Pin It
Caseythoughts Now that our delegates for 'democracy' in Albany have passed a budget (by law supposed to be a 'balanced' budget but if I used their balancing methods I'd be in a debtor's prison a la Dickens), we now may be witness to their wrangling over 'legalization' of marijuana as a recreational drug. The camel's nose is in the tent and it smells money. Big money.

Just to give you a taste of the dollars involved in the cannabis equation, here's a couple of numbers to help you realize why 'follow the money' is relevant to this wrangling. Projections are that legal cannabis sales are growing (will grow) at an annual rate of 15-20%, a global market of $150 billion a year as we progress into this coming decade, and most of this market is cash for some reason, which is why the banking industry is so hesitant to get involved. Cash invites illicit business such as drug running, child pornography, and money laundering. These concerns are allegedly addressed by what is called 'Suspicious Activities Reporting' but we can bet that some states are finding ways to circumvent this federal restriction. California raised $950 million in taxes since 2014, just as an example. It's a big business and with that kind of money changing hands you can also bet that our sticky-fingered friends and lobbyists are looking for ways to join and extend the party.

So, Point One: Drug testing and jobs. You're no doubt aware that it is a 'tight' labor market, evidenced by more available jobs than potential takers, an unemployment rate hovering at 3.8% (I've never seen a number like that) and less and less resistance to hourly pay rates up to $15.00 across the spectrum of employers. But, what about the issue of drug testing and safe job sites?

According to Quest Diagnostics Inc., which does a huge business in drug testing in the country, job applicants in states where legalization has occurred are flunking drug screens at a higher rate than the national average, which is not surprising, but more than just anecdotal. An example: transportation and warehouse applicants in California tested positive for marijuana (THC in the urine/oral swab) usage 60% more often in 2017 than 2015, directly attributable to legalization in 2014. Note, please: Transportation and warehouse jobs are some of the most accident-prone occupations.

Joseph's Gourmet Pasta in Massachusetts reported that the company recently had to hire one hundred 'temps' from New Hampshire for their assembly line because they could not fill their openings with Massachusetts applicants due to failed drug screening. Again, assembly line jobs are more high risk than many occupations for on the job injuries.

What's disconcerting, in my mind, are reports that companies are now dropping marijuana from their screens, or raising the 'threshold for failure' so they can continue to expand job opportunities and openings. In other words, regular usage would or could become the norm for assembly line, warehouse and transportation workers. And when will we begin to see lawsuits challenging employers on the 'constitutionality' of drug testing? When will unions (highly representative of the Northeast and West Coast blue collar workers) begin to object to drug screening as a requirement for hiring, or retention?

One other note in this ongoing debate. Debate? This is a steamroller fueled by money with ramifications that can only begin to be realized in employment, education, and just everyday safety. Any other law considered by state legislatures can be debated with reasonable arguments, research, hearings, but this movement with potentially devastating consequences is being driven by greed, billions of dollars of it, and people who quite possibly have been smoking the substance for years and claim it is harmless. ("Use only as directed"? Or, perhaps, "Smoke responsibly"?) In any case, there appears to be a rush to legalize it, but no real debate as to the legal ramifications and responsibilities such as we have for alcohol usage.

An international team led by King's College in London (reputable, I would think) analyzed cannabis consumption and psychiatric records of 2100 people in 11 cities. These were daily users of 'weed' that contained, according to the study, approximately 10% or higher THC (many ingestible forms such as Gummi bears, brownies and cannabis infused drinks contain from 15-25% THC, and my experience here in Ithaca and elsewhere is that 'street weed' was typically 15-18% THC and stayed in the bloodstream of regular users for at least a month) so this test was at the low end of 'potency'. These 2100 people were, according to the study, five times more likely to suffer what is described as 'psychosis' requiring ER and hospitalization, than non-users who were matched for demographic characteristics.

The size of the survey is respectable and significantly sound, and the matching of demographic characteristics is important, being called a 'case-control' for age, gender and other characteristics.

These psychotic incidents/episodes could very well be singular episodes, or considering that 16-25 year-olds are particularly noted for onset and initial signs of schizophrenia, parents, lawmakers, health care providers and law enforcement officials are rightfully frightened. But their voices are being drowned out by people who show up at public meetings voicing William F. Buckley's 1966 comment about marijuana being 'a harmless giggle'. Well, folks, this is not your father's marijuana these days, nor is it the skunk weed that Buckley smoked. It's highly potent, and although it certainly doesn't belong in the Class I level of 'dangerous' drugs like heroin or cocaine, it is addicting to many who partake, and that is a proven fact.

And, I have plenty of experience in seeing its effects. For many, it may have no other effect than a couple of glasses of wine, or a few beers. But, may I point out that two glasses of wine or two beers can easily put most people into the "ability impaired' category, and THC doesn't dissipate nearly as quickly since it is not water soluble. We don't want that wine or other alcohol in the bloodstream of people driving, or in the workplace. There are plenty of incidents where marijuana and other drugs have been implicated in fatalities of users and bystanders in transportation accidents, industrial accidents. And, for quite a few of those who are currently using or will use once it becomes legal and sanctioned by the state, it will no longer be a harmless giggle. It will be dangerous, especially to our youth who will be able to obtain it just as they are still quite able to obtain alcohol (have you heard of alco-pops?) and of course there's currently the rage of vaping with candy flavored e-cigarettes. Next?

But, money is talking, talking, talking, dominating the conversation, especially in a high-tax state that needs more and more of your money for various nefarious reasons. Lottery tickets? Not enough to feed the monster. Alcohol? Not enough to feed the monster. Both lottery and alcohol were touted as being useful in closing budget gaps in many states. Marijuana in smoke-able form, edibles, infused drinks? Hey, if it 'worked' in California and Colorado (depending on what you consider 'works', looking at accident rates, emergency room visits, etc), shouldn't New Yorkers get a chance to join the party? After all, these nay-sayers are a bunch of Chicken Littles anyway. Full speed ahead, they will tell us, and, by the way, watch out for that truck heading toward you, watch out for the health care worker who smoked a joint last night, watch out for the teacher or day care provider who think it's a 'harmless giggle'.


Pin It