Inspire! Topic: Marijuana- What to Know Before You Vote

Inspire! Topic: Marijuana-What to Know Before You Vote
Saturday, October, 20, 2018

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Let me start by saying my own attitude about legalizing marijuana has changed each time we’ve discussed it – and not because I’m easily swayed or fickle. I just find that this is an incredibly complex issue – far more so than when the topic first started being raised.

I believe there are legitimate reasons to legalize this substance that has been used throughout history for both medical and sacred purposes. And I have genuine concerns about what may happen if marijuana is legalized given its risks and the rule of unintended consequences. I am confident that our speakers today will do an excellent job of presenting the pros and cons to passing Proposition 1, so I want to provide a little historical sociological background for the conversation. 

We start in the early 1900’s just after the Mexican Revolution. This was a time when there was a lot of immigration from Mexico and they brought with them cannabis – as a medicine and as a relaxant. They called it “marihuana”.

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Americans knew that cannabis was an ingredient in almost all of their medicines. But the word “marihuana” was new to them. So, when the media began to play on the fears that the public had about these new citizens by falsely spreading claims about the “disruptive Mexicans” with their dangerous native behaviors including marihuana use, the rest of the nation did not know that this “marihuana” was a plant they already had in their medicine cabinets.

 El Paso, Texas wanted an excuse to search, detain and deport Mexican immigrants. That excuse become the newly outlawed marijuana.

El Paso, Texas wanted an excuse to search, detain and deport Mexican immigrants. That excuse become the newly outlawed marijuana.

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During hearings on marijuana law in the 1930’s, claims were made about marijuana’s ability to cause men of color to become violent and solicit sex from white women. This imagery became the backdrop for the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 which effectively banned its use and sales.

 But in 1996, things began to change when California became the first state to approve the use of marijuana for medical purposes, ending its 59-year reign as an illicit substance with no medical value. Recreational marijuana is now legal in nine states and medical marijuana is legal in 30 states. And new research is taking place that would have seemed impossible just a few years ago.

But in 1996, things began to change when California became the first state to approve the use of marijuana for medical purposes, ending its 59-year reign as an illicit substance with no medical value. Recreational marijuana is now legal in nine states and medical marijuana is legal in 30 states. And new research is taking place that would have seemed impossible just a few years ago.

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Which brings us to today and the legislation we will vote on in November. As I said when I started, this is a complex issue. The possible relationship between marijuana use and mental health is especially complicated. On one hand, many patients with psychiatric disorders use cannabis and report improvement in their symptoms. Patients use cannabis for symptoms of PTSD, anxiety disorders, depression, ADHD, chronic pain, insomnia, and opiate dependence.

On the other hand, marijuana can trigger psychotic episodes. Recent studies have found that there’s a significant connection between heavy marijuana use and a diagnosis of schizophrenia, as well as a possible link between marijuana use and the development of bipolar disorder. Heavy users are also more likely to say they have suicidal thoughts.

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What makes this complicated is that it’s hard to establish the arrow of causality. Are people who smoke marijuana more likely to develop mental health problems? Or are people with mental health problems more likely to smoke marijuana?

In the end, I truly believe that we all have the best of motives in our hearts. We want people to be happy and healthy – all of us. And that kind of outcome requires all of us to be part of the solution – to hang in there through difficult conversations when not everyone agrees with us. To be willing to see something we thought we knew from a different point of view. To be compassionate and understanding and respectful of each other and to treat each other with basic human dignity.