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STEVE ELLIOTT

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My first reaction upon reading, with increasing sadness, today’s hype-filed medical marijuana scare story on local National Public Radio affiliate KPLU was, “Wow, I didn’t know KPLU had become part of the Fox News Network.” Yes, it was that bad.

Meanwhile, Seattle Public Schools officials say marijuana use by students is on the rise, and students say it is easier to get than alcohol. Where is the supply coming from? Parents and school officials suspect medical marijuana dispensaries. 

Mixing the volatile elements of kids and pot, and the loaded term “teen addicts,” the story seems to take the pollyanna-ish view that teens wouldn’t be so attracted to marijuana if it weren’t for those darned medical marijuana dispensaries providing pot to sick people.

Yes, it seems that the reason teens smoke pot isn’t that teens have smoked pot for as long as anyone remembers; no, teens are smoking hella pot in Washington because of medical marijuana dispensaries, the article seems to want us to believe.

Somehow, we expected more than this from KPLU.
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Somehow, we expected more than this from KPLU.

KPLU reporter Jennifer Wing — clearly a monumentally clueless, unwitting tool of those who stand to profit from I-502, or perhaps someone just too damned lazy to do any real research — has done a disservice not just to journalism, but to all the medical marijuana patients in Washington state. Beyond the obviously inflammatory headline, Wing’s copy reads like a checklist of anti-medical marijuana myths promulgated by those who (oh just entirely coincidentally of course!) stand to profit from recreational pot sales.

Fortunately, the readers and listeners of KPLU aren’t that easily fooled. It’s almost as if the station forgot their own demographics; highly educated liberals won’t be so easily led down the primrose path of bogeymen and dark insinuations as the station apparently believed they would. The first five comments on Wing’s weak story took the station, the story and the reporter to task for their inaccuracy and sloppiness.

KPLU Reporter Jennifer Wing: Thanks for nothing
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KPLU Reporter Jennifer Wing:
Thanks for nothing, Jennifer

What Wing’s story failed to point out is that under I-502 — the limited marijuana legalization measure approved by Washington state voters in 2012 — medicinal cannabis dispensaries stand to be closed down and outlawed during the next session of the Legislature. The article, whether Jennifer Wing knows it or not, is part of a public relations campaign by those who wish to shut down medical marijuana in Washington state, in order to force medical patients to buy their (highly taxed) cannabis from the recreational I-502 stores.

And once that plan — to stamp out the mom-and-pop industry that is medical marijuana in Washington state, in order to clear the way for the success of stores selling overpriced, pesticide-filled cannabis — comes to fruition, then recreational pot stores will be the only source, especially given that the Legislature also came within a gnat’s whisker last session of taking away from patients the right to cultivate their own medicine.

It’s interesting to note that under the rules for I-502, those recreational pot shops will be prohibited from even mentioning the medicinal uses for cannabis, let alone actually educate anyone to its medical benefits. That, apparently, is just fine as a message to send to kids: You can get high for fun, but don’t you dare to use this plant to heal, or to stay healthy!

By the way, these state-licensed recreational pot shops will likely be charging two to three times the price per gram that the current mom-and-pop medical marijuana dispensaries charge, thus making it near impossible for very ill patients on limited incomes to afford it anymore, to ease their suffering. But wow, cool! People over 21 can party with it, now that’s progress!

If kids were really procuring medical marijuana as rampantly as Wing’s article (which isn’t at all convincing; it’s full of hearsay and conjecture), then of course that needs to be addressed. But NOT at the expense of sick people who use it to treat chronic, debilitating pain, seizures, and nausea without the toxic side effects that pharmaceuticals visit on their bodies.

Teens Smoke More Pot Because of MMJ? Really?

Washington state’s medical marijuana was approved by 54 percent of voters back in November 1998. Here are Seattle’s youth marijuana use rates in 1995 — before medical marijuana — and again in 2013, from the Youth Risk Behavioral Surveillance System:

Ever used marijuana (one or more times during their life)
1995: 46.0%
2013: 35.2%

Tried marijuana before age 13 years (for the first time)
1995: 10.1%
2013: 8.2%

Currently use marijuana (one or more times during the 30 days before the survey)
1995: 29.4%
2013: 22.9%

So, contrary to Wing’s weak assertion that the availability of medical marijuana has impacted teen use, young people are actually smoking less pot than they were before there were any dispensaries at all.

