The West Virginia state legislature is considering a bill to legalize medical marijuana, even though federal law deems the drug as illegal. The Drug Enforcement Administration addressed the matter in August of 2016.
Marijuana remains as a Schedule 1 substance under the Controlled Substances Act. Substances in Schedule 1 are determined by the Food and Drug Administration to have no medical use. If West Virginia legalizes medical marijuana, they will be in defiance of federal law.
The bill has presently passed the Senate and is being voted upon by the House of Delegates. Prior to its senatorial passage, the bill’s lead sponsor Sen. Richard Ojeda (D-Logan, 07) told MetroNews that he was confident the bill would pass the Senate and go to the House of Delegates.
Proponents of the bill claim that legalizing medical marijuana will create an alternative method of “treating chronic pain, nausea and vomiting in cancer patients and muscle spasms in multiple sclerosis patients.” This is claimed, even though it is
officially recognized as having no medical benefit by the FDA.
Opponents of the bill cite countless studies showing that constant marijuana use, which is used regularly when taken for medical purposes, can cause the reformation of the orbitofrontal cortex.
In summary, it changes the shape of the brain, causing a shrinkage of a neurological area that is responsible for feelings of pleasure and relaxation. This is believed to potentially cause a neurological addiction to the substance.
In addition, according to a study by the Center for Brain Health at the University of Texas in Dallas, after about six or seven years of use, brain “connectivity and integrity begin to erode.”
With West Virginia presently undergoing a worsening drug epidemic pertaining to prescription drug abuse, many fear that marijuana legalization could cause additional expansion and abuse.
It is also a concern that it could provide younger members of the Mountain State additional access to the substance. When its availability is increased, it provides easier access to the substance, which can then be processed and laced in greater quantities due to the increased quantity of the main substance.
According to NBC News, a report from the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine found numerous side-effects. Studies show cannabis use is likely to increase the risk of developing schizophrenia, other psychoses, and social anxiety disorders.
It can also raise the risk of depression, studies have found. Heavy marijuana users are more likely to report thoughts of suicide and heavy use of the drug can worsen symptoms of bipolar disease.
Learning, memory and attention are impaired after using cannabis and there’s some evidence that they are damaged even after people stop using it.
It can impair driving. Use may raise the risk of testicular cancer. Smoking marijuana may trigger a heart attack. It can worsen bronchitis and chronic cough. Babies born to women who smoke marijuana while pregnant can weigh too little.
The study also debunked several marijuana myths, often used by advocates.
“There’s also not enough evidence to show if cannabis can help amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease), Parkinson’s disease or Huntington’s disease,” the report read.
According to a report from the University of Washington, “Marijuana smoke contains about 50 percent more benzopyrene and nearly 75 percent more benzanthracene, both known carcinogens, than a comparable quantity of unfiltered tobacco smoke (Tashkin, 2013).
Moreover, the deeper inhalations and longer breath-holding of marijuana smokers result in greater exposure of the lung to the tar and carcinogens in the smoke. Lung biopsies from habitual marijuana-only users have revealed widespread alterations to the tissue, some of which are recognized as precursors to the subsequent development of cancer (Tashkin, 2013). ”
Their report also stated, “Inhaling marijuana smoke in the long-term is likely to result in damage to the respiratory tract.”
A study of the University of South Carolina found that marijuana can suppress the body’s immune system.
“Cannabis is one of the most widely used drugs of abuse worldwide, and it is already believed to suppress immune functions, making the user more susceptible to infections and some types of cancer,” Prakash Nagarkatti, a microbiology and pathology professor at the University of South Carolina, expressed in a statement.
Live Science also acknowledged from the study that “pot-smokers are more susceptible than non-smokers to certain cancers and infections.”
According to the Daily Mail, a federal advisory panel produced a report on marijuana in January, linking the substance to an increased risk of schizophrenia and heart attacks.
The committee found multiple side-effects of marijuana. Strong evidence links marijuana use to the risk of developing schizophrenia and other causes of psychosis, with the highest risk among the most frequent users (which those who use it for medical purposes would be using it frequently).
Some evidence suggests a small increased risk for developing depressive disorders. There is strong evidence that using marijuana increases the risk of a traffic accident. Substantial evidence links pot smoking to worse respiratory symptoms and more frequent episodes of chronic bronchitis.
Some evidence suggests smoking marijuana can trigger a heart attack, especially for people at high risk of heart disease. Evidence suggests a link between using marijuana and developing a dependence on or abuse of other substances, serving as a gateway (especially for younger users).
The American Lung Association reports the following:
“Smoke from marijuana combustion has been shown to contain many of the same toxins, irritants and carcinogens as tobacco smoke. Beyond just what’s in the smoke alone, marijuana is typically smoked differently than tobacco. Marijuana smokers tend to inhale more deeply and hold their breath longer than cigarette smokers, which leads to a greater exposure per breath to tar. Secondhand marijuana smoke contains many of the same toxins and carcinogens found in directly inhaled marijuana smoke, in similar amounts if not more. Another potential threat to those with weakened immune systems is Aspergillus, a mold that can cause lung disorders. It can grow on marijuana, which if then smoked exposes the lungs to this fungus. Smoking marijuana clearly damages the human lung, and regular use leads to chronic bronchitis and can cause an immune-compromised person to be more susceptible to lung infections.”
According to a study conducted by the American Chemical Society, heavy metals were found in marijuana smoke.
