Marijuana, tobacco, treated very differently by the government

When it comes to tobacco and marijuana, public policies appear headed in contradictory directions.  For years, candy cigarettes have been criticized as providing children a gateway to tobacco smoking. In similar fashion, the federal government banned candy and fruit-flavored cigarettes in 2009 as part of an effort to reduce youth smoking.

Yet in Colorado, the legalization of marijuana has produced a rash of candy products infused with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main psychoactive ingredient in pot. THC products include everything from gummy bears to caramels. In some cases, a single piece of candy is the recommended dose, yet packages contain numerous pieces. Once opened, those products can easily be mistaken for traditional candies that are eaten in far larger quantities.

It doesn’t take a genius to see what comes next.

Marshall Allen, writing for ProPublica, recently noted that some children in Colorado are being exposed to THC products. Dr. Andrew Monte, a medical toxicologist at the University of Colorado Medical School and Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center, told Allen a poison control call occurs every few days involving a child accidentally eating marijuana products. Similar anecdotal reports are coming from emergency room doctors. In some cases, those children undergo CT scans and spinal taps before the patient’s problem is identified.

“What kid doesn’t want a brownie or a gummy bear?” Monte said.

Cigarette vending machines were once common in the United States, but are rare today because of concerns about youth access. Yet in Colorado, a company has unveiled the first-ever marijuana vending machine. It supposedly has safeguards to prevent youth access, but it’s hard to believe they will prove effective.

These developments are worth noting because some in Oklahoma wish to enact similar pro-marijuana policies here. In the governor’s race, two candidates are running on pro-marijuana platforms: Oklahoma City attorney Chad Moody is challenging incumbent Gov. Mary Fallin in the Republican primary, while 34-year-old motorcyclist Joe Sills is challenging Fallin as an independent candidate.  Moody bills himself as “the drug lawyer.” Among other things, his website advises citizens to “never answer police questions” and “never open your door to a stranger, including police.”

In the state’s open U.S. Senate race, state Sen. Connie Johnson of Oklahoma City is seeking the Democratic nomination. She is a longtime proponent of marijuana legalization.  At the same time, an initiative petition has been filed with the Oklahoma Secretary of State’s Office seeking a statewide vote to legalize “medical” marijuana. That group has 90 days to gather 155,216 valid voter signatures to place the measure on the ballot.

In evaluating those candidacies and causes, citizens shouldn’t ignore the early lessons of Colorado, nor the ripple effects in neighboring states. In Oklahoma, law enforcement officials report an increase in drug trafficking that originates in Colorado. And the social impacts of marijuana legalization have not been limited to children’s accidental THC exposure.

“The state of Colorado and the state of Washington are seeing significant, both social and enforcement, issues,” Ricky Adams, chief of the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, recently told The Oklahoman’s editorial board. “It’s not all money and tax dollars.”

Practices that have long been discouraged when associated with tobacco are now being nonchalantly embraced in support of marijuana, even as the crackdown on tobacco use (and users) continues.

Perhaps history really does repeat itself — as farce.

Source:   The Oklahoman April 22, 2014  

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