Seattle Teens Smoke More Pot Because of MMJ? Really?

But if Wing’s claims are true, then surely Seattle teens must smoke a LOT more marijuana than their peers nationwide, right? I mean, there are more than 200 medical marijuana dispensaries currently operating in Seattle — if these places really make pot more available to youngsters, that would show in the numbers.

Well, guess what? What shows in the numbers is that Seattle kids smoke less pot than the nationwide average. Could it be that the “medicalization” of marijuana made it less attractive? It certainly didn’t make it more available to teens, as Wing ridiculously claims.

Let’s take a look, shall we?

Seattle vs USA in 2013

Ever used marijuana (one or more times during their life)
Seattle: 35.2%
USA: 40.7%

Tried marijuana before age 13 years (for the first time)
Seattle: 8.2%
USA: 8.6%

Currently used marijuana (one or more times during the 30 days before the survey)
Seattle: 22.9%
USA: 23.4%

So there you have it: The wide medical availability of marijuana in Seattle does NOT mean that it is more available to teenagers. It means it is more available to patients. 

Don’t Believe the Hype

Steve Sarich, Cannabis Action Coalition: "Quote" [Associated Press]
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Steve Sarich, Cannabis Action Coalition:
“To use this as yet another excuse for registering all the medical cannabis patients in Washington is nothing but an obvious scare tactic to push the agenda of law enforcement”

Activist Steve Sarich of the Seattle-based Cannabis Action Coalition has already pushed for legislation that would stop any unethical clinics from providing medical marijuana authorizations to anyone, including those under 21, who don’t have proof of a qualifying condition under the law.

“Unfortunately, there are those in the Legislature that would rather not solve the problem, so they have something negative to point to,” Sarich told Toke Signals Monday morning. “The Cannabis Action Coalition will try again to get this legislation passed in the 2015 session, but you can bet that Rep. Eileen Cody will make sure the legislation doesn’t get a hearing.”

“Reputable clinics will not write recommendations for those under 21 without a parent present, and without written consent from the parents,” Sarich said. “The press is continuing to publish stories that imply that the medical community supports unethical behavior, and nothing could be farther from the truth.”

“The Legislature should quit spending all their efforts trying to get a patient registry and stop trying to force us into the already failing Liquor Control Board system, and concentrate on passing reasonable medical cannabis legislation to close the loopholes that are being used by disreputable clinic owners,” Sarich said.

“The Department of Corrections recently announced that convicted criminals who are currently on parole will be allowed to buy and use cannabis, without being registered,” Sarich pointed out. “Now they’re trying to justify a patient registry to ‘save the children’?”

“These people have proven that they lack any scruples whatsoever,” Sarich said. “Even Senator Rivers pointed out on the floor of the Senate that it’s law enforcement that is pushing for a registry. There is certainly no medical justification to register patients.”

“To use this as yet another excuse for registering all the medical cannabis patients in Washington is nothing but an obvious scare tactic to push the agenda of law enforcement,” Sarich said. “These legislators might try working with the patient community for a change, instead of simply trying to enforce the will of the law enforcement lobby on us.”

“If they think that a patient registry will somehow keep teenagers from getting their hands on marijuana, they’re simply ignoring the fact that marijuana is readily available in every high school in this state and blaming the patient community is just one more slap in the face of every medical cannabis patient,” Sarich said.

“Teenagers don’t need a medical recommendation to get pot,” Sarich said. “And all the talk of increasing penalties for kids is doing nothing more than stepping up the failed War On Drugs and saddling our youth with criminal records that will impact them for the rest of their lives. In case no one noticed, every new penalty they’ve tried has been an abject failure in reducing teen use of marijuana.”

“You want a solution? Let’s stop our schools from teaching our kids that marijuana is like meth and will ‘fry your brain,'” Sarich said. “Once they figure out that they’re being lied to about marijuana, why would they believe the warnings about far more dangerous drugs?”

 

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