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Sioux City Journal columnist Linda Holub

Journal Regulars columnist Linda Holub is pictured.

The rush to legalize recreational marijuana and the trend to expand medical marijuana is just another social experiment. A great deal of social science research exists decrying the myth that it is low risk to society. It is short-term thinking to see this as a way to raise tax revenue and not count the high cost to society.

Kevin Sabet, former senior drug policy advisor to the White House under George W. Bush and Barack Obama, is urging Americans to prevent a public health crisis from happening by stopping the trend of legalizing recreational pot.

I applaud Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds' decision not to pursue legalizing recreational pot and preventing the expansion of medical marijuana in her state without further study related to the benefits of CBD oil without THC at a level of producing a “high.”

There are economic costs to having a population “high” at work. Production, efficiency and quality of work will suffer, in my opinion. The mental health effect is another cost to society that can’t easily be evaluated.

AAA recently conducted a study that found close to 15 million people admit to driving while high on marijuana, which makes them twice as likely to be involved in a car crash. According to Mark Jenkins, an AAA spokesman, “Marijuana significantly alters reaction times and impairs a driver’s judgment.” For the sake of the American people who could fall victim to these drivers, let’s not legalize recreational pot here in Iowa or South Dakota.

The medical marijuana bill that passed the Iowa Legislature this year removed the 3 percent cap on how much tetrahydrocannabinol (THC, the compound in a cannabis plant associated with getting a high) is contained in medical marijuana and instead limited the amount of medical cannabis a patient can be prescribed to no more than 25 grams in 90 days. Reynolds said she vetoed the legislation because the 25-gram cap would allow an individual to consume more THC per day than a recreational marijuana user. She said the state's medical cannabis advisory board recommends a cap of 4.5 grams for 90 days.

Sabet, assistant professor in the University of Florida Department of Psychiatry and author of the book “Reefer Sanity: Seven Great Myths about Marijuana," reported that in Colorado and Washington, opponents of marijuana legalization were up against three or four billionaires who invested $250 million to pursue legalization. Sabet said the marijuana industry is targeting children with edible products with colorful packaging and found that one in six teens and one in 10 adult pot users become addicted.

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Alex Berenson, author of the book "Tell Your Children: The Truth About Marijuana, Mental Illness, and Violence," found ample scientific research that rebuts the myth of marijuana use as benign. Berenson, a longtime journalist, said he had never seen a story "where the gap between insider and outsider knowledge was so great or the stakes so high.” He said advocates have been ignoring scientific research studies that reject marijuana as harmless. According to Berenson, almost everything you think you know about the health effects of cannabis and almost everything advocates and the media have told you for a generation are wrong.

A 2018 paper in the American Journal of Psychiatry showed that people who used cannabis in 2001 were almost three times as likely to use opiates three years later, which speaks to its addictive qualities. Berenson found the cannabis of today is five times more potent than the cannabis of the 1960s. The National Academy of Medicine found that teenagers who are regular users of marijuana are three times as likely to develop schizophrenia. Dr. Seena Fazel, an Oxford University psychiatrist, found that people with schizophrenia are five times as likely to commit violent crimes and 20 times more likely to commit homicide. Berenson said the most obvious way cannabis fuels violence in psychotic people is through its tendency to cause paranoia.

Sabet recommends further study on the medicinal benefits of marijuana to produce safe pharmaceuticals. One such drug is the use of Marinol, a synthetic form of THC that doesn’t get you high. It is an oral spray for cancer pain and multiple sclerosis symptoms. Its use is currently legal in Canada and Europe.

We need to stop the trend toward legalizing recreational marijuana and we have much more research to be done before considering expanding CBD oil for medicinal benefits. In my opinion, the loudest voices in these discussions are profit-oriented and not speaking on behalf of the health of American society.

Next week: Katie Colling

Linda Holub, of Dakota Dunes, S.D., has lived in the Sioux City metro area for more than 40 years. She and her husband, Dave, have four adult children. A certified life coach professional with a master of arts degree from Liberty University in Human Services, Counseling: Life Coaching, Holub is co-chair of the Siouxland Coalition Against Human Trafficking.

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