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Ed

Colorado’s claims of cannabis ‘social justice’ fall short

Black Coloradans arrested at twice the rate of white people nearly a decade after pot legalization
Colorado Newsline 22 July 2021
Though the total number of arrests for adults and juveniles for pot-related crimes has gone down overall since Colorado legalized marijuana in 2012, wide racial disparities persist, a new report finds.

The widest disparity is among Black Coloradans, who are arrested at twice the rate of white people for pot-related charges, according to a 180-page analysis published this week by the state Department of Public Safety.

“This report provides a wealth of valuable information to help policymakers, law enforcement, schools, the marijuana industry, and the public understand the effects of legal recreational marijuana in our communities,” Stan Hilkey, executive director of the Department of Public Safety, said in a written statement.

“The information is presented in a comprehensive and unbiased manner, and I am proud of the detailed and extensive work our DCJ researchers have done to collect and analyze this vast compilation of data,” he added.

According to the report, which is required by law every two years, the total number of marijuana arrests decreased by 68% between 2012 and 2019, from 13,225 to 4,290. The number of marijuana arrests decreased by 72% for white people, 63% for Black people and 55% for Hispanic people. 

The analysis found that the marijuana arrest rate for Black people (160 per 100,000) was more than double that of white people (76 per 100,000) in 2019. The report noted that the disparity has not changed in any meaningful way since marijuana was legalized in Colorado in 2012. 

Similar disparities persist for juveniles arrested for marijuana-related issues. For white juveniles, arrests decreased by 47% from 2012 to 2019, compared to 41% for Black juveniles and 26% for Hispanic juveniles.
READ MORE: https://coloradonewsline.com/2021/07/22/colorado-marijuana-arrests-racial-disparities/

Cannabis-induced psychosis

Cannabis-induced psychosis: Amid push for legalization, sister says brother ‘was lost to us for a decade’
Fox News 23 July 2021
Parents Opposed to Pot advocate says lawmakers ‘want to legalize ultra-high potency THC products’

An anti-marijuana advocate accused lawmakers of being dishonest about the effects THC can have on young adults and society as a whole as Senate Democrats push to legalize cannabis.

“When our lawmakers talk about legalizing marijuana, they talk about it like it’s chamomile tea and that it has no side effects and there’s no downside to using and it,” Heidi Swan, a board member for Parents Opposed to Pot, told Fox News. “But have they told us about the physical side effects, the mental side effects and the increased problems to society?”

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., Senate Finance Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., introduced a discussion draft last week for the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act, which aims to legalize marijuana at the federal level.

The bill would treat marijuana much like alcohol or tobacco, allowing it to be taxed and regulated. Buyers must be at least 21 years old, and retail sales transactions would be limited to no more than 10 ounces of cannabis or the equivalent amount of any cannabis derivative.

“What they want to legalize is ultra-high potency THC products,” Swan, of California, told Fox News. “And then when you say that, people say, ‘What are you talking about? It’s just marijuana.’ No, it’s not just marijuana. This is a highly processed product.”
READ MORE: https://www.foxnews.com/us/sister-cannabis-induced-psychosis-legalization

Two-year-old hospitalised after consuming cannabis cookie dough

Stuff co.nz 20 July 2021
A South Canterbury man has pleaded guilty to making cannabis cookie dough balls that were accidentally consumed by a 2-year-old, rendering the child unresponsive for 18 hours.

Kyle Eddie White, 28, appeared before Judge Joanna Maze at the Timaru District Court on Tuesday.

He pleaded guilty to a charge of manufacturing a class B drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act.

According to the police summary of facts, White made the cookie dough balls at the home where he was living with a female associate and her three children, on or about October 7, 2020.

“White used a slow cooker to make cannabis leaf into cannabis butter, which he then used to bake chocolate-covered cookie dough balls,” the summary says.

When he had finished making the cookie dough balls, he placed them into the fridge in a plastic lunchbox container.

“The following day the 2-year-old took the container from the fridge and ate an unknown quantity of the cookie dough balls.”

The child was subsequently rendered unconscious due to the effects of the cannabis and was admitted to hospital where they “remained in a completely unresponsive state for 18 hours”.
READ MORE: https://www.stuff.co.nz/timaru-herald/news/125807820/twoyearold-hospitalised-after-consuming-cannabis-cookie-dough?cid=app-iPhone

Strong Ass’n Between Perceived Risk, Availability & Cannabis Use

Study Shows Strong Association Between Perceived Risk, Availability and Past-Year Cannabis Use
News Wise 15 July 2021
Individuals who perceived cannabis as both low-risk and available were 22 times more likely to have used cannabis in the past year than those perceiving cannabis as both high-risk and unavailable.

