Thorner: Will wiser heads prevail in Illinois Senate on medical marijuana?

May 1, 2013

Thorner

 

On Wednesday, April 17, Illinois Republican House members crossed the aisle and gave State Rep. Lo Lang (D-Chicago) what he had been strongly advocating for and pushing over several years, the legalization of medical pot (House Bill 0001). The bill was passed in the House by a narrow vote of 61 to 57, having been defeated in the House twicebefore.  Nine Republicans House members crossed over to vote with most of the Democrats, including Republican House Minority Leader, Tom Cross. The bill now advances to the Illinois Senate where it is expected to pass, as  back in 2009 the Senate approved a similar and even more far reaching version of the bill. If approved by the Senate, Illinois will join 17 other states and the District of Columbia in permitting the use of medical marijuana.

What makes the vote in the IL House even more egregious, beyond the bill’s negative results on the citizenry of Illinois and especially its young people, is that two Lake County Republican House members voted in the affirmative, JoAnn Osmond, 61st District, and Barbara Wheeler, 64th District.  Their pro-marijuana votes helped put HB 0001 over the top by its narrow margin.  Their votes also gave cover toone Lake County Democrat representative to vote “No” on the bill, Scott Drury, 58th District, who just happen to live in a conservative-leaning districts.  With the 9 crossover Republican House votes, Democrats could afford to lose a total of 12 Democratic votes and still manage to squeak out a victory on HB 1.

My concern about youth and marijuana has remained intense since the Illinois House passed HB 0001.  Marijuana IS a gateway drug to cocaine and heroin, often triggered when teen “highs” from marijuana diminish in intensity, as they gradually do, leading teens to experiment with other and harsher drugs for a bigger kick.

An article published on January 3 of this year, honed in on scientific evidence that teens suffer brain damage from smoking pot.  Following is one  excerpt of a rather lengthy article:

A teen smoking only two joints of pot per week could suffer severe emotional harm before damage to intellectual functions becomes apparent.  These behavioral, rather than physical traits, include losing interest in school and extracurricular activities and withdrawal from family members. Their friends are mostly other drug users.  Nearly 60% of regular marijuana users have at least one co-occurring disorder such a Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD; depression; anxiety, or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

The website for the Office of National Drug Policy includes this warning:

Marijuana and other illicit drugs are addictive and unsafe especially for use by young people.  Marijuana contains chemicals that can change how the brain works.  And the science, though still evolving in terms of long-term consequences of marijuana use, is clear:  marijuana use is associated with addition, respiratory and mental illness, poor motor performance, and cognitive impairment, among other negative effects.

The public should not be fooled into believing that marijuana is just an innocent drug and no worse than cigarette smoking.   Studies indicate that the earlier an adolescent starts smoking pot, the earlier the potential changes to brain structure and function.

It would be prudent for all IL legislators to receive a copy of the following April 25 investigative report, 2 Investigators:  Heroin Use, Deaths Up In Chicago’s Suburbs. In so doing the House could reconsider its approval of the bill.  Then to, Senators might be brought to understand the foolishness of their actions should they follow through, as anticipated, in approving marijuana for medical use here in Illinois.

A teen smoking only two joints of pot per week could suffer severe emotional harm before damage to intellectual functions becomes apparent.  These behavioral, rather than physical traits, include losing interest in school and extracurricular activities and withdrawal from family members. Their friends are mostly other drug users.  Nearly 60% of regular marijuana users have at least one co-occurring disorder such a Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD; depression; anxiety, or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

The website for the Office of National Drug Policy includes this warning:

Marijuana and other illicit drugs are addictive and unsafe especially for use by young people.  Marijuana contains chemicals that can change how the brain works.  And the science, though still evolving in terms of long-term consequences of marijuana use, is clear:  marijuana use is associated with addition, respiratory and mental illness, poor motor performance, and cognitive impairment, among other negative effects.

The public should not be fooled into believing that marijuana is just an innocent drug and no worse than cigarette smoking.   Studies indicate that the earlier an adolescent starts smoking pot, the earlier the potential changes to brain structure and function.

It would be prudent for all IL legislators to receive a copy of the following April 25 investigative report, 2 Investigators:  Heroin Use, Deaths Up In Chicago’s Suburbs. In so doing the House could reconsider its approval of the bill.  Then to, Senators might be brought to understand the foolishness of their actions should they follow through, as anticipated, in approving marijuana for medical use here in Illinois.