The report expressed the following:
“In this study, ammonia was found in mainstream marijuana smoke at levels up to 20-fold greater than that found in tobacco. Hydrogen cyanide, NO, NOx, and some aromatic amines were found in marijuana smoke at concentrations 3–5 times those found in tobacco smoke. Mainstream marijuana smoke contained selected polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) at concentrations lower than those found in mainstream tobacco smoke, while the reverse was the case for sidestream smoke, with PAHs present at higher concentrations in marijuana smoke. The confirmation of the presence, in both mainstream and sidestream smoke of marijuana cigarettes, of known carcinogens and other chemicals implicated in respiratory diseases is important information for public health and communication of the risk related to exposure to such materials.”
Rocky Mountain Hidta Report released on September 16, 2016, reported traffic fatalities increased 62 percent. The report found that 77 percent of Colorado’s DUI’s involved pot in 2015.
Denver’s FOX41 affiliate KDVR reported that schools were promised $40 million in marijuana taxes, but gained nothing due to funds being involuntary distributed to cost of legalization.
In an interview with The Huffington Post, Department Director of the Colorado Governor’s Office of Marijuana Coordination J. Skyler McKinley expressed this reality.
“Every dime we bring in from legalization is dedicated to the cost of legalization,” stated Mr. McKinley. “The big lesson we tell other states is you probably shouldn’t legalize marijuana if you want to make money — that’s not why you do it.”
The funds promised to fund education, have instead been distributed to fund the expenses that go along with legalization.
According to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, a joint of marijuana contains fourfold as much tar as a tobacco cigarette.
“Significant differences were also noted in the dynamics of smoking marijuana and tobacco, among them an approximately two-thirds larger puff volume, a one-third greater depth of inhalation, and a fourfold longer breath-holding time with marijuana than with tobacco (P less than 0.01). Smoking dynamics and the delivery of tar during marijuana smoking were only slightly influenced by the percentage of tetrahydrocanabinol. We conclude that smoking marijuana, regardless of tetrahydrocannabinol content, results in a substantially greater respiratory burden of carbon monoxide and tar than smoking a similar quantity of tobacco.”
The longer breath-holding time, the more tar that is collected in the lungs.
A University of California study discovered that a joint of marijuana contains four times as much tar as a tobacco cigarette.
The study found, “The smoke from burning marijuana leaves contains several known carcinogens and the tar it creates contains 50 percent more of some of the chemicals linked to lung cancer than tobacco smoke. A marijuana cigarette also deposits four times as much of that tar as an equivalent tobacco one.”
Physician Donald Tashkin, who served as a lead researcher in the project, expressed the results to the Scientific American.
“Marijuana is packed more loosely than tobacco, so there’s less filtration through the rod of the cigarette, so more particles will be inhaled,” Tashkin stated. “And marijuana smokers typically smoke differently than tobacco smokers; they hold their breath about four times longer allowing more time for extra fine particles to deposit in the lungs.”
According to the Washington State Traffic Safety Commission, incidents of marijuana-impaired driving are increasing. Drivers with active THC in their blood who were in a fatal driving accident have risen 122 percent from 2010 to 2014. 32,059 grams of illegally possessed marijuana were seized during the first nine months of 2015 off highways and interstates across Washington, following legalization. This verifies an increase in laced weed.
According to the Charleston Gazette-Mail, Sen. Robert Karnes proposed an amendment in the senatorial committee that would allow people with prescriptions to grow two marijuana plants. The amendment was adopted.
“We’re talking about a weed here that anybody could grow,” Karnes stated.
He also added that he didn’t want to establish a group of “legal drug dealers;” however, that is exactly the result of his amendment. This will allow people with prescriptions to grow it legally, and then illegally—yet—discretely distribute it to those without prescriptions. West Virginia already has a prescription abuse problem.
Marijuana grown by prescribed individuals will also be undoubtedly stolen, by those wishing to obtain pot without a prescription. Minors will also become even more aware of where to access the substance, and usage will increase.
As informatively listed in this report, why would the West Virginia legislature even consider legalizing marijuana? The medical risks clearly outweigh the benefits.
Financially, despite claims, research from states that have already legalized marijuana clearly reveal that there is not a financial benefit. According to the Colorado Governor’s Office of Marijuana Coordination, it actually creates another financial burden for the state.
West Virginia is presently broke, and simply cannot afford additional expenses. West Virginia also does not tax prescription drugs, which means that we will have an additional financial burden without a tax to combat the cost of legalization.
With our state having a high drug epidemic, why would the legislature want to provide additional access to a substance that causes some users to develop a dependence on or abuse of other substances, serving as a gateway to illicit drugs?
The CDC reports that marijuana smokers are 3 times more likely to use heroine. This serves as a gateway, especially for younger users, because it introduces such individuals to the drug culture.
Supporters often claim that marijuana can be used to treat PTSD. PTSD is a physiological disorder. Marijuana has been found to potentially cause physiological disorders.
To clarify, such proponents are claiming that you can treat a physiological disorder with a substance that is known to cause additional physiological disorders.
That is overwhelmingly irresponsible. Many of the overall benefits of marijuana often claimed are unproven, but are solely used for justifications to legalize an additional substance to get high. If they are not interested in the high, they would legalize only the non-psychoactive components, which can be used to “treat” conditions such as epilepsy.
If the delegates in the House have any ounce of intelligence pertaining to health and a decent understanding finances and statistics, they will oppose this bill.