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Caseythoughts I feel pretty certain (maybe not exactly metaphysical certitude, but fairly solid ground) that by the end of 2019 we New Yorkers will watch a bill get through the New York legislature and signed by Andrew Cuomo setting up the legal framework and parameters of what is misleadingly called 'recreational marijuana' legalization.

Now, I've a fair amount to say on this matter, and will progress logically, but first it's only fair to put my background (fair disclosure, let's say) 'out there' for all to see. In other words, I have some bias/experience that I need to explain so you know why I think the way I do.

First, you should know (if you haven't already perceived) that I am a recovering addict and alcoholic, eighteen years and counting in recovery, but always on my 'first day' of recovery. The addiction was to cannabis, almost as long as alcohol addiction. 'Back in the day', as we oldsters like to say (to our children and grandchildren?) marijuana was relatively cheap and easy to obtain. It is a fact that marijuana forty years ago had about 2-3% THC content, which I feel obligated to point out is the chemical that gets you high. But you knew that, at least the second part; the percentage may surprise you.

From the age of 17 to 49 I smoked a lot of that stuff in combination with alcohol and my circle of friends did, as well. It spawned a lot of creative thinking (at least it seemed that way to us), a lot of unique music and of course a lot of stupid behavior. In Viet Nam it was a lot more potent and was frequently laced with opium. Those of us who were there don't dispute claims that a significant percentage of our casualties in that conflict were due to alcohol and drug consumption. There was plenty of 'weed' in the military and out, and not even a security clearance kept us from usage. Many of our generation grew up with it, and many of us grew out of it.

I also spent ten years following my radio career as an alcohol and drug counselor, both inpatient and out patient, and saw all sides of the drug usage in society, especially here in Ithaca. I rarely met anyone in that time who didn't start using marijuana around the age of thirteen or fourteen.

But some of my generation never stopped using it and it is this small but vocal group, along with monied interests, that is on the cutting edge and verge of the final 'pipe dream': convincing New York not only to legalize it as a 'recreational drug' but in reality condone its usage by regulating it and taxing it. The politics of this movement, in a moment.

Let me give you a few thoughts to chew on. Not statistics, which can and do lie, especially in the hands of its proponents, not research (which in many cases is outdated and used nefariously by supporters of legalization), just verifiable 'other facts' which I can cite, and you can search and verify for yourself from creditable news sources.

From the Financial Times: ABInBev, the world's largest brewer (Budweiser, one brand of many in that stable) is teaming up with Canadian company TilRay to research cannabis-infused drinks. Each of these companies is investing $50 million "to research how recreational cannabis drinks might be brought to market, exploring factors including flavoring and length of high." (From a press release).

TilRay, by the way, has already teamed up with Novartis, a huge pharmaceutical company, to develop and market medical marijuana.

More? Altria, maker of Marlboro cigarettes, has struck a deal with Canadian marijuana grower Cronos worth $2.4 billion (Canadian). Altria, by the way, reported last month it had bought Juul Labs for 12 billion dollars...Juul is the premier developer of the vaping device for nicotine 'vaping', and Altria also reported a drop in cigarette sales of almost 5% last year. Just covering their bases for the stockholders, I guess. By the way, the AB/TilRay deal is going to also involve LaBatts beer.

More? Opiant Pharmaceuticals, Inc, (according to Wall Street Journal) has inked a deal with French company Sanofi SA to develop and commercialize a "potential cannabinoid overdose treatment". Opiant is the maker of Narcan, the anti-opioid antidote carried by first responders (and more than a few addicts). The name of the cannabis overdose drug is currently 'Drinabant', an antagonist (read: antidote) that is intended to be injected in 'an emergency room setting'.

You say you've been told that a person can't overdose on cannabis? Guess again, and find out how Colorado emergency rooms are dealing with significant numbers of children ingesting their parent's infused gummi bears, brownies, and chocolates and soft drinks, rushed to hospitals for psychotic episodes and other emergency treatment. All of this is available for you to find out in various news dispatches from reliable sources. I have not relied upon any internet source for these news releases or information.

More? Last week's Ithaca Times headlined: "Wine and Weed? Liquor Store Association Plans for Legalized Marijuana in New York State".

Steven Kalogridis, president of the Association, is quoted saying selling marijuana and its associated 'ingestibles' would be "beneficial and boost alcohol sales".

He says combining the Liquor Authority with a 'marijuana authority' would be beneficial to the state. I'll bet. A licensing authority already rife with backroom deals, questionable licensing processes and continuing failure to stop underage drinking will now look for another venue and source of sales and potential addiction. Alcohol abuse is already the cause of thousands of deaths on American highways as well as tens of thousands of related deaths and chronic disease and now we're thinking about putting cannabis into beer, on shelves of liquor stores and attempting to regulate and tax its sale to those over 21 years of age.