Combined perceptions of the risk and availability of cannabis influence the risk of cannabis use more than perceived risk and perceived availability alone, according to a new study at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health. Researchers observed that those who perceived cannabis as low-risk and available were more likely to report using the drug in the past year and almost daily compared to those individuals who perceived cannabis as high-risk and unavailable. This is the first study to consider the joint effects of perceived risk and perceived availability. The results are published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

“Our study described the evolution of joint perceptions of cannabis risk and availability from 2002-2018 and estimated the relationship between combined perceptions and past-year cannabis use, frequent use, and cannabis use disorder,” said Natalie Levy, MPH, doctoral student in the Department of Epidemiology at Columbia Mailman School, and first author. “Studying perceived risk and availability in conjunction revealed more nuanced patterns than considering each perception in isolation..”

Using data on 949,285 participants from the National Surveys on Drug Use and Health from 2002-2018, researchers observed that the prevalence of perceiving cannabis use as low-risk doubled over this period while the prevalence of perceiving cannabis as available increased only marginally. When looking at joint categories of perceived risk and perceived availability, they found that prevalence of perceiving cannabis as both low-risk and available increased, from 17 percent in 2002 to 36 percent in 2018 while the proportion of the population perceiving cannabis as high-risk and available or high-risk and unavailable declined. By 2018, a larger proportion of the population perceived marijuana as low-risk and available (36 percent) than both high-risk and available and high-risk and unavailable, at 26 percent and 27 percent, respectively.

Individuals who perceived cannabis as low-risk were six times more likely to have used cannabis in the past-year than individuals who perceived the drug as high-risk. Similarly, individuals who perceived cannabis as available were five times more likely to have used cannabis in the past year than individuals who perceived it as unavailable. However, individuals who perceived marijuana as both low-risk and available were 22 times more likely to have used the drug in the past year than those who perceived cannabis as high-risk and unavailable.

In 2018, most individuals who reported no past-year cannabis use perceived cannabis as high-risk, whether or not they distinguished between its availability or non-availability. In contrast, the majority of individuals who used cannabis in the past year perceived the drug as low-risk and available and this perception rose to even higher levels among those reporting frequent use.
READ MORE: https://www.newswise.com/articles/study-shows-strong-association-between-perceived-risk-availability-and-past-year-cannabis-use

AI Show: Ep 14 – “Has cannabis gone wild in Colorado?”

Cannabis in Colorado has been legal for medical use since 2000 and for recreational use since late 2012. The public were told that this would reduce the harms associated with cannabis use and create social benefits – particularly for communities of colour.

Former Democrat US Attorney Bob Troyer says it has been a disaster and that if anything, things have gotten worse since legalisation.

WATCH other episodes: www.ActiveIntelligence.nz
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Cannabis intoxication in kids rise after Canada legalisation – study

Cannabis intoxication and rates of accidental ingestion in young children rise after legalization, new study finds
Medical Xpress 30 June 2021
Significantly higher rates of child intensive care admissions for unintentional cannabis poisonings have been seen following legalization of the drug in Canada.

Researchers from The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids), based in Toronto, found a four-fold increase in unintentional poisonings in children under the age of 12 and a three-fold increase in intensive care admissions for severe cannabis poisoning in the first two years following .

However, the overall number of visits per month for cannabis intoxications to the SickKids Emergency Department (ED) remained consistent when comparing the pre- and post-legalization periods. The findings were published in the peer-reviewed journal Clinical Toxicology.

Led by Dr. Yaron Finkelstein, Staff Physician, Paediatric Emergency Medicine and Clinical Pharmacology and Toxicology at SickKids, the study compared cannabis-related ED visits, hospitalizations and  (ICU) admissions at SickKids during pre- and post-legalization periods to analyze the unintentional impacts of the legislation.

“While uncommon in adults, cannabis intoxication can have significant negative impacts on young children including behavioural changes, seizures, respiratory depression, problems with coordination and balance, and even coma. As different formulations of cannabis continue to be legalized, it is important for everyone who has cannabis in their home, to be aware of the potential harms to children and ensure  are safely stored,” notes Finkelstein, Senior Scientist, Child Health Evaluative Sciences at SickKids.

Measuring admissions for cannabis intoxication to SickKids over a 12-year period, from January 1, 2008 to December 31, 2019, the study identified that a higher proportion of children were admitted to the ICU following legalization (13.6% vs. 4.7%, respectively).

