Can the USA Afford the Risk of Further Increases in Marijuana Use?

Marijuana's Effects on Brain, Body and Behavior
“Can the USA Afford the Risk of Further Increases in Cannabis Use? “Not if we want people  engaged in society” — Dr. Nora Volkow, NIDA

It’s been an interesting week across the country on the marijuana issue.

See link on the homeless migrating to Colorado in search of jobs in the marijuana industry, and the news of current federal executive agencies making marijuana banking easier, while science is getting clearer and clearer on the developmental damage done by this drug.

Dr. Nora Volkow of NIDA spoke to sold out drug education events on Monday, 9/22, at the Butler Hospital in Providence and the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston on “Marijuana’s Effects on Brain, Body and Behavior”. Among the most recent scientific and research findings:

  • Past month marijuana use among 12th grade students now surpasses cigarette use.
  • Addiction is a developmental disease that starts in adolescence and childhood when the brain is most easily primed for the disease of addiction through early exposures to addictive substances.
  • Long-term effects: About 9% of marijuana users become drug dependent. One in six who begin marijuana exposures to the brain in adolescence (17%) become dependent on the drug. 25%-50% of daily users of marijuana are drug dependent .
  • Cannabis use and later life outcomes are dose dependent. When looking at the number of cannabis exposures during ages 14-21 in a population sample, those with 400 or more cannabis exposures represented 50-60% of the population sample who at age 21-25 were currently welfare dependent or unemployed. These high rates of marijuana exposure appeared in less than 2% of that same population sample that had gained a university degree by age 25. Inversely, those who had used marijuana zero times represented the largest percentage of the population with a college degree by age 25 at over 35%, while “never used marijuana” represented the smallest portion of the unemployed at ages 21-25 at below 25% of that group. Over 50% of that unemployed group had used marijuana 400 times or more during age 14-21, and nearly 60% of welfare dependent had used marijuana 400+ times during ages 14-21.
  • Persistent cannabis users show neuropsychological decline from childhood to midlife.
  • Amotivational syndrome is linked to persistent marijuana use. Drive and ambition are negatively impacted.
  • Brain abnormalities are associated with long-term heavy cannabis use.
  • High potency cannabis use significantly increases risk of psychosis.
  • Regular cannabis use increases risk of schizophrenia in the genetically vulnerable.
  • As THC potency has increased significantly in recent years with marijuana commercialization, emergency room visits for adverse marijuana reactions have risen significantly as well.
  • the percentage of marijuana-positive fatal car crashes in Colorado nearly doubled during post-marijuana commercialization in 2009 going forward.
  • Perceived risk for marijuana use among 12th graders for regular marijuana use has been declining since the early 90’s. During this same time, daily use of pot by 12th graders has been rising and is at a 30 year high.
  • Marijuana use has been linked to higher drop out rates and stop out rates in both high school and college.

Dr. Volkow’s parting rhetorical question was, “Do we really want half of America stoned?”  And her concerned reply? “Not if we want them fully engaged.”

Consider the implications for engagement:

  • With use among US high school students now at 17.6% by 2011, we now use at rates higher than 28 of 30 comparable European countries. Scandinavian counties have youth use rates for marijuana well below 5%.
  • At the same time, among international rankings of educational achievement, the US ranks 36th in mathematics, 24th in reading, and 27th in science.
  • States that have legalized marijuana for medical purposes have significantly higher rates of marijuana use, abuse and dependence.

Keep an eye on Colorado. Society is a pourous phenomenon. Where there is more pot, more kids use. Where more kids use, school and life outcomes are diminished.

Here’s the news on Homeless as published at

Subject: Legal Marijuana Lures Homeless – American News

Legal Marijuana Lures Homeless
According to sources at CBS Denver, Colorado’s legal marijuana is attracting more than pot tourists and business entrepreneurs to the “Centennial State”. It’s also luring another group: the destitute, some of whom make their way to Colorado in hopes of obtaining employment on the marijuana business.

David Spencer, a homeless man from Tennessee, said: “There’s an enormous migration, even a homeless movement, so to speak. I figured this would be a good place to start over.”

Denver-area shelters are reported to be “quickly running out of room.” In fact, Murray Flagg of the Salvation Army stated: “We were averaging 190 (homeless) last year. We’re now averaging 345 a night.”

The executive director of St. Francis Center, Tom Luehrs, said that there is little room at his center and reiterates that the main reason the homeless are relocating to Colorado is because they are seeking employment in the new legal marijuana industry. He comments: “People see that the marijuana business has been flourishing here,” he says, “so they match up good business . . .and jobs must be available, which they are.”

He adds: “We’ve seen as many as 45 new people in one day. I think it was one of the unintended consequences of the marijuana legalization.”

The Obama administration took actions recently that will help to at least aid the new industry if not address the newly-relocated homeless population. Last Friday the White House issued new law-enforcement guidelines focused on encouraging banks to start doing business with state-licensed marijuana suppliers, despite the fact that marijuana-related businesses are still illegal under federal law.

The policy is specifically meant to deal with issues faced by Colorado’s new recreational marijuana vendors and medical marijuana dispensaries in other states, which must currently be run on “a cash-only basis” with no access to credit or any other financial services. Unfortunately, one problem remaining is that Colorado law presently requires anyone employed in the marijuana business to be a resident there for one year before he/she can be hired.