Sen. Booker Hides Behind Pot’s Smoke Screen

March 4, 2019 Updated: March 6, 2019

Commentary

See through the smoke screen.

In September 2018, Daniel Lopez, who had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and was “self-medicating” with marijuana, stabbed his brother Thomas to death.

On Feb. 28, Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), a Democratic candidate for president of the United States, rolled out the Marijuana Justice Act, which would legalize pot nationwide.

No matter where you stand on this issue, this is a bad idea.

Here’s why.

Specifically, the bill would remove marijuana from the U.S. list of controlled substances, legalizing it on the federal level. It also would retroactively expunge criminal records of those charged with marijuana possession. Finally, it would allow those serving time for possession to petition for re-sentencing and provide them with resources like job training.

This is not the first time Booker has experimented with drug legalization. Two years ago, when he introduced a so-called “racial justice” bill, he put marijuana legalization at its center.

Booker’s prior measure would have penalized states with racially-disparate arrest or incarceration rates for marijuana-related crimes, even if offenders were in fact racially disparate.

At the time, Kevin Sabet of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, a group opposed to pot legalization, argued, “Given the opioid epidemic, [Booker’s] legislative energy would be much better spent implementing solutions to that crisis. But the Big Marijuana lobbyists are probably very happy.”

Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) campaigns at the Nevada Partners Event Center in North Las Vegas, Nevada, on Feb. 24, 2019. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Overdoses

Last year, the number of Americans who died from drug overdoses topped 70,000 for the first time, a nearly 10 percent increase over the previous year, driven by the opioid epidemic.

In particular, the Center for Disease Control’s National Center for Health Statistics reported a 45 percent spike in deaths from synthetic opioids such as fentanyl and tramadol in particular.

Coupled with a soaring suicide rate—more on that below—such overdoses lowered U.S. life expectancy for the second year in a row.

Though pot enthusiasts claim legalization is a way to reduce such deaths, Keith Humphreys wrote in The Washington Post that “studies of individuals show that using medical cannabis is correlated with higher rates of using and misusing opioids.”

For instance, according to a 2018 study, those who used marijuana were almost three times as likely to use opiates three years later.

Likewise, a JAMA Internal Medicine study found that states legalizing marijuana had 55 percent higher overdose rates. Data associated with the study demonstrate that an avalanche of deaths in legalizing states buried early findings that marijuana legalization might slightly help with opioid overdoses.

Sam Walsh (L), a budtender, and facility manager David Martinez, set up marijuana products as the 3D Denver Discrete Dispensary prepares to open for the first day of legalized retail sales in Denver, Colo., on Jan. 1, 2014. (Theo Stroomer/Getty Images)

Legalization and Teen Use

While marijuana advocates tout studies finding legalization does not lead to increased teen marijuana use, a 2018 study found a 26 percent increase in frequency of use for teens who were already marijuana users.

Marijuana legalization leads to a loss of awareness of its risks, according to one study of perceptions of pot among eighth- and 10th-graders following recreational marijuana legalization in Washington state.

Beginning in the mid-2000s, the percentage of high schoolers who reported having smoked marijuana began to increase, accompanied by a sharp decrease in the percentage of 10th- and 12th-graders who view regular marijuana use as risky.

In fact, Colorado, an early adopter of legal marijuana, is now the No. 1 state in America for marijuana use among both pre-teens and those 12 to 17 years old.

The Colorado Department of Education likewise found that “drug-related school suspensions, expulsions, and law enforcement referrals increased dramatically from 2008 through 2011.”

It’s not just Colorado. One national addiction treatment network reported, “90 percent of adolescents seeking treatment are admitted with marijuana being their primary drug of choice.”

Such adolescent use of marijuana is linked to use of alcohol and cocaine—which together all help predict opioid addiction—as well as mental health problems, risky sexual behaviors, and poor school performance.

In fact, according to one expert, teen use can cause a permanent IQ drop of six points, “similar to the consequences of lead poisoning.”

A 2012 study found that “the most persistent adolescent-onset cannabis users evidenced an average 8-point IQ decline from childhood to adulthood,” and shows persistent use beyond adolescence is associated with an IQ drop of as much as 10 points.

People explore various cannabis paraphernalia during the Denver 420 Rally, the world’s largest celebration of both the legalization of cannabis and cannabis culture, in Denver Colo., on May 21, 2016. (JASON CONNOLLY/AFP/Getty Images)

Pot Use Exploding

It gets worse.

According to Alex Berenson, former New York Times reporter and author of the new book “Tell Your Children: The Truth About Marijuana, Mental Illness, and Violence,” “almost everything you think you know about the health effects of cannabis, almost everything advocates and the media have told you for a generation, is wrong.”

Berenson reported that marijuana and its active ingredient THC are most commonly prescribed for pain relief, but in July 2018, “a large four-year study of patients with chronic pain in Australia showed cannabis use was associated with greater pain over time.”