The study determined that the increases in severe intoxications from cannabis were primarily due to exposure of young children to , which have become increasingly accessible and popular. Edible cannabis products are both highly concentrated and visually attractive to young children—leading to ingestion as the most consequential route of paediatric exposures. Inconsistencies and difficulties in determining the exact formulation and potency of the edible ingested can also make it challenging for health-care providers to anticipate the severity and length of the effects of cannabis exposure.
READ MORE: https://medicalxpress.com/news/2021-06-cannabis-intoxication-accidental-ingestion-young.html

Mysterious vomiting illness from cannabis use (US)

Mysterious vomiting illness from cannabis use emerges in US hospitals
NewsHub 12 July 2021
A mysterious vomiting illness is becoming increasingly prevalent in US hospitals as a result of potent cannabis usage among teenagers.

The illness, where patients uncontrollably vomit and scream at the same time, is officially called ‘cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome’ but has been dubbed ‘scromiting’.

Twenty-year-old Bo Gribbon told NBC News he experienced the illness in 2018 and began vomiting multiple times an hour.

“It felt like Edwards Scissorhands was trying to grab my intestines and pull them out,” he said.

Over nine months the then-17-year-old visited the emergency department 11 times for the same issue and the doctor told him it was likely a side effect from cannabis use.

“The only thing that convinced me was that it stopped when I stopped smoking,” Gribbon said.

NBC reported the illness is now becoming more prevalent in the United States as states legalise cannabis and as it becomes more potent.
READ MORE: https://www.newshub.co.nz/home/world/2021/07/mysterious-vomiting-illness-from-cannabis-use-emerges-in-us-hospitals.html

LA police make record $1.6b black market cannabis bust

Los Angeles police make record $1.6b black market cannabis bust
ABC News 7 July 2021
Los Angeles police have made the largest illegal marijuana seizure in the county’s history, netting 373,000 plants that would ultimately have been worth about $US1.2 billion ($1.6 billion) on the street.

But the record bust eradicated only a fraction of the illicit “grows” in the Southern California high desert.

The problem is wide-ranging in the Antelope Valley north of Los Angeles, officials said, and has grown substantially during the coronavirus pandemic.

California assemblyman Tom Lackey said the weed was threatening the environment, public health and public safety.

“What we have, ladies and gentlemen, is an illicit weed-demic,” he said.

“It’s terrible.”

Armed cartel members run massive illegal grows, some spanning dozens of greenhouses, that compete with the state’s legal marijuana industry.

Multiple law enforcement agencies carried out a 10-day operation in the Antelope Valley last month that resulted in 131 arrests and the seizure of nearly 15 tonnes of harvested marijuana plants with a street value of $US1.2 billion.

Yet the undertaking only demolished 205 illegal grows out of the 500 seen by aerial surveillance in the area.
READ MORE: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-07-08/los-angeles-black-market-cannabis-bust-record-illegal-dope-grows/100276498

The “Colorado Experiment”: Legalized Marijuana’s Impact in Colorado

Hudson Institute 28 June 2021
The state of Colorado has been offered up by many policy makers as a test case regarding the wisdom of drug legalization. Colorado has permitted “medical” marijuana sales since 2009, and it allowed for outright commercialization (“recreational use”), as permitted by the Obama administration, since 2014.

Drug legalization advocates have consistently invited the nation, particularly states considering following the Colorado model, to view the state as a real-world “experiment,” demonstrating the benefits or harms of legalized drugs. But beyond the first blush of enthusiasm claiming that “the sky hasn’t fallen” as a result of unhindered access to marijuana, there have been few media accounts citing actual data about how Colorado is faring.

The road is rockier than many believe. In fact, given the preponderance of glowing testimonials from advocates, it may come as a surprise that this month, a quiet resistance to legalization burst into the open. The event was the passage of state bill H 1317, which applies limits to the state’s medical marijuana industry. Passing with strong bipartisan majorities in both houses of the state legislature, the bill was recently signed into law.

Purchases of high-potency marijuana will now be limited (down to only a fifth of the current level). The bill requires warning labels, real-time monitoring of sales, and stiffened medical recommendations from physicians. It also calls for the Colorado School of Public Health to research the mental and physical health effects of the drug.

It should be clear that not all is well in the relationship between Colorado citizens and the state marijuana industry, in spite of the money the marijuana lobby has invested in protecting itself politically among state power brokers.

