Legalizing marijuana gets hazy

This was a column written by Jenilee Wallskog and published in the Kanabec County Times on February 13, 2014. Click here to view the original column.

Marijuana is a hot topic on Capitol Hill, in the media and among peers. The daily news is bombarded with confusing messages surrounding its legalization and the desperation of people who are seeking access to its medical properties. Even President Obama was recently quoted saying, “I don’t think it is more dangerous than alcohol” referring to pot as a “bad habit and a vice.” Nowadays, if you are against the legalization of marijuana you are looked at as someone that is behind the times, a crazy radical or someone without empathy for the seriously ill that need the medicinal properties of marijuana.

You do not need to smoke or eat marijuana to benefit medically
I am not disputing that marijuana does contain a medicinal component known as CBD that is showing effectiveness in patients with epilepsy. However, you do not need to smoke or eat marijuana to benefit from its properties. The marijuana plant contains two primary cannabinoid components: CBD and THC. THC is the psychoactive ingredient that creates the “high.” CBD is the non-psychoactive ingredient that is currently being tested by the FDA to be formulated into a highly purified extract for its therapeutic potential.
Marijuana being sold is not grown for seriously ill

So, what is the big deal with marijuana then? The problem is that the weed that is being smoked today is not the weed of Woodstock. The marijuana being grown and sold today is the product of highly selective breeding process and genetic modification to induce that maximum high. The average THC level (the “high”) of marijuana in the ‘60s was below 4 percent. Today, most weed being sold has a THC level of 15-20 percent, with some strands in Colorado having a THC level of 30 percent and sold as “green crack.” How much CBD (the medical component) is being bred into these strands? Zero. CBD reduces the effect of the high and does not make a good joint. So, the “medical” marijuana being legalized and sold is not marijuana for the seriously ill. It is the marijuana for the consumer who wants the best product for his/her money and will keep coming back for it.

Less than 5 percent of card holders have life threatening illnesses or chronic pain

The average medical marijuana card holder is a 32-year-old white male with no history of chronic illness but a history with substance abuse. Less than 5 percent of all “patients” issued medical marijuana cards have life threatening illnesses or chronic pain.

One in 10 adults are addicted to marijuana

The higher THC levels in marijuana can also lead to addiction. Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug in the United States. According to the National Health Institute, one in 10 adults are addicted to marijuana and one in six adolescents who try pot before the age of 18 will abuse it or become addicted.

Consequences for youth

More teens are smoking marijuana now than tobacco. Persistent heavy use of marijuana has been scientifically shown to reduce the IQs of adolescents by 6-8 points. Here is some perspective: the average IQ score is 100, if that is reduced by 8 points, a person now falls to a 92 and is considered challenged. Marijuana abuse has also been linked to poor academic achievement and students who abuse marijuana are less likely to graduate from high school. There is also a growing body of research that marijuana may cause permanent cognitive damage in adolescents, impair memory and learning and emotional disorders.

For every $1 in tax revenue, $10 spent in societal costs

I lived in Colorado when marijuana was medically legal and during the passing of recreational legalization. I witnessed the culture shift among the youth and young adults. Marijuana was marketed to its young audience in any edible form that you could think of, including “pot tarts” and marijuana-laced energy drinks. Big marijuana companies came in and the pot shops and dispensaries soon outnumbered the coffee shops in my neighborhood. For every $1 in tax revenue is made, $10 is being spent in societal costs which include enforcement, health care and recovery resulting from addiction or marijuana-related accidents.

Learn the facts

Marijuana does not have to be an all or nothing debate. It is an opportunity to learn the facts, the current research and to be able to sit down and have a rational, honest conversation.

Jenilee Wallskog is a Coordinator of the Substance Abuse Coalition of Kanabec County (SACK). SACK is administered by Kanabec County Public Health. For more information about the coalition, visit


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