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DAVID ROSMAN: Legalizing marijuana is a mixed bag for Missouri

Wednesday, February 12, 2014 | 2:58 p.m. CST; updated 12:04 p.m. CST, Thursday, February 13, 2014

COLUMBIA — OK, the cat is out of the bag.

With the legalization of recreational marijuana in Colorado and Washington state, we are seeing the movement come east with bills introduced by state Rep. Rory Ellinger’s, D-Union City (HB1324 and HB1325), and Rep. Chris Kelly’s, D-Columbia (HB1659).

Each is seeking major changes to the laws in the Show-Me State as it concerns cannabis.

Ellinger’s two proposals deal with the medical use of marijuana and the possession of 35 grams or less of marijuana. For those of us who are not familiar with the metric system, that is about 1.25 ounces. His bills would also remove the penalties for the possession of medical marijuana and doctors prescribing the drug for medical use.

HB 1324 and 1325 would bring Missouri into the fold of 20 other states and the District of Columbia that already permit medical use of marijuana. I can see where marijuana would help my father through his cancer with less pain and an increase in appetite. Additionally, both bills must be passed to have this happen.

HB 1659 goes much further. It includes the liquid form of marijuana and hashish and would permit an individual to possess up to 72 ounces of the drug. That is 4.5 pounds or just over two kilos of the liquid form.

I am not against the legalization of marijuana, considering the 25 percent tax being proposed by Kelly in his bill. Colorado expects $100 million in marijuana tax revenue to be added to the state coffers in the first 12 months. January alone brought in $1 million to $3 million based on a 25 percent tax levy.

Here is where I become confused. The people seeking legalization of marijuana, in many cases, are the same people who supported the anti-smoking campaigns and ordinances in Columbia and Jefferson City.

The University of Washington’s Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute reports that: “(W)hen smoking marijuana compared to tobacco, there is a prolonged and deeper inhalation and it is smoked to a shorter butt length and at a higher combustion temperature. This results in approximately 5 times the carbon monoxide concentration, 3 times the tar, and the retention of one-third more tar in the respiratory tract.”

So why legalize the drug if the harmful effects are greater than those of tobacco?

The reason is simple. We lost the “war on drugs” decades ago. The fight against  marijuana has caused an increase in persons incarcerated on what should be minor crimes and disproportional conviction rates concerning the use of this “recreational” drug.

This is not to say there should be legislation to legalize heroin, crack and cocaine. Marijuana, like tobacco and alcohol, is addictive, but in and of itself, not immediately life threatening. Yes, one could die from driving under the influence, from the resulting lung cancer or liver disease, but overdosing on cannabis is not very likely.

Additionally, the tax revenue would be a boon for Missouri’s economy. To increase the state revenue by 10 percent to 15 percent would mean the proper funding for the Department of Transportation, as well as K-12 and post-secondary education, in our fair state.

Even if the proposals would be for the medical use of marijuana alone, the benefits received would be enjoyed by all.

Kelly’s bill is long and complicated, but, for the most part, it removes marijuana from the current laws and replacing those statutes with Section 195.850, et al, which has its own restrictions.

In this proposal, you must be 21 and a citizen to possess, manufacture or sell cannabis. The bill would prohibit the operation of vehicles, watercraft, aircraft and other forms of transportation while under the influence and requires a license to sell or manufacture marijuana or hashish.

Are HB 1324, 1325 and 1659 good for Missouri? That answer is yes and no.

Yes in the form of increased tax revenue and the decriminalizing of a true recreational drug. I also see the legitimate use of marijuana as a pain controller and a drug to help increase appetite.

No, because of the possible increase in illness because of the effects of the increase of tar and other carcinogens.

I still need to weigh the facts and make up my mind on these proposals. However, I can see Missouri as the 21st state with a medical marijuana law.

David Rosman is an editor, writer, professional speaker and college instructor in communications, ethics, business and politics. You can read more commentaries at ColumbiaMissourian.com and InkandVoice.com and New York Journal of Books.com.


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Comments

Mark Foecking February 12, 2014 | 6:23 p.m.