In fact, even Rob Kampia, the co-founder of the Marijuana Policy Project, acknowledged to Berenson he “always viewed medical marijuana laws primarily as a way to protect recreational users.”

Yet, as legalization measures like Booker’s proliferate, and the disinformation campaign in which he participates takes hold, the number of heavy pot smokers is exploding.

Berenson reports the number of Americans who smoked marijuana at least 300 times a year, the definition of “daily use,” nearly tripled from 2006 to 2017, approaching the number who drink alcohol every day.

Local police and paramedics help a man suffering from an overdose in the Drexel neighborhood of Dayton, Ohio, on Aug. 3, 2017. (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times)

Mental Illness

Contrary to drug dealer deceptions, there is such a thing as marijuana abuse or addiction. Its technical name is “diagnosable cannabis use disorder,” and from 2006 to 2014 it tripled. It accounts for 11 percent of all psychosis cases in emergency rooms, reaching 90,000 cases, about 250 a day.

One potential reason: The potency of the drug has exploded as well. Between the 1970s and today, as farming and cloning technologies evolve, marijuana’s THC content has increased about 10-fold.

Which leads to even worse news: Berenson found “a mountain of peer-reviewed research in top medical journals” shows marijuana can cause or worsen mental illness.

For example, teens who smoke marijuana regularly approximately triple their risk of schizophrenia.

More generally, the National Academy of Medicine in 2017 reported that “cannabis use is likely to increase the risk of developing schizophrenia and other psychoses; the higher the use, the greater the risk.”

Likewise, a 2010 study found a towering 27 percent of schizophrenics had been diagnosed with cannabis use disorder.

Police arrest a woman (C) after she handed out free marijuana joints to Washington residents who worked on Capitol Hill as part of the 1st Annual Joint Session to mark “4/20” day and promote legalizing marijuana in Washington on April 20, 2017. (SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

Violence

And on average, along with mental illness comes violence.

In a 2017 speech that called for legalizing pot, Booker claimed states that have done so “are seeing decreases in violent crime.”

Well, actually, no.

The first four states to legalize marijuana for recreational use saw a five-year increase of 37 percent for murders and 25 percent for aggravated assaults, far greater than the national increase.

This is not a surprise. For instance, Berenson reported that a 2013 journal article studying 1,600 psychiatric patients in southern Italy found marijuana use was associated with a 10-fold increase in violence.

Likewise, a 2007 study of defendants who had committed homicide during psychotic episodes found almost two-thirds reported misusing marijuana—“more than alcohol and amphetamines combined.”

There’s more.

According to a 2012 study in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence of more than 9,000 adolescents, “marijuana use was associated with a doubling of domestic violence.”

One in 2017 found that drug use, nearly always being marijuana, “translated into a five-fold increase in violence,” Berenson said.

The deaths are not always deliberate. Marijuana is associated with more child deaths from abuse and neglect than alcohol, and “more than cocaine, methamphetamines, and opioids combined” according to reports from Texas, one of the rare states that tracks perpetrators’ drug use.

Berenson dug up a 2009 study by an Oxford University psychiatrist and epidemiologist finding that schizophrenics in particular “are five times as likely to commit violent crimes as healthy people, and almost 20 times as likely to commit homicide.”

Not only are schizophrenics 20 times more likely to kill you, they are also more likely to kill themselves.

For instance, a 2006 study found that after the first release for a schizophrenic episode, “not taking any regular antipsychotic medication was associated with a 12-fold increase in the relative risk of all-cause death and a worrying 37-fold increase in death by suicide.”

Another study found schizophrenics’ lifetime suicide risk is 4.9 percent, 350 times America’s overall age-adjusted suicide rate in 2017.

And to reiterate: Teens who smoke pot about tripled their risk of schizophrenia in one study, and 27 percent of schizophrenics had been diagnosed with cannabis use disorder in another.

In sum: More marijuana, more mental illness, more murder.

A Drug Enforcement Administration officer secures the area as police search a suspect’s car in New Orleans in August 2007. (PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)

Drug Dealers

Booker claimed, “The war on drugs has not been a war on drugs, it’s been a war on people.”

Actually, the war on drugs has been a war on drug dealers.

And even when states legalize drug dealers, the evidence suggests that drug dealers are not only still drugging people, but statistically speaking, still killing them as well.

Now they want to kill many, many more, not to mention ruining lives and burning away intellect.

Remember Daniel Lopez, and his brother Thomas, whom they helped kill.

As recently as 2015, Booker declined to support marijuana legalization in a Vox interview.

He was right then, and he’s wrong now.

See through his smoke screen.

Christopher C. Hull holds a doctorate in government from Georgetown University. He is president of Issue Management Inc., distinguished senior fellow at the Gatestone Institute, senior fellow at Americans for Intelligence Reform, and author of “Grassroots Rules” (Stanford, 2007).

The haze of marijuana smoke looms over a crowd of thousands at the University of Colorado in Boulder, Colo., on April 20, 2010. (Chris Hondros/Getty Images)

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

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