Recreational marijuana in Missouri? ‘Run!’ say experts who warn of the dire social consequences

He’d confiscated both a shotgun and a rifle from his friend on separate occasions, and once may have prevented the friend from shooting a utility worker while in a fit of delusion.

Then, one day, the friend was found hanging from his little girl’s swingset – a suicide Roger Murphy blames directly on chronic marijuana use.

“Murphy” – who asked not to use his real name – was once a paid petition gatherer in another state, much like the ones crisscrossing Missouri in recent weeks to put recreational marijuana on the ballot in November. The group pushing the constitutional amendment, Legal Missouri 2022, says it already has enough signatures but will keep collecting them until the May 8 deadline to make sure.

Murphy never canvassed for marijuana – and he says he never would, after watching a classmate “fry his brain” with marijuana in school, and years later being unable to save his dear friend from suicide.

“I saw my friend die,” he told The Heartlander. “He had a serious drug problem and it was marijuana. I said to him on a fairly regular basis, ‘Trust me. I saw somebody in junior high fry their brain.’ He just couldn’t stop. If that’s not an addiction, I don’t know what is.”

What would he say to Missouri voters who are asked to sign the recreational marijuana petition?

“Run!” says Murphy. “Say ‘hell no!’ Put ‘run’ with exclamation marks after it. I can’t yell it loud enough.”

Neither can Dr. John Hagan, a Kansas City ophthalmologist, legalized marijuana opponent, and longtime editor of “Missouri Medicine,” the journal of the Missouri State Medical Association.

“There’s absolutely nothing that can be said favorable about medical marijuana, or recreational marijuana,” Hagan told The Heartlander. “Every state that has enacted recreational marijuana, it’s been a disaster. Colorado used to be one of the healthiest states in the whole nation, and largely due to recreational marijuana their healthcare parameters are in a free fall.

“These are just some of the adverse effects of recreational marijuana – not theoretical, but based on states that have enacted it.”

According to a September 2021 study by Colorado’s Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, since recreational marijuana legalization in 2013:

  • traffic deaths in which drivers tested positive for marijuana increased 138%, while all Colorado traffic deaths increased 29%.
  • “past month” marijuana use for ages 12 and older increased 26%, and is 61% higher than the national average
  • the percent of suicide incidents in which toxicology results were positive for marijuana has increased from 14% in 2013 to 29% in 2020
  • 66% of local jurisdictions in Colorado have banned medical and recreational marijuana businesses

And according to Cannabis Industry Victims Educating Litigators (CIVEL), health risks of marijuana use include: psychosis; suicides; lung damage; cancer; brain damage; and neonatal exposure. Marijuana use also is strongly associated with a heightened risk of schizophrenia, according to a 2017 National Academies of Sciences Engineering and Medicine report.

“Adolescents are particularly vulnerable to harm, given the effects of cannabis on neurological development,” says the American Psychiatric Association.

“There is significant evidence linking cannabis use and suicide, especially in teens and young adults,” adds the CIVEL report.

CIVEL, which makes no bones about its mission to educate “lawyers on how to make the marijuana industry accountable to the many victims of the marijuana industry,” says even the few FDA-approved marijuana-based medicines come with stark warnings.

One, for Marinol, says, “may cause psychiatric and cognitive effects and impair mental and/or physical abilities. Avoid use in patients with psychiatric history.” A warning for Epidiolex says use may cause liver damage, “somnolence and sedation, suicidal behavior and ideation.”

Would such consumer warnings accompany recreational marijuana? Hagan notes there would be no such tight regulation of recreational weed or its inclusion in “edibles,” which he says causes “a disproportionate number of pediatric admissions” to hospitals.

It’s not just the young who are at risk. Colorado’s rate of suicide among veterans is “significantly higher than the national rate,” says a 2021 article, adding that the upward trend in Colorado “seems to mirror the increased commercialization of marijuana …”

What’s the harm in just having a vote? For one thing, Hagan says, “We don’t let people vote about whether heroin should be legal, and (modern marijuna) is just as potent as as heroin.”

For another thing, Hagan says the “mainstream” media can’t be trusted to properly inform voters of marijuana’s personal and societal impact. And for another thing, Hagan says he and other medical professionals willing to speak against legalized marijuana – while so many stay silent – are badly outgunned by the billion-dollar industry.

“We’re just being overwhelmed. We’re overwhelmed by money,” he says.

“What we need,” says Murphy, “are the people who have the evidence that it’s harmful to come out of the woodwork.”

In the meantime, voters should be careful what petitions they sign, Hagan says – especially since it’s difficult to establish whether canvassers are giving petition signers accurate information. The issue must be clearly spelled out on the petition form, however.

Missouri law allows petition circulators, many of whom are paid, to be from out of state – and to register after collecting signatures. In contrast, Arizona law requires pre-registration of paid and out-of-state canvassers. Moreover, Arizona says, “Anyone circulating a candidate petition or an initiative or referendum petition must meet the qualifications to register to vote in Arizona.”

Missouri’s loose regulations on collection of initiative signatures means the state’s voters desperately need to educate themselves on the issues – particularly one as fraught with risk as recreational marijuana, Hagan says.

Legal Missouri 2022 needs signatures of 8% of those who voted in the last gubernatorial election, coming from at least six of the state’s eight congressional districts. That amounts to about 170,000 valid signatures. Legal Missouri says it has 200,000.

Still, the Missouri Secretary of State’s office says that “even the best-organized petitions have historically lost about 20% of their submitted signatures to invalidation, if not more.” And historically, Missouri marijuana petitions have seen 40% or more of their signatures invalidated.

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