The main reason smoked marijuana is less of a cancer risk than tobacco is people don't smoke 20 or 30 joints a day. There are also ways to smoke it that reduce tar intake. It can also be eaten. I'm fine with medical (or recreational) marijuana in terms of benefit vs. risk. It won't materially increase health problems.

It's not a wonder drug, however. It's an unreliable analgesic. Most people that find relief in marijuana have used it recreationally in the past - people that haven't tend to dislike it because of the intoxication it causes (can't find that paper right now - maybe I can cite it before the paywall blocks me). It's not like people that want it can't get it now - little will change if it is legalized.

BTW, $100 million in additional revenue is not "10 to 15 percent" of an $8 billion annual budget. It's closer to 1.5%.

DK

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams February 12, 2014 | 6:53 p.m.

David: I appreciate the fact you took your fellow political soul-mates to task by noting "there is a prolonged and deeper inhalation and it is smoked to a shorter butt length and at a higher combustion temperature. This results in approximately 5 times the carbon monoxide concentration, 3 times the tar, and the retention of one-third more tar in the respiratory tract.”

Plus, there is no filter.

Further, "Marijuana, like tobacco and alcohol, is addictive..." I'm glad you wrote this as the fact it is. Indeed, the most recent issue of Science News has an article on the addictive nature of marijuana and how scientists are looking for mitigating pharmaceuticals needed by those trying to break the cycle.

I do object to tying "the proper funding for the Department of Transportation, as well as K-12 and post-secondary education..." to legalization of a drug whose use, in the end, we will try to reduce. Setting up our tax structure in such a way is pure folly and, quite frankly, idiotic....just like we've done with our legalized gambling.

Your comment about "higher combustion temperature(s)" is especially appropriate to this chemist. "Burning" is high temperature chemistry. Things happen at high temperatures that do not happen at low temperatures. Chemicals get made that were not there before, potent chemicals just as able to cause cancer as those found in tobacco or, for that matter, any other burning material, plant or otherwise. Many advocates for legalization stress "It's nature's product" as though that "natural" fact makes it all better. Well, discounting for a moment the high temperature chemistry, so are Datura, Amanita mushrooms, opiate poppies, Penstemon sp., Fusarium sp., Ephedra sinica, and a host of other biota, each of which has a chemical defense system toxic to humans.

Overall, an internally consistent article...which is praise far more important than, "We agree."
_________________

MarkF: Your comment, "don't smoke 20 or 30 joints a day" is apples to oranges. Take a look at the data Dave presents, to wit: "5 times the carbon monoxide concentration, 3 times the tar, and the retention of one-third more tar in the respiratory tract."

And that's just part of the story.

You have to do some arithmetic dividing to argue apples to apples. And that doesn't take into account another "new" chemicals synthesized at high temperatures from starting chemicals found in marijuana but not tobacco.

PS: I don't care if we legalize it. Just don't ask me to pay for it, and don't negatively affect me or mine. Fair enuf?

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams February 12, 2014 | 6:58 p.m.

My hunch is that black-market marijuana will, in the long haul, end up cheaper than legalized marijuana....because of the taxes.

That's one reason the Colorado and Washington marijuana trade is being watched with interest.

Finally, legalizing marijuana but not ALL the other drugs will NOT solve our drug war problem You still have all the other drugs and the concomitant war, and you still have to hire folks to regulate any legalized ones. Cost? I conclude: No significant change.

PS: Word of the day: Incrementalism.

The next generation will have another drug to legalize.

Then another, then another, then another.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith February 12, 2014 | 8:31 p.m.

Mark Foecking said, "BTW $100 million in additional revenue is not '10 to 15 percent' of an $8 billion annual budget. It's closer to 1.5%."

Be advised that "big picture" people don't - and shouldn't - concern themselves with such minor details: that only applies to "plodders" such as life scientists, chemists, accountants and engineers, who actually are expected to "sweat the details."

After all, what's a misplaced decimal point among friends? :) An order of magnitude here and an order of magnitude there, and pretty soon we're talking about a real difference. And a billion dollars wasted here here and a billion dollars wasted there, and pretty soon we're talking about REAL MONEY BEING WASTED!

(Report Comment)

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