What’s Reefer Madness? New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd came to Colorado to write about marijuana. Dowd was in a Denver hotel room when she tried a “caramel-chocolate flavored candy bar” that she bought at a local marijuana dispensary. …….After an hour, Dowd felt nothing. Then the marijuana kicked in as Dowd “felt a scary shudder go through my body and brain. I barely made it from the desk to the bed, where I lay curled up in a hallucinatory state for the next eight hours. ……..I was panting and paranoid, sure that when the room-service waiter knocked and I didn’t answer, he’d call the police and have me arrested…..” “…… As my paranoia deepened, I became convinced that I had died and no one was telling me.”
ABC 7 News reported that Kristine Kirk called 911, stating that her husband, Richard, ate marijuana muffins and that he was hallucinating and scaring their three children. She stated that Richard said the world was coming to an end and asked her to shoot him. ……..The call ended with Kristine’s scream and a gunshot. Kristine was dead. ….When Richard was taken into custody, he admitted to killing his wife.
Can we Canadians learn from Colorado? Colorado in 2000 allowed a medical patient to possess 2 ounces of marijuana. In 2012, Colorado legalized recreational marijuana.
Here are some Colorado numbers, thanks to the Rocky Mountain Drug Trafficking reports:
In 2012, about one-third of the high school students were under the influence during school hours. Related to this is the fact that if an individual is a regular user of two to three years of marijuana, they lose an average of 6 to 8 points in their IQ says Dr. M.H. Meier of NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse), reducing his/her ability “to get an education or find or hold a good job”.
In 2012, about 27% of students aged 18 to 25 were regular marijuana users, compared to 19% for the national average.
There was a 57% increase in marijuana-related emergency room visits from 2011 to 2013 (about 13,000 visits). Marijuana-related hospitalizations almost doubled from 2008 to 2013.
Traffic fatalities increased 100% from 2007 to 2012 involving people testing positive for marijuana. (Overall traffic fatalities decreased by 15%).
About 9% of users became truly addicted, with withdrawal symptoms when trying to stop. From personal experience, Lady Gaga says “You can get addicted to pot”.
The delusions and paranoia of Ms. Dowd and Mr. Kirk were acute reactions to marijuana. However, a major life-long effect of marijuana is psychosis or schizophrenia. T.H. Moore concludes that there is “sufficient evidence to warn young people that using cannabis could increase their risk of developing a psychotic illness later in life.” For example, cannabis use in the UK increased four-fold between 1970 and 2002. As feared, it was later found that new cases of schizophrenia increased by 58% over three years.
In Zurich, Switzerland, when cannabis use in 15-16-year old boys went up three-fold between 1990 and 2002, it was followed by a doubling of first hospital admissions for psychosis in those aged 15 to 24.
Future increases in cannabis-related cases of schizophrenia would add to the already high psychosis rate in Canada. M.-J. Dealberto at Queen’s University in Ontario found that the rate of new cases of schizophrenia in Canada is about 26 per 100,000 per year, which is twice that in other countries.
While marijuana legalization would provide tax money to Canadian governments, it would not make up for the high personal, medical, and life-long costs to Canadians.
Philip Seeman, O.C., M.D., Ph.D., is Emeritus Professor of Pharmacology and Psychiatry at the University of Toronto, and discovered the human brain’s dopamine receptor for psychosis.