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December 19, 2014
bob opinion

You just might save a life

A few months ago, Adriane Scherrer of the consulting firm Enhancements to Your Workplace, noted 70 percent of workplace accidents were due to some form of drug impairment. It could be prescription drugs, alcohol… it could even be pot. Not likely to be heroin… if heroin addicts are still ‘vertical’ they aren’t working. They’re looking for their next fix.

She gave a number of different stats, most of which were scary. The one striking me most was the number of young people entering the workplace who already had an alcohol problem: 11 percent. I had 18 students in one of my classes at Edison this spring… statistically, two of them have an alcohol problem. Eleven percent by itself doesn’t resonate with most kids; looking around a classroom and realizing two of their classmates could be into alcohol did.

Almost without exception my Edison students are high achievers with strong goals for the future. Not likely they would be involved in drug abuse in any form, including legal drugs for adults. However a majority in every class still believed marijuana should be legalized. It is no more harmful than alcohol, they said. The students allowed that employers had the right to drug test applicants and employees. They believed, however, the “war on drugs” to be expensive and a losing proposition.

“How well did prohibition work?” one of them asked to make her point.

Not every pot enthusiast moves to the next level; at the same time Darke County’s drug team spokespersons say every heroin or meth addict they deal with started with pot or prescription drugs or both.

Some say nearly half of the ‘criminals’ populating America’s prisons are there for smoking or possessing pot. False. Government statistics reveal pot users are there because of their addiction AND the crimes they commit to pay for their addiction.

Look at Colorado’s “great experiment.” It is being lauded as the showcase for legalized marijuana. A simple Internet search will find supporters and pundits extolling its virtues: no more dollars spent trying to fight it, government controlling quality, immense tax revenues and more. A state profiting from potheads seems to be a shining goal for other states looking for untapped revenue sources.

You have to search a lot harder to find the negatives. Beyond, of course, the standard complaints about marketing to kids, marijuana cookies and the social impact on our society. No one seems to care about that.

How about this?

CBS reported in April more than a dozen explosions in the Denver area alone have been due to people cooking hash oil. This compared to 11 for the entire year in 2013. Portions of houses have been destroyed, but nobody has died yet. Maybe if they did someone will take notice, but I doubt it. For instance, drug-related highway deaths in states where pot is legal have nearly doubled. They should overtake alcohol-related deaths on state roads and highways by 2020.

Still the pundits consider it the saving grace for debt-ridden states.

Studies show marijuana dependence and abuse in young people has increased 142 percent since 1992. A May 9 Wall Street Journal article reported two deaths have occurred in Colorado from edible forms of marijuana, and there have been 79 marijuana incidents at Colorado medical facilities in the first four months of the year.

Today’s pot is not the pot my generation fell in love with in the 60s and 70s. The THC levels of pot today are five and six times greater than they were then. One in six teens who try it can expect to become addicted to it.

If they don’t end up on a slab first.

On one point I agree with my students. Law enforcement can’t solve this epidemic. But you can. Talk to your kids. Talk to your grandkids. If you have to, scare the hell out of them. You just might save a life.

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