. We’ve allowed a previously illegal drug (since 1937) into mainstream society and its effect on ourselves will increase even if indirectly. But, are we facing an impending disaster?

Death on the highway

So far, we haven’t seen any jets fall from the sky from cannabis use but we are seeing an effect on the roads.

In Colorado, there was a small growth of user related traffic deaths usually in the 4% range before 2006. Since the year before the advent of medical cannabis, annual growth has been between 23–37%.

It is still being questioned as to what is causing the increase. Is it the growth of number of users? Is it the growth of testing and reporting? The Colorado State Patrol only started in January of 2015 to test drivers that had been pulled over for cannabis levels. Until the statistical analysis is tightened and focused on all parameters, the answers will remain incomplete.

Addiction

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), 9% of users will become addicted to the drug in cannabis. Their studies have shown it will increase to 25–50% in daily users. Withdrawal is considered to be a mild syndrome that peaks less than a week after quitting and is considered finished within two weeks of cessation. Symptoms can include “irritability, mood, sleep difficulties, decreased appetites, cravings and restlessness”.

Compared to the days of ‘Reefer Madness’, where users can become drug-crazed fiends after only one toke, the current scientific analysis seems rather tame. According to the study, cannabis is much less difficult to stop using than heroin. Yet, cannabis is classified with heroin as a class 1 controlled substance.

Still, cannabis is a drug and can influence our decision and reasoning skills. Care and responsibility must be taken if used even legally.

Illegal Trafficking

There was concern before legalization that neighboring states would see an influx of product illegally crossing their state line. It is illegal in every state to transport cannabis and its various forms across state lines and is still considered a felony.

Two reports in relation to Kansas show the need for more studies. According to the New York Times, Michele Leonhart, who heads the Drug Enforcement Administration, testified in April of 2015 to a Senate panel that Kansas officials “tallied” a 61% increase in the number of possession arrests directly connected to Colorado as a source. In contrast, the Kansas Highway Patrol is also stating that the amount of seizures has fallen from 2790 pounds to 1090 pounds which is a 61% decrease.

Conflicting Information

We are drowning in a sea of information where the extremes cancel each other out. Those in the middle are asking questions and left trying to stay afloat in the confusion.

On one hand, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is claiming that cannabis is as dangerous as heroin and LSD. They also claim that neither of these drugs furnishes any medical benefits.

On the pro cannabis side of the political debate, we are hearing claims that cannabis cures cancer. Smoking pot can reduce tumors (or increase their growth rate depending on which article you read). The money saved from legalizing pot will balance the budget.

As a society, we are used to the incredible claims made by the government against cannabis for decades. Since it became a hot button political issue, we are seeing the opposite equally true. With all of the mud-slinging and accusations against the other side, you can almost mistake it for a race between two presidential candidates.

Society is changing. The public wants to know how it will affect them. Is their a coming disaster or is the disaster misinformation? Until we can find a source of information that can truthfully be perceived as unbiased and sound, the public will trust neither side for the truth. But, where are we going to find that unbiased source of information?