marijuana

Letter to the Editor – Marijuana Use Should Not Be Encouraged

Dear Mr Ginsburg, Police Captain Rainsford, Governor Newsom, Mayor Breed, and the Chronicle and Richmond Review/Sunset Beacon News Editors:

I’m so dismayed to see that the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department is now organizing the marijuana festival for this Saturday 4/20 “to celebrate all things cannabis” (to quote your on-line announcement of the event). It’s bad enough that we have legalized the recreational use of a very damaging, addictive drug in our state, but now we are welcoming an estimated 20,000 drug users into our amazing Golden Gate Park to get stoned, pollute the air, cause traffic congestion, and cost tens of thousands in clean-up after the event. (Who is paying the estimated $50,000 to clean up after this event? Taxpayers?)

It sounds like the city of San Francisco, and Recreation and Park Department, which usually focuses on family events and staying active and healthy, is now condoning drug use.  What kind of message does this send to the youth of our city? Especially since the festival is right next to Children’s Playground and the smoke will fill the air for the entire day on a Saturday. I hope you have signs up in the park to warn parents not to bring their children to the park on Saturday and I especially hope there are no micro-soccer games planned on the fields next to Robin Williams Meadow on 4/20. I played soccer the day after the event last year and many players on my team, including myself, got headaches from the lingering smell and air pollution, and the day of the event I could smell the smoke almost two miles away!

I’ve written about this event in the past and got a response about how it’s too hard to contain but the fact that it wasn’t nipped in the bud (no pun intended) before it has reached this stage is ridiculous.  Should we also have festivals for cigarettes, vaping, alcohol and opioids on other meadows throughout the park?

I don’t understand how we can have a law to prohibit smoking in public places, especially parks, and then have an event that encourages smoking.  I also noticed on your on-line announcement that it would be age restricted to those over 18. Why not 21? The age restriction for recreational cannabis use in California is 21. Please at least abide by this law for your cannabis festival.

Marijuana usage is damaging to developing brains and the brain is not fully formed until around age 25 so the longer people wait to use the drug the better. (THC affects the hippocampus, thalamus, amygdala, reward center, cerebellum, cerebral cortex, etc.)

I teach Biology at San Francisco State University and cover the pros and cons of marijuana in my human biology classes (I have about 450 students in these classes every semester).  There are so many more negatives than positives with this drug.  I can see the adverse affects first hand because I have plenty of students who have admitted that they are addicted to marijuana or that they have friends that are addicted to marijuana and it’s harming their health and hindering their schoolwork, professional careers and social interactions. Our society has so much substance abuse already and we’re just going to add to it as we normalize and condone drug usage.

I have kids and don’t want them to think using marijuana is fine to use because it is so accessible, advertised everywhere we go, accepted and portrayed as something to be “celebrated” or “medicinal” (it doesn’t usually heal anything, it just alleviates certain symptoms for some people).

When I asked my students how many of them got any sort of marijuana education in elementary, middle or high school less than 10 percent of them raised their hands — most of them had no idea the adverse effects of marijuana on their bodies and for some of them it’s a little late since they are already hooked. (From the anonymous surveys I do every semester I have learned that over half of my students taking the survey have used the drug and roughly 85 percent of them feel like they know someone with an addiction problem to one or more of the top four substances being abused: cigarettes, alcohol, marijuana and vapes (in that order).

I’ve had childhood friends that have had life-long problems due to their marijuana usage as teens so I’ve seen the affects for many decades and it’s just going to get worse now that the THC content is so much higher than it used to be and people are using marijuana in so many different forms — many of which are much more potent than a regular “joint.”

I understand that medical marijuana can alleviate many symptoms for people who are in pain, have nausea, eating disorders, PTSD, anxiety, sleep issues, cancer, MS, glaucoma, etc.  The fact remains that marijuana is mostly used recreationally and advertising for marijuana on buses and in newspapers and having a festival for it in the park will further de-stigmatize this drug, making kids think it’s okay to use.

It’s an addictive drug that can cause damage to the nervous, respiratory and cardiovascular systems. It is also considered a “gateway drug” since many marijuana users build up a tolerance and need to move onto a more potent drug to get the “high” that they are craving. (It affects the dopamine receptors in the brain, which is a very important neurotransmitter that we shouldn’t be altering!)  Since legalization in other states there have been more instances of emergency room visits due to marijuana (especially children ingesting edibles), fatal car crashes, animals being subjected to marijuana, etc.

I think the Department of Recreation and Parks, Gov. Gavin Newsom, Mayor Breed, the Board of Supervisors and the Chronicle staffers should do more research on the adverse effects of marijuana before promoting more drug use in San Francisco.