This month’s legislative news was accompanied by an account in the Denver Post of yet another black market and money-laundering operation being taken down. The operation involved millions of dollars of illegal marijuana and twenty-one individuals funneling the money to China. Mexican and Colombian cartels, as well as gangs from Cuba and Russia, have also been implicated in multiple similar transnational criminal schemes in Colorado and nationwide.

According to Legalization of Marijuana in Colorado, a 2020 law enforcement intelligence report from the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficing Area ( HIDTA ), there were 278 similar black market cases in 2019 involving the seizure of 7.5 tons of marijuana and over 15,000 marijuana edibles, destined for 29 US states.

Advocates for legalization were adamant that a major purpose was to create a regulated market that would drive out the criminal element and end the violence that drives the black market. It fact, the exact opposite has happened, with a thriving black market still dominating the trade, as has happened everywhere states have legalized marijuana, from California to Illinois.

It is important to remember that legalization advocates believed that their policy prescriptions would do more than just avoid a debacle. Instead, they argued that legalized marijuana would improve the metrics that mattered. Such metrics included preventing youth access and alleviating purported injustices (such as racial disparities in arrests, even though the latest data show that more Black and Hispanic people are being arrested today than before legalization). Further, it was supposed to end corruption, which has actually spread more widely after legalization.

The primary justification for legal marijuana was to provide a financial boon for states, through taxation revenue that could be applied to societal needs like drug treatment or education. Advocates further assured doubters that a legal, regulated regime of drug access would make society safer by driving out the criminal element, thereby reducing violence and illegal drugs.

By now, however, we have enough accumulated data in 2020 to see the actual effects of this experiment in drug policy. And they are not comforting. Not only did the promised benefits, both financial and on behalf of public safety, not come to pass, but in multiples areas of daily life the metrics have worsened.

Moreover, the data from Colorado have been accompanied by several years of greater medical science awareness of the health risks from marijuana exposure. Easier access, greater prevalence, higher psychoactive potency from increased THC, a continued criminal element, and more intensive daily use have all occurred since the experiment began. Maybe the sky hasn’t fallen, but a great deal of damage has rained down on Colorado, as measured across several indicators.

Growing Youth Drug Use
Colorado’s ranking among the states for youth drug use was already among the highest before legalization, and it remains so today. In fact, all of the states that accompanied Colorado on the path toward legalization have now emerged as the states with the highest percentage of youth users, well above the national average.

For the entire population twelve and older, Colorado’s marijuana use has increased starkly since legalization, rising 30 percent to become third in the nation, 76 percent above the national average. Among college-age youth (20–25), past-month use is 50 percent higher than the average, while past-month use for ages 12–17 is 43 percent higher. Colorado is also first in the nation for the highest percentage of adults who need drug treatment but aren’t getting it.

According to the latest school-based survey from the state, marijuana use has risen over the past two years (2017–2019), with past-month use of marijuana being reported by 21 percent of young people. The increase particularly affected young teens (15 and younger) who now report a 14.8 percent increase in past-month use from 2017 levels. Marijuana use by all age groups has risen by 6.2 percent since the last time the survey was reported in 2017.

Even where reported rates of youth smoking marijuana have not steeply risen, there is still cause for alarm. The rise of recreational commercial markets has stimulated the introduction of new forms of consuming the drug. For instance, between 2016 and 2018, reported marijuana exposures in the health care systems involving “edibles” increased from 18 percent to 60 percent, according to the Rocky Mountain HIDTA report.

Moreover, the use of other drugs, such as methamphetamine or cocaine, is also strikingly high among Coloradans, while the use of alcohol, often in conjunction with other drugs, has not diminished—against the assurances of advocates. Beginning in 2016, Colorado was the only state with the highest rate of consumption for all four of the major intoxicants: marijuana, cocaine, alcohol, and opioids.

A troubling data point is that contrary to many hopeful claims, the opioid epidemic of use and overdoses has not been stanched by the rise of marijuana. In fact, youth marijuana use seems implicated in even greater risk of opioid misuse, including prescription opioid use, just as cannabis use disorder (CUD) itself also climbs and worsens. For youth, the number developing CUD, only three years following initiation, rises to over 20 percent.

Daily use of marijuana, the most risky pattern, increased by 65 percent between 2017 and 2019 for high school youths. Concern over risk of their developing CUD, a risk enhanced by legalization policies, is well-justified.

Marijuana’s Increasing THC Potency
Nationwide, marijuana potency for traditional leaf marijuana has risen since 2008 from an average of 6 percent of the psychoactive component THC to over 16 percent today, according to the Marijuana Potency Project, a study funded by the National Institute for Drug Abuse. Moreover, new forms of marijuana concentrates, which are particularly associated with the recreational commercial market, have seen average potency rise to over 61 percent THC.

