Letter to the Editor: Wood County Health Department speaks on marijuana referendum
Wisconsin remains 1 of 17 states without medical or recreational marijuana legalization laws. On April 2, Wood County voters will be asked to voice their opinion on a non-binding advisory referendum asking whether they feel marijuana should be legalized for recreational and/or medical use.
Many Americans who remember marijuana from the 1970s and 1980s think of it as a relatively weak drug. The marijuana in those days generally contained less than 5% delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol or THC(the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana that causes the high). Marijuana sold today at legal dispensaries often contains 25% THC with the national average around 17.1% in 2017.
Although there remains to be little scientific evidence on the effects of marijuana, there is far more researchon the drug now than there was 20 years ago. Much of that researchcautions on the effects heavy use and high potency THChas especially on mental health and youth academic achievement. A study published March 19, 2019that found a correlation between heavy, potent (≥10% THC) marijuana use and an increased risk of psychosis.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, some people who take large doses of marijuana may experience adverse effects such as anxiety, fear, distrust, or panic, and may even experience an acute psychosis, which includes hallucinations, delusions, and loss of the sense of personal identity. These reactions are distinct from longer-lasting psychotic disorders, such as schizophrenia, that may be associated with the use of marijuana in vulnerable individuals.
Colorado legalized recreational marijuana in January 2014. Findings from the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area impact report (Volume 5) show that from 2013 to 2017: marijuana related traffic deaths increased 151%; the percentage of all marijuana related traffic deaths increased 86.4%; highway seizures increased 39%; U.S. mail system seizures increased 1,042%; violent crime increased 18.6%; and property crime increased 8.3%. This task force also conducted 144 investigations of black market marijuana in Colorado.
Washington State’s marijuana impact report published in 2017 shows youth (12-17) accounted for 64.9% of all state marijuana seizures in 2015 as compared to 29.9% in 2010. Nearly all of the 889 THC qualitative cases examined by the Washing State Crime Laboratory were associated with minors.
In Wood County, officers are seeing marijuana oils and concentrates in electronic vaping devices that make the drug much harder to detect from the lack of odor that typically comes from smoking marijuana. In 2016, Wood County officers seized 6,713.1 grams of processed marijuana including edibles, and 85 marijuana plants.
We are asking voters to do their research and carefully consider their answer to the referendum on April 2. It helps to be an informed voter, and your vote makes a difference.Some free resources available online are the documentary, Chronic State, and the Marijuana in Wisconsinreport, June 2016, published by the Wisconsin State Council on Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse, Marijuana Ad-hoc Committee. We also welcome direct communication to any of our law enforcement agencies to speak with officers about how marijuana affects our communities.
Wood County Health Department
Wisconsin Rapids, WI