We don’t need another industry getting rich off of getting others high – The Denver Post


The idea that Colorado was once an austere prohibition state where no one could get marijuana without great difficulty is rubbish.

In the 80s and early 90s, everyone I knew was one to two degrees of separation from scoring a joint. Either you knew a dealer or you knew someone who knew a dealer. All it took was one call on the avocado green phone in the kitchen to secure a dime bag.

Nevertheless, in 2012 legal weed advocates managed to convince 55% of Coloradans that the state needed to turn marijuana from a low-key black market into a big business. Dispensaries opened everywhere, and growers cultivated ever stronger strains. Today’s buds regularly contain more than 15% THC, the chemical that creates the high, compared to 2% THC in ganja sold in the 1980s. Concentrates can be as high as 90%. Not surprisingly, marijuana use has increased. Colorado didn’t just legalize marijuana; the state created a celebrated institution and normalized use.

Now legalized drug advocates are trying to do the same with hallucinogens and Coloradans should just say no to Initiative 58 this November.

Legalized cannabis has not been catastrophic, but the costs definitely outweigh the benefits. According to a study published in the Western Journal of Emergency Medicine:

“Cannabis legalization has led to significant health consequences, particularly to patients in emergency departments and hospitals in Colorado. The most concerning include psychosis, suicide, and other substance abuse. Deleterious effects on the brain include decrements in complex decision-making, which may not be reversible with abstinence. Increases in fatal motor vehicle collisions, adverse effects on cardiovascular and pulmonary systems, inadvertent pediatric exposures, cannabis contaminants exposing users to infectious agents, heavy metals, and pesticides, and hash-oil burn injuries in preparation of drug concentrates have been documented.”

THC concentrates, which contain 54% or higher THC, are particularly dangerous to teen users. Dabbing is more addictive and more likely to cause anxiety, paranoia, agitation, and psychosis than regular cannabis. John and Laura Stack lost their teen son Johnny to suicide after he used high-THC concentrates in high school. The Stacks now operate the nonprofit Johnny’s Ambassadors to warn parents and communities about the danger of marijuana to young people. For parents who have lost teens to cannabis-induced mental illness and suicide, the marijuana industry has been truly catastrophic.

Suffice to say, the dangers of marijuana were undersold back in 2012 and in 2000 when voters passed medical marijuana. Marijuana has some medical applications, and it was possible to obtain it prior to legalization. After medical legalization, both medical and recreational users obtained licenses with little trouble. A friend walked into a medical marijuana dispensary with a sprained wrist and walked out with a license.

Some people with medical conditions have benefited from legalization; however, looking back, it appears that legalizing medical marijuana was merely a step, a gateway drug, to full legalization and normalization of drug use and abuse.

Drug advocates are now looking to legalize hallucinogenic mushrooms and ultimately other plant-based psychedelics such as mescaline, dimethyltryptamine (DMT) and ibogaine. While these plant-based hallucinogenic drugs show promise in alleviating depression, alcohol withdrawal symptoms, and other mental conditions in clinical settings, the drugs are not without risks, such as persistent psychosis and the rare but debilitating hallucinogen persisting perception disorder (HPPD). Ibogaine can cause death.

If the initiative passes, hallucinogenics would be available at state-licensed “healing centers” where users could take drugs under the watch of trained “facilitators.” Cities and towns would not be able to prohibit the opening of these centers. The initiative would also decriminalize the use, possession, and gifting of plant-based hallucinogenic drugs.

Clinical studies may show that these plant-based mind-altering substances can play a role in medicine. Certainly, other plant-based medicines, such as opium-based pain killers have great utility. Nevertheless, legalizing, institutionalizing, and normalizing more drug use and drug abuse, as we have learned from our experience with marijuana, has negative consequences. These substances are already available on the down low to people who seek them. Let’s not make create another big business out of getting high.

 Krista L. Kafer is a weekly Denver Post columnist. Follow her on Twitter: @kristakafer

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