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Go slow on legal weed

As Indiana and other states edge toward legalizing marijuana, some people are warning that “it’s not your grandfather’s weed.” I watched one recently and he made some points that are worth sharing.

The recreational use of marijuana by adults doesn’t bother me, in the same way as people enjoying a drink or two doesn’t bother me, as long as no one is hurt by it. I am saying “by adults” with reason: some research indicates the long-term effects of marijuana are more likely to be more harmful in adolescents.

In the early 1970s I tried both marijuana and drinking. I enjoyed getting high with friends, just not enough that I continued for long. I liked drinking somewhat less than toking but I still indulge an occasional beer or wine. I haven’t smoked weed in decades.

I recently watched a TED Talk titled, “What commercialization is doing to cannabis” by Ben Cort. It got my attention. 

Cort starts by explaining that two ingredients in marijuana are of most interest, CBD and THC.

CBD is the ingredient with medicinal properties. You won’t get high from it. The Indiana General Assembly legalized its use earlier this year.

THC is the ingredient that makes a person high. It’s not legal in Indiana or most other states. Cort, though, speaks as a resident of Colorado, where the phrase “Rocky Mountain high” took on added meaning when that state legalized its use in 2012.

The come-on to Cort’s TED talk states: “But to say that we’ve legalized marijuana is subtly misleading -- what we’ve really done is commercialized THC ... and that’s led to products that are unnaturally potent.”

Cort, who started using marijuana decades ago, became a drug addict and then kicked his habit, shares research showing that the THC content of marijauna plants has gone from less than 10 percent before legalization to sometimes approaching 40 percent now. This high-content THC is incorporated into vapes and other forms that haven’t been around before.

I wanted to check out Cort’s claim, and found general agreement that marijuana’s potency is higher than it was years ago. Some concentrated forms contain close to 90 percent THC, according to an article on the website Gizmodo.com. Several other sources confirm that.

Anyway, Cort says, people think they are using a naturally occuring organic plant to get a natural high. But it’s not always true. Those who make money from weed have actually genetically altered some strains to make people want more of it.

People my age may remember when the Big Tobacco companies were found to have added nicotine and substances to their products in a cynical and very successful effort to make addicts out of their customers. Only forceful legislation and massive court-imposed penalties forced those companies to limit what they put in cigarettes and other tobacco products.

Do you think something similar wouldn’t happen again if we legalize marijuana without putting precautions into the law? We live in a capitalist society where making money often trumps “do no harm.” Without regulation and strict enforcement, there’s no doubt in my mind that makers of marijuana products will continue adding potency to their products so that their customers get a higher high and are more likely to buy more.

Lawmakers should look at what’s a reasonable level of THC in products. We should regulate additives, such as nicotine, too.

Why repeat the trusting, blind ignorance that we showed to Big Tobacco for decades, allowing that industry to sicken and kill millions? Do we really want to add another addiction to the sorry situation we’ve already gotten ourselves into?

Bob Hansen is editor of the Connersville News-Examiner. Contact him at 765-825-0588 ext. 235 or by email, bhansen@newsexaminer.com.