Derrick Knutson at the East Central Minnesota Review reports in Legislators talk about session, marijuana that Bob Barrett (R-Lindstrom) holds very sincere and heartfelt opinions about marijuana. From the sounds of Knutson's description, Barrett was unprompted when he brought the topic up during a Chisago County Board of Commissioners meeting August 7.
Barrett and Senator Sean Neinow (R-Cambridge) dropped by the board meeting to talk about legislative actions this past session. Knutson reports:
After addressing Robinson’s query [“What was the best thing that happened in the session, and what was the worst thing?”], Barrett touched on what will likely be a hot-button piece of legislation next session: House File 1818. . . .
“That is the issue of medical marijuana,” he said. “It will be coming up for a vote next spring. Right now, Gov. Dayton has said he will not support it unless he can get public safety to buy into it.” . . .
Barrett doesn't support the bill, either, though he opposes it for different reasons than the Governor:
Barrett said he realizes people with severe illnesses can and do use marijuana for pain and nausea management, but he’s not in favor of the proposed legislation, which has more than 30 cosponsors.
“Marijuana is the second most addictive drug in the country behind alcohol — about 4.2 million people are addicted,” he said. “I really worry about the health and safety of our youth. They’re doing fewer hard drugs, drinking alcohol less, smoking cigarettes less, but they’re doing two things more: Smoking more marijuana and using more prescription drugs. This is an issue that is deep in my heart. … You can tell where I’m at with it.”
Barrett's summary of youth drug use is likely drawn from the CDC's National Youth Risk Behavior Survey, which last released results in 2011. Other more recent research--of people admitted to treatment in the Twin Cities in the 2012--reveals that alcohol-related addiction lead the way, followed by heroin and other opiates, with pot coming in third.
It's curious how Barrett defines "most addictive" in terms of number of people addicted. CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Sanjay Gupta recently reported in Why I changed my mind on weed:
We now know that while estimates vary, marijuana leads to dependence in around 9 to 10% of its adult users. By comparison, cocaine, a schedule 2 substance "with less abuse potential than schedule 1 drugs" hooks 20% of those who use it. Around 25% of heroin users become addicted.
The worst is tobacco, where the number is closer to 30% of smokers, many of whom go on to die because of their addiction.
There is clear evidence that in some people marijuana use can lead to withdrawal symptoms, including insomnia, anxiety and nausea. Even considering this, it is hard to make a case that it has a high potential for abuse. The physical symptoms of marijuana addiction are nothing like those of the other drugs I've mentioned. I have seen the withdrawal from alcohol, and it can be life threatening.
According to the 2010 NSDUH, marijuana accounted for 4.5 million of the estimated 7.1 million Americans dependent on or abusing illicit drugs.
the likelihood of a user getting hooked is much lower than drugs like cocaine, heroin and tobacco, and the consequences of addiction are comparatively mild.
As far as medical marijuana goes, Gupta notes that it is much more effective in easing pain than the perscription drugs Barrett fears--and with far fewer consequences:
Keep in mind that up until 1943, marijuana was part of the United States drug pharmacopeia. One of the conditions for which it was prescribed was neuropathic pain. It is a miserable pain that's tough to treat. My own patients have described it as "lancinating, burning and a barrage of pins and needles." While marijuana has long been documented to be effective for this awful pain, the most common medications prescribed today come from the poppy plant, including morphine, oxycodone and dilaudid.
Here is the problem. Most of these medications don't work very well for this kind of pain, and tolerance is a real problem.
Most frightening to me is that someone dies in the United States every 19 minutes from a prescription drug overdose, mostly accidental. Every 19 minutes. It is a horrifying statistic. As much as I searched, I could not find a documented case of death from marijuana overdose.
Somehow, we doubt that Barrett will change his mind soon and support efforts of law enforcement in the latter state to encourage users to "listen to Dark Side of the Moon at a reasonable volume."
Photo: Police label on Doritos for Seattle Hempfest. Perhaps Dayton would sign a medical marijuana bill if Minnesota law enforcement would be this creative.
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