By Jason KUROSU
In the wake of the Drug Enforcement Agency’s take back event in which the Crescenta Valley Drug and Alcohol Prevention Coalition and the DEA combined efforts to get expired and unneeded prescription medication out of the community’s medicine cabinets – and ended up collecting over 460 pounds of drugs, according to Coalition president Officer Matt Zakarian – the Coalition changed their focus from legal prescription medication to illegal drugs, namely marijuana, at their recent public meeting.
The meeting featured guest speaker Alexandra Datig, a political advisor and consultant who has worked on drug policy and spoke out heavily against Proposition 19, the initiative which would have legalized marijuana in California had it passed.
Datig began her presentation, titled “Educating the public about Marijuana – What everyone needs to know,” by detailing her past experiences with drugs.
“Drug abuse will lead you to places where you are afraid of who you are,” said Datig.
The remainder of Datig’s presentation outlined her opposition to marijuana and its potential legalization through statistics and analysis on marijuana’s health effects and decriminalization in other countries.
Datig’s analysis of health and safety issues regarding marijuana included a topic coalition members have expressed concerns about in past meetings: driving while under the influence. According to FARS (Fatality Analysis Reporting System), there have been 1,240 traffic fatalities associated with marijuana use between 2004 and 2008. A similar statistic reported that “drugged deaths” have outnumbered drunken driving deaths in 2011, according to the National Highway, Traffic & Safety Administration.
Datig spoke on other, perhaps not as well known, debilitating health effects.
“Recent work indicates that THC promotes tumor growth by inhibiting certain anti-tumor immunities,” said Datig, citing Dr. Leslie Iversen, professor of Pharmacology at the University of Oxford and author of “The Science of Marijuana.”
Datig also spoke about a connection between marijuana and schizophrenia.
“Marijuana has been associated with contributing to schizophrenia,” said Datig. She went on to compare schizophrenia’s symptoms with the symptoms of marijuana use, namely “psychosis, delusions” and “formal thought disorders.”
Datig spoke about the carcinogenic effects of marijuana, an often underreported connection.
“Marijuana smoke has been listed, effective Feb. 19, 2009, as known to the state of California to cause cancer. … In fact, one marijuana joint has five times the carcinogens as a cigarette.”
Datig continued with her staunch opposition to marijuana legalization. Her presentation outlined the differences in tax revenue and public health costs. According to Datig’s slideshow, tobacco brings in $1.5 billion in taxes per year, but the public health costs are about $15 billion. Similarly, alcohol brings in $288 million in taxes, but also produces public health costs of $17 billion. Datig believes legalizing marijuana would end up producing a similar disparity.
She highlighted several unsuccessful decriminalization and legalization attempts at home and abroad.
Regarding decriminalization in Europe, Datig said, “The grass is not always greener on the other side.”
Datig referred to the “failed Portugal experiment” (Portugal allows a small amount of possession, but not cultivation) and the closing of many of Amsterdam’s widely known cannabis cafes. She also noted several failed attempts to legalize marijuana stateside (nine attempts in all, including three in California).
Afterward, the Drug and Alcohol Prevention Coalition held their regular meeting, checking the progress on several planned events. Some of these include fundraisers, a holiday mixer to introduce prospective coalition members to the rest of the fold, and a series of youth debates, planned to be held at Crescenta Valley High with the CVHS Debate club.
For more information on future Crescenta Valley Drug and Alcohol Prevention Coalition events, visit www.cvdapc.org.