Voices of Alaska: Marijuana industry no golden goose

When is a “golden goose” really a black vulture? Answer: When it preys on our children, families and workforce.

A recent opinion piece in the Anchorage Daily News by a “child of the 60s and 70s” called marijuana taxes a “cash cow” for the Municipality, state and nation. Let’s review the facts.

This black vulture is after our kids. Marijuana use by high school kids has increased in the last three years and our own Alaska data show that 11 percent of kids who have used marijuana tried it before age 13. The Anchorage School District has more than doubled the suspension numbers for using or carrying it in school, with Middle school suspensions ballooning from one student in 2015 to 26 students in 2017. And it’s not harmless. Teachers could tell you about the significant debilitating effects on their students who use marijuana, effects corroborated by research. Adolescents who consume marijuana regularly, on average, permanently suffer an eight-point decline in their IQ, according to a 2012 study from Duke University researchers.

Why does this matter? Pediatricians from Boston Children’s Hospital say there is ample evidence that marijuana users, especially adolescents, have much higher rates of mood disorders and psychotic disorders, loss of motivation, lower functioning at school and at work and cognitive deficits. Research documents a 159 percent increase in psychotic-like experiences in youth using marijuana.

Addiction to marijuana is very real for adults and even more so for adolescents. Adolescents who use marijuana are more likely to misuse prescription opioid medications, too. Pediatric addiction specialists report that nearly all their patients with opioid addiction first used marijuana heavily.

Pregnant women are the prey of this black vulture. Some have promoted marijuana as safe for use during pregnancy to treat nausea, aches and pains. Nothing could be further from the truth. There is no safe level of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC, the active substance in marijuana). THC crosses the placenta to the unborn baby and is carried in breast milk to the newborn baby.

Advocates say a marijuana “high” is better and mellower than alcohol. Tell that to the family and friends of people injured or killed by marijuana impaired drivers. Our Anchorage Police Department has now deployed specially trained officers to identify drug impaired drivers. Earlier this year, an Anchorage man was convicted of manslaughter due to marijuana impaired driving.

Marijuana tax income is not a golden goose from a fairy tale. It’s a very real black vulture, predating on our children, families and workforce. The social, educational, public safety and unemployment costs of marijuana will rapidly consume any tax revenue dollars and more.

Senator Cathy Giessel, MS, Registered Nurse (RN), Advanced Nurse Practitioner (APRN), Fellows of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (FAANP).

Cathy Giessel represents District N (Northeast Anchorage, Anchorage Hillside, Indian Bird, Girdwood & Portage) in the Alaska Senate and has served in the Legislature since 2011, where she currently chairs the Senate Resources Committee.

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