Letter connecting study, marijuana use misleading

On April 1 a letter to the editor in the Peninsula Clarion was published, authored by Stan Welles. It was an attempt to sway public opinion based on a study, “The Economic Costs of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse in Alaska, 2012 Update” from the McDowell Group. Upon actually reading the study, it did not even include marijuana as a contributing factor.

Excerpts from the McDowell group study on alcohol and substance abuse in Alaska:

A wide variety of health care costs are associated with alcohol and drug abuse, including hospital costs from injuries or illness, residential and outpatient treatment costs, pharmaceutical costs, nursing home and long-term care facility costs, and the costs of treating fetal alcohol syndrome, HIV/AIDS, and hepatitis B and C. Health care costs attributed to alcohol and drug abuse in Alaska totaled $237.3 million in 2010. (None of these ailments are caused by marijuana)

There were 45,500 days of hospital care attributed to alcohol or drug related injuries or illnesses, costing $146.5 million. Alcohol-related incidents accounted for 41,500 days of care while drug related incidents accounted for 4,000 days of care.

Though not included in total economic costs as figures have been factored in elsewhere, the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation (PIRE) estimates the total cost of underage drinking in Alaska in 2010 was $321.4 million.

Alcohol and drug abuse can be attributed to an average of 397 deaths per year from 2006 to 2010 and an estimated $424.1 million in lost production in 2010.

Males accounted for two-thirds, or 263 of premature deaths and three-quarters, or $318.7 million in lost production. Females averaged 134 deaths and $105.5 million in lost production in 2010. Alcohol is attributed to seven out of ten alcohol and drug related deaths with the largest number of deaths caused by alcoholic liver disease, suicide, and alcohol dependency syndrome. The remaining three out of ten deaths were drug related.

Nearly three-quarters of deaths attributed to substance abuse were alcohol-related. Among alcohol-related deaths, the largest contributor was alcoholic liver disease with an average of 44 annual deaths. The second largest contributor was suicide with 35 deaths per year. Other major causes of death include alcohol dependence syndrome, alcohol poisoning, alcohol abuse, alcoholic psychosis, other poisonings, and motor-vehicle traffic crashes.

My comment: Marijuana is not even in this study as a contributing factor! See for yourself. The letter is misleading and deceitful. Is our assemblyman trying to sway the public opinion with false and misleading information? This is unforgivable!

In his letter, Mr. Welles also equates the cannabis industry and its participants to ISIS suicide bombers — his own community members. This is not only offensive but threatening behavior and should be reprimanded. I cannot believe that behavior like this is tolerated in our community. I formally request Mr. Welles to retract his letter and apologize to the community members to which he accused of being terrorists.