These advocates will utilize the idea that they can control its use by those under 21. In reality they are looking to bolster their bottom line because liquor sales have a tendency to drop where and when cannabis has been legalized.

As far as who else might sell the legalized and taxed (watch for these advocates to say that portions of the tax proceeds will go to counseling efforts, as if that has helped other addictions), Ithaca seems well positioned to take advantage of this cash bonanza. Why do you think those 'head shops', vape stores and now an innocuously named 'CBD' store are staying in business? Yes, I know, the CBD store is claiming it is not interested in selling cannabis. These stores are biding their time, knowing that legalization is coming and they're ready: with pipes, bongs and all the fixin's which we of the sixties were once familiar with.

Now, how about the issues surrounding usage? Impaired driving? No test exists that can stand up in court to prove impairment of driving abilities with cannabis usage. The breathalyzer that has been so effective in bringing DWI/DUI/DWAI cases to court, suspending licenses and convicting those who maim and kill under alcohol's influence has not been duplicated for cannabis and may never be, as lawyers are lined up ready to claim unreliability and privacy issues.

How about usage on the job? My experience as a counselor in Felony Drug Court showed that marijuana (THC) stays in the bloodstream for at least ten days, frequently longer. Habitual users showed THC in their urine 28 days and longer, and it was a long running argument in Drug Court as to how long THC in a urine screen could be detected. One thing is sure, and proven: THC is not water soluble, as it tends to adhere to fat molecules, so it is not washed out of the system like opioids, cocaine or even alcohol. It stays around for awhile, and some research indicates it has been found in the brain (remember, the brain is basically a glob of fat) after up to two years of abstention. And who is to say they could successfully argue what is 'impairment', even in an automobile, or operating heavy equipment? Hmmm...

So, New York state will encourage it (tax abatements for growers and a so-called 'boon' for agricultural interests), regulating it the same way the state regulates horse racing, casinos, lottery games, liquor and cigarettes, and then make us feel good because a part of the tax receipts will go to addiction counseling (who remembers the fiction about gasoline taxes going to maintain our roads?). The governor now claims that NY has a deficit of over two billion dollars in 2019. This is a reason to legalize another recreational drug? Remember when I told you that the THC content in the 60's and 70's was about 2-3% THC? It's now testing around 15-18% and the indigestibles (like gummi bears, brownies, chocolate pieces) are up to 25% THC. You can bet that one of the reasons liquor stores want to sell it is for the maintenance of their 'captive audience'.

And, if it's legalized, will any business/employer be allowed to test for THC as a pre-condition for employment, or during employment? My bank teller, the truck driver, the construction worker, the union member, all claiming that if it's legal, then how dare you refuse me employment, or fire me? It's not like showing up to work with a blood alcohol reading, right? And, is marijuana usage now to be allowed for Felony Drug Court participants? Family Drug Court participants? If it's legal, can someone be charged with endangering the welfare of a minor if it is smoked in the home?

And since the governor is so fond of doing things 'for the children of New York State', then how will he justify kids being able to bring cannabis-infused candy into school? The only way it could be detected is by drug sniffing dogs, and those dogs (if they're even allowed in the schools anymore) aren't allowed anywhere near the kid? How about a teacher who smokes it, even 'outside of school hours'?

I'll concede one thing in this argument. I know cannabis has a salutary effect for people undergoing chemo-therapy for cancer. It gives them an appetite and curbs nausea. And, there is some evidence that cannabis can relieve certain (not all, by any means) pain conditions. I also think that it may have a somewhat positive effect on recovering alcoholics and addicts, but my 12-Step thinking reminds me that 'a drug is a drug is a drug' and historically speaking, Freud thought cocaine would be a great way to cure opiate addiction. Our thinking of substituting one drug for another has frequently led to 'solutions' that beget more problems, such as suboxone and methadone. Medical use does not include the sham being perpetrated in California by certain licensing agents that grant a 'cannabis use' card in 24 hours to anyone applying for one, much as a license for a 'support animal' license is obtainable online.

'Recreational' marijuana is no such thing. It is being foisted on us by people who have used it for years, by people who see profit in potential human destruction and have used false and misleading information on its 'benevolent aspects' for years. And it is being pushed upon the country by those who do not have the nation's, especially our children's, health and welfare in mind. William Buckley's 'harmless giggle' (1966 in the National Review) has turned into a multi-billion dollar gamble/bonanza, and not only in New York State, but Tompkins County in particular, since the county probably smells and senses the pipe dream of extra dollars. Lots of them, the public be damned, if counties can make the decision to opt in or out of permitted sale permits. Full speed ahead, Tompkins County legislature, and give a shout-out to Albany lawmakers. All we have to do is 'follow the money'.

Don't say I didn't warn you, friends. This stuff is coming to our towns, our schools, and our highways and workplace.

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