Increased potency is clearly linked to increased risks of developing CUD as well as increasing the risk of psychotic incidents. Some forms of the drug now available in dispensaries go as high as 90 percent THC, substantially increasing the risk of cannabis-induced psychosis.

Is the purported revenue from marijuana sales truly worth it for the states? Not according to a statement counseling against marijuana legalization from several state medical societies representing thousands of physicians. Whatever amount of money the state thinks will be legal marijuana gravy, doctors fear that the damage done will cost even more.

The doctors write: “legalization continues to present serious public health concerns…. We are very concerned that the long-term public health costs associated with hospitalizations and treatment for psychiatric/addictive disorders could significantly outweigh any revenues that (states) anticipate would be received from the legalization of cannabis.”

So striking is the risk that the Irish Board of Psychiatry, recently summarizing the matter, stated that high-potency cannabis in Ireland has become “the gravest threat to the mental health of young people.”

Marijuana Use By At-Risk Populations
For teens, marijuana is the most common drug found in toxicology of those who die by suicide. The percentage of incidents of suicide in which toxicology results were positive for marijuana increased to 23 percent in 2018, compared to 14 percent in 2014 (note that these figures are prior to the pandemic).

The significant increase in the number of teen suicides in Colorado over the past five years, and marijuana as the number one drug found when toxicology is reported, can be seen to correlate with increased potency and availability of marijuana, of concentrates, and of vaping by teens. Of teens ages 15–19 who died of suicide in 2018, marijuana was present in 37 percent of the cases (of the two-thirds who had toxicology information available).

While the issue of teen suicide is complex, there is now substantial research linking heavy and early marijuana use to an increased risk of self-harm among users. Whatever has been the effect of legalization on this risk, it surely hasn’t helped, and the risk of harm is worsened in the presence of a commercial marijuana industry.

A recently published study has found a significant difference for both male and female young adults in suicidal ideation, planning, and attempts in relation to CUD and particularly daily cannabis use.

And a suicide problem is found for veterans as well. The National Veteran Suicide Prevention Report indicates Colorado’s rates are significantly higher than the national average, with 2019 figures showing a 25 percent increase over 2018.

It’s not only teen marijuana exposure that is worrisome. There is increasing medical literature showing the risks of marijuana use during pregnancy. Most importantly, recent research has shown that commercial legalization is linked to an increase in perinatal maternal marijuana consumption, placing offspring at developmental risk.

Not only is marijuana found for long periods of time in mothers’ breast milk, there are clear and growing signs of adverse developmental effects on children exposed in the womb. Young women in Colorado beguiled by “recreational” marijuana products are placing themselves and their future children at risk, since some of the adverse effects, including birth defects, begin even before a woman may know that she is pregnant.

Broader Social Impact
The general societal impact of greater marijuana use has also been broad. And the impact is not limited to just the set of those who use. It can be seen reshaping social life in the wider community.

For instance, traffic danger has increased, according to the Rocky Mountain HIDTA. Colorado traffic deaths since legalization have increased 24 percent overall (all prior to the pandemic-related lockdowns), while deaths in which drivers tested positive for marijuana increased 135 percent. Currently, the percentage of all Colorado traffic deaths that were marijuana related has risen from 15 percent in 2014 to 25 percent in 2019.

As the nationwide workplace drug-testing company QUEST Diagnostics recently reported, positive tests for marijuana are 30 percent higher in Colorado than the national average, at a time when nationwide drug positive rates are at their highest in sixteen years. As a consequence, not only are workplaces less safe, but finding available workers, especially in safety-sensitive occupations such as transportation or mining, has become a challenge in Colorado.

More marijuana calls are coming in to poison control centers, which report that adverse marijuana-only exposures have more than quadrupled since legalization. Hospital emergency-department events with marijuana involvement have also risen sharply, as have marijuana-related hospitalizations.

As the years since legalization have passed, the public health and public safety impact has grown, year over year. The effect on families, on pediatricians, on educators, on emergency departments, on the workplace, on law enforcement, and indeed on the general quality of life in a once thriving state, has been strikingly negative.

We should not be surprised to learn that there is a high cost to making an addictive and dangerous substance a commercial product. Nor should we enable this public policy mistake to take root elsewhere. Taking stock, we can now say that the so-called legalization experiment has, at least, produced one positive impact—it has issued a clear warning about the path we are on. 
READ MORE: https://www.hudson.org/research/17052-the-colorado-experiment-legalized-marijuana-s-impact-in-colorado