While heroin-related hospital admissions in Chicago are down, latest numbers show they are up by 200 percent in the suburbs. When it comes to deaths, Lake, Will and DuPage counties reported big increases last year. As CBS 2’s Dave Savini reports, drug dealers could be operating right in your own neighborhood.Police outside of Chicago are zeroing in on dope dealers, and the number-one target is heroin. CBS 2 joined the Jolietnarcotics unit on a recent undercover buy. Police moved in and an alleged dealer who is accused of selling 1.5 grams of heroin to an undercover officer for $200.

The Joliet drug unit has seized millions of dollars’ worth of heroin in just the last year.

The drug is taking a toll. Last year, 53 people died from heroin in Will County, which is up from 17 in 2008. That is a 212 percent increase in heroin-related deaths.

“I think a lot of our society is unaware of our heroin epidemic,” one of the Joliet undercover officers says. “And the fact that one time can kill you is devastating.”

After making the buy and getting a warrant, police last week entered the home and arrested Edward Peterson for selling heroin from a Joliet home next to a school and church.

“I hate heroin,” says Caroline Kacena, whose son John got hooked on heroin while a junior at Naperville’s Neuqua Valley High School. ”It took my only son and my beloved boy.”

He started using his junior year, buying it in on Central Avenue in Chicago, just off the 290 Expressway, and selling it in the suburbs to feed his own habit.

In Lake County, the sheriff recently created a new drug unit to tackle the problem.

“It’s widely used throughout Lake County,” Sgt. Gianni Giamberduca says. “It’s causing a lot of overdoses, a lot of deaths.”

Heroin makes up more than half their cases, and it is causing more deaths: 35 last year, up from 8 in 2008. That is a 338 percent increase in heroin-related deaths.

In McHenry County, Ken Chiakas’ 17-year-old daughter Stephanie, an honor roll student at Crystal Lake South High School, died in March from a heroin-related overdose.

Last year, there were 16 similar deaths in McHenry County. 

“I tried warning my kids about it,” an emotional Chiakas says. “It’s the worst feeling the world. I don’t want anyone to ever feel this pain.”

In Naperville, Kacena says the community was a great place to raise kids. But she says her son had to move away from Naperville to get away from the drug.

He returned home after six weeks. The very next day, she found him in his room — dead from heroin.

“I will think about him every moment, every breath,” Kacena says.

In DuPage County, there has been a 48-percent increase in heroin deaths since 2008.

Cook County does not track heroin deaths.

Heroin is more potent these days and often is snorted instead of injected — that means there will not be track marks.

One national survey says every year some 34,000 teens aged 12 to 17 try heroin for the first time.

1.  Allow for the creation of 59 medical marijuana stores throughout the state – one for each state senate district in a three-year pilot program.

2.  Allow for a qualified patient to get 2-1/2 ounces of marijuana every 14 days (183 joints, 13 per day).  As the most experienced marijuana drug user smokes on the average three to four joints a day, that would leave roughly 135 joints or around 1.8 ounces. Here is the catch: The patient could sell the 1.8 ounces of marijuana for $250 to $550.

3. HB 1 would permit a qualified medical marijuana patient to drive a school bus or a car 6 hours after consumption. Research shows that a single joint with a moderate level of THC can impair a person’s ability to drive for more than 24 house, slowing reaction time, impairing motor coordination, limiting short-term memory, and making it difficult to concentrate and perform complex tasks.

Who is to say that the need for medical marijuana can’t be faked or that unscrupulous doctors won’t prescribe medical marijuana use when not warranted?

What would prevent teen age medical marijuana users (or older friends or individuals) from giving what they don’t need of 13-day allotments to their buddies?

It doesn’t help that the push continues to legalize medical marijuana under the guise that marijuana use poses no danger to youthful pot smokers, nor are there likely consequences from legalization.

Do you really want marijuana easier for students to find and to purchase than it already is?  Then too, cocaine and heroin are out there to tempt and maybe even kill your children.

If passed in the Senate, and not vetoed by the governor, the medical marijuana measure would take effect on January 1st, 2014.

State senators need to be contacted.  Tell them what you think.
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