Thank you for reading this and considering raising the age restriction to your festival to 21. I, of course, think you should stop the event from happening at all, (plan something else on the meadow that day and charge an admission fee), but since I can tell that is not going to happen, at least prohibit teens from your celebration of cannabis.  I think this is the worst day of the year in our neighborhood now (many of the residents near the park go out of town to avoid being here, but not everyone is able to escape). I think you all have to get together to figure out a way to not promote and condone drug use and avoid this “festival” in the future.  I’m also hoping that the Chronicle and Sunset Beacon Newspaper will have more information about the adverse affects of marijuana so that the public is better educated about this drug. We are definitely going to have more mental illness, substance abuse, health care costs and homelessness in California due to the legalization of marijuana so there is a need for more education to counter some of these affects.

Thank you,
Heather Murdock

 

References:

Claire D. Advokat, Joseph E. Comaty, Robert M. Julien.  Julien Primer of Drug Action: A comprehensive Guide to the Actions , Uses and Side Effects of Psychoactive Drugs. 13th edition.  Worth Publishers, NY 2014

Nora D. Volkow, M.D., Ruben D. Valer, Ph.D., Wilson M. Compton, M.D. and Susan R.B. Weiss, Ph.D., “Adverse Health Affects of Marijuana Use”, The New England Journal of Medicine.  June 4, 2014.

Dose-related neurocognitive effects of marijuana use
K.I. Bolla, PhD, K. Brown, MPH, D. Eldreth, BA, K. Tate, BA and J.L. Cadet, MD

http://www.neurology.org/content/59/9/1337.short

Surgeon General’s summary on alcohol and drugs for 2015

https://addiction.surgeongeneral.gov/executive-summary.pdf

Cannabis Use and Risk of Prescription Opioid Use Disorder in the United States

Mark Olfson, M.D., M.P.H., Melanie M. Wall, Ph.D., Shang-Min Liu, M.S., Carlos Blanco, M.D., Ph.D.

http://ajp.psychiatryonline.org/doi/full/10.1176/appi.ajp.2017.17040413

William J. Bennet and Robert A. White, Going to Pot: Why the Rush to Legalize Marijuana is Harming America, Center Street Hatchett Book Group, NY 2014

The Journal of Neuroscience, April 16, 2014 • 34(16):5529 –5538 • 5529  Neurobiology of Disease

Cannabis Use Is Quantitatively Associated with Nucleus Accumbens and Amygdala Abnormalities in Young Adult Recreational Users

Jodi M. Gilman, John K. Kuster, Sang Lee, Myung Joo Lee, Byoung Woo Kim, Nikos Makris,Andre van der Kouwe, Anne J. Blood, and Hans C. Breiter

Heather MurdockFundamentals of Human Biology and Health, 3rd edition, Cognella Inc., U.S.A. 2013

Melissa Healy “Regular Pot Smokers have Shrunken Brains, Study Says”, 11/14/14, L.A. Times.com

What The Mind Hungers For: The Craving Brain World Science Festival with Panel of Brain Scientists: Nora Volkow, Eric Nestler, Kim Janda, Amire Levine, 2014, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p0lL1MN2yCs

“Heroin Use in US Reaches Epidemic Numbers”, Reuters, July 7, 2015, https://www.yahoo.com/health/heroin-use-in-us-reaches-epidemic-numbers-123474454392.html

Addiction on the Brain presentation by Katie McQueen, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iSFCMOa4Xyk

Alex Dobuzinskis, “Casual pot use causes brain abnormalities in the young: study”, April 16, 2014, http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/04/16/us-usa-marijuana-study-idUSBREA3F04F20140416

Blanco C, Hasin DS, Wall MM, et al. Cannabis Use and Risk of Psychiatric Disorders: Prospective Evidence From a US National Longitudinal StudyJAMA Psychiatry. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2015.3229

https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapsychiatry/fullarticle/2491944

Psychoactive compound in cannabis may trigger the brain disorder, researchers say

April 26, 2017

American Friends of Tel Aviv University

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/04/170426124305.htm

1.     Radhakrishnan R, Wilkinson ST, D’Souza DC. Gone to Pot – A Review of the Association between Cannabis and Psychosis. Front Psychiatry. 2014;5:54. doi:10.3389/fpsyt.2014.00054.

Prenatal THC exposure causes defects to growing axons Keimpema E, Mackie K, Harkany T. Molecular model of cannabis sensitivity in developing neuronal circuits. Trends in pharmacological sciences. 2011;32(9):551-561. doi:10.1016/j.tips.2011.05.004.

“Adverse health effects of marijuana use”.Volkow ND, Baler RD, Compton WM, Weiss SRN Engl J Med. 2014 Jun 5; 370(23):2219-27. “

and it is addictive: Decreased dopamine brain reactivity in marijuana abusers is associated with negative emotionality and addiction severity.Volkow ND, Wang GJ, Telang F, Fowler JS, Alexoff D, Logan J, Jayne M, Wong C, Tomasi D
Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2014 Jul 29; 111(30):E3149-56.


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