We are witnessing the beginning of the end of our disastrous war on drugs.
Fifty-eight percent of Americans nationally support marijuana legalization. World leaders like former U.N. head Kofi Annan are calling for an end to the drug war. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is speaking out against racist mandatory minimum drug laws and mass incarceration. Uruguay became the first country in the world to legalize marijuana (and its president has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize). This has been a watershed year in the fight to end America's longest failed war.
With Colorado and Washington making history by legalizing marijuana we are finding ourselves in new terrain. The benefits of taxing and regulating marijuana are obvious, starting with the tens of thousands of people in those two states not being arrested annually for possession of small amount of marijuana. But with these changes, there is a need for more education and prevention.
Last week the New York Times ran a front page story about the growing popularity of marijuana edibles in states with legal medical and recreational marijuana. In addition to the "old school" brownies, there is now an array of edible products, such as lozenges, candy, gummy bears and sweets. While many folks prefer the edible forms of marijuana, there have been reports of kids and adults mistakenly eating the marijuana and having adverse reactions.
I have worked for the last 14 years to end our nation's disastrous war on marijuana users and I agree that we need to be very careful when it comes to foods and desserts that are infused with marijuana.
I know of kids and adults who have accidently eaten marijuana cookies, such as the 40-year-old babysitter who was combing through the freezer and munched on some cookies. She had never tried marijuana and had no idea what was happening when the high from the cookies kicked in. It was a traumatic experience for her.
I also know of two kids who accidentally consumed marijuana cookies. They ended up okay after sleeping off the effects, but it was very scary for all involved.
We need to educate people about the effects of edibles, even for those who are consciously eating them. Even those with experience should be careful when eating marijuana products.
Some people may think that brownies or candies are more mellow or safer than smoking marijuana. They eat more than they need to and then can't take it back. Other times people may eat a little, don't feel anything for a while, and then eat more. Then it all kicks in, and they are much more intoxicated than planned. I know many people who are regular marijuana smokers who have stories about eating too much marijuana and finding themselves on a whole other level of high that was scary and intense.
I suggest that anyone who has marijuana edibles (or other drugs, like prescription pills) lock it away in a secure place. Edible marijuana can be a safe and enjoyable way for people to ingest marijuana, but with that comes responsibility to make sure no one, especially kids, stumble upon them.
We also need to encourage people who eat marijuana to eat appropriate amounts. Maybe all edibles should be in single doses so people know how much to eat. Better to start with small amount and feel good than to eat too much and be in a place you don't want to be. We should also be careful about the packaging and make sure it is not something that is attractive to kids.
It is obvious to most that the war on drugs is a total failure. But it is not enough to point out the futility of the drug war. We also need to show people that what we are proposing will improve our society and make us safer, healthier and stronger.
Tony Newman is the director of media relations at the Drug Policy Alliance.
This piece first appeared on the Drug Policy Alliance Blog.
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