Thursday, October 18, 2012

State agency head distributes talking points against medical marijuana

Posted By on Thu, Oct 18, 2012 at 10:51 AM

Jennifer Gallaher, director of the Arkansas Division of Behavioral Health Services, has distributed a memo to employees with talking points against the medical marijuana initiative. (CORRECTION: A glitch here on the agency's name originally)

The Negative Impact of Legalizing Medical Marijuana

The Arkansas Medical Marijuana Act would allow the use of “medical” marijuana. The Arkansas Department of Health would sell “medical” marijuana cards. Marijuana would be purchased from dispensaries or patients could grow a maximum of six plants for themselves.

In State Fiscal Year 2012, 2,112 individuals treated by substance abuse providers in Arkansas funded by the Division of Behavioral Health Services cited Marijuana as their primary drug of choice. Of the 2,112 individuals, 419 were under the age of 17, 620 were between the ages of 18 and 24, and 690 were between the ages of 25 and 34.

Among youths age 12 to 17, marijuana usage rates are higher in states with “medical” marijuana laws (8.6 percent) compared with those without such laws (6.9 percent). Additionally, “medical” marijuana states are at the top of the list in terms of drug addiction and abuse among 12-17 year olds.

Residents of states with “medical” marijuana have marijuana abuse/dependence rates almost twice as high than states without such laws.

More than two-thirds of treatment admissions involving those under the age of 18 cite marijuana as their primary substance of abuse, more than three times the rate for alcohol and more than twice for all other drugs combined.

Marijuana is addictive in nature and states with “medical” marijuana have an increased level of marijuana abuse. Drug abuse and addiction are positively related to increased criminal justice system involvement. Therefore, “medical” marijuana would lead to a flux in the criminal justice system.

Studies have consistently shown a very strong association between chronic marijuana use and mental illness -especially schizophrenia and psychosis, but also including increased rates of anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts.

Marijuana is not approved by the FDA for medicinal purposes and no major medical association has come out in favor of smoked marijuana for widespread medical use.

For more information on the negative impacts of legalizing “medical marijuana”, call the Division of Behavioral Health Services at 501-686-9164.

I got a tip about the memo from a correspondent who questioned the propriety of a state agency head lobbying on a ballot isssue. Amy Webb of the Department of Human Services, responded:

Jennifer Gallaher is the director of the division of behavioral health service, which includes substance abuse prevention and treatment. Both she and her employees have been asked by providers and others about their stance on medical marijuana. Mrs. Gallaher's office gathered factual information on the issue and shared it with her staff, which is absolutely appropriate given what that division does.

A recipient of the email objected further that a cover letter with the memo urged that it be shared with friends.

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