The facts regarding the medicinal and recreational use
of marijuana have changed over the past several decades.
Marijuana contains two compounds that produce
significant pharmacological effects.
Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)) is the component
that produces an intoxicating high when inhaled or
ingested. Cannabinoid (CBD) is the medicinal component
that helps to reduce nausea, convulsive seizures, and
the symptoms of schizophrenia. It also acts as a
significant antagonist that acts to block the
intoxicating effects of THC on the human brain.
Marijuana also contains a number of other organic
compounds. Research has shown that marijuana smoke
contains fifty to seventy percent more carcinogenic
hydrocarbons than tobacco smoke.
Todayís marijuana is not the same product that was
widely used in the 1960ís and 70ís. Growers have been
tampering with the genetics of marijuana since the early
1980ís. Their goal has been to increase production
capacity and THC concentration while maintaining low
levels of CBD.
They have been exceedingly successful. Both the
production and intoxicating capacity of marijuana have
been greatly enhanced while the medical effects have
been minimized. The modern, genetically altered,
seedless marijuana plant produces much more of a
finished product than its unaltered precursor. It has
greater than double the intoxicating THC concentration
of the unaltered natural plant.
For instance, in 1983 THC potency averaged less than
four percent. In 2009, THC potency of marijuana seized
in the United States averaged nearly ten percent.
Product recently seized in Oregon and California has
tested at well more than thirty percent THC. At the same
time, the concentration of the intoxication blocking CBD
has remained essentially constant.
The intoxicating effect of genetically altered marijuana
is now several times more potent than the natural
product. Some genetically altered strains on the streets
today are eight to ten times more potent. In fact,
modern marijuana users generally call naturally produced
marijuana by disparaging names such as garbage,
dirt-weed and crap because of its relative lack of
The newer more potent forms of marijuana are
unquestionably addictive. In 1992, about 93,000 people
were admitted to treatment for marijuana addiction in
the United States. Less than two decades later in 2009,
more than 360,000 were admitted for marijuana
The adolescent brain appears to be especially
susceptible to marijuana addiction. In fact, two thirds
of admissions for drug dependency among U.S. teenagers
are for the purpose of counteracting their use of
More than one million Americans reported receiving
either inpatient or outpatient treatment for marijuana
dependency in 2010. Approximately four and a half
million Americans meet the American Psychiatric
Associationís criteria for marijuana abuse or
dependence. Yet, nearly twenty million Americans, twelve
years and older, continue to use this dangerous drug.
Oregon ranks about fourth in the nation in that
troubling statistic. More troubling still, in 2011 more
than one in ten of Oregonís eighth graders, and nearly
one fourth of its high school juniors, self-reported
using marijuana during the past thirty days.
The National Survey of Drug Use and Health has reported
that youths between the ages of twelve and seventeen,
who reported that they had used marijuana during the
past year, are more likely to sell drugs, steal, carry a
handgun, and to participate in both individual and group
violence. Most marijuana offenders are incarcerated for
these and other illegal activities. In fact, less than
one in a thousand of those currently incarcerated in
Oregon prisons is being held for only the possession of
The National Organization to Reform Marijuana Laws (NORML)
appeared to be on track in its stated efforts to remove
all restrictions on the use of marijuana in Oregon. The
long range plan included reclassifying marijuana as a
medicine, decriminalizing possession of the drug, and
then making it legal by 2016.
In 1998, Measure 67 allowed the medicinal use of
marijuana when a physician writes a statement of the
patientís qualifying condition. Physicians cannot write
an actual prescription for dosage, potency and frequency
of use because marijuana is an illegal drug under
federal law. Further, the prescribing physicians have no
way of determing the THC concentration of the drug,
which can vary by an order of magnitude.
In 2006, the state legislature enacted the Oregon
Medical Marijuana Act. That law expanded the legal right
for medical marijuana cardholders to have as many as
twenty four plants plus a pound and a half of prepared
marijuana in their possession. The law also provided
that caregivers could grow plants for as many as four
cardholders allowing the caregivers to possess as many
as twenty four mature plants and seventy two immature
The production potential of marijuana plants has also
been genetically altered. The modern marijuana plant
generally produces several times more product than the
natural unaltered plant. That increase in volume is in
addition to its several fold increase in potency.
In October of 2012, Oregon had nearly fifty seven
thousand medical marijuana cardholders. Less than three
thousand of those cardholders have qualifying symptoms
for the treatment of cancer. More than fifty one
thousand have qualifying symptoms for the treatment of
some form of undefined pain. Only a few Oregon licensed
physicians write the preponderance of authorizations of
qualifying conditions for the use of marijuana to
alleviate chronic pain.
As many as half of the marijuana smoking juveniles who
run afoul of the law in Oregon report that they obtained
their marijuana from a medical grower or cardholder,
according to juvenile justice and addiction staff.
Ballot Measure 80 that appeared on last Novembers ballot
would have legalized the growth and possession of
unlimited quantities of marijuana. It also would have
allowed the licensed sale of marijuana to licensed state
run marijuana stores. Smoking marijuana in public would
have been legal in designated areas restricted to people
twenty one years of age and older.
Oregon voters wisely rejected the proposal, but not by a
very wide margin. Unlimited growth, possession and
private use of marijuana would have been legal in Oregon
today if only 57,000 people had changed their vote from
no to yes.
The 2013 Oregon Legislature adopted, and governor
Kitzhaber signed into law, a measure authorizing medical
marijuana dispensaries. The measure was strongly opposed
by a wide majority of law enforcement, judges and
educators because they consider these dispensaries to
be little more than marijuana stores. They are keenly
aware that the greatest access to marijuana for our
youth is medical marijuana growers. They see the damage
that marijuana use is causing our youth on a daily
It is time for Oregonians to learn the facts about
marijuana. The people in the states of Washington and
Colorado actually adopted marijuana legalization
statutes last November. NORML is emboldened by their
successes in Washington and Colorado as well as their
near miss in Oregon. They will be back to try again.
Please remember, if we do not stand up for rural Oregon
no one will.