Welcome to the Cannabis Matters editorial series with Ruth Hill. Ruth brings over 50 years in nursing from a multitude of settings including hospice and palliative care to executive management in the home health industry. An entrepreneur having started a six-bed residential facility for the elderly, consultant for home health agencies and educating clients on palliative care all providing an effective segue into cannabis for symptom management.

She is a member of the Hospice and Palliative Nursing Association, the Oncology Nursing Society and the American Cannabis Nurses Association. Quarterly, we will get insights from the perspective of Ruth Hill on Cannabis Matters. This article is on Colorado and how the residents came to realize the importance of cannabis legalization.

Malcolm Cladwell in his book The Tipping Point, describes three rules of social epidemics: the law of the few, the stickiness factor and the power of context. Cladwell’s theory on tipping points helps clarify how Colorado residents went from 33 % acceptance of adult use marijuana to 58% acceptance resulting in legalization. What are the factors, arguments, and beliefs preventing most of the American people from supporting the legalization of marijuana? Cladwell explains the emergence of “any number of mysterious changes that mark everyday life is to think of them as epidemics. Ideas and products and messages and behaviors spread just like viruses do.”

In January 2005 the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), launched the official Safer Alternative For Enjoyable Recreation campaign (SAFER) on the campuses of Colorado State University (CSU), and the University of Colorado at Boulder (CU). These campuses were chosen because a few months earlier each campus had experienced a tragic alcohol-overdose death of a young student. One male student mixed alcohol with oxymorphone a prescription drug for pain similar in strength to morphine mixed with heroin. The other, a female student consumed alcohol over 11 hours of mixing beer, and vanilla flavored vodka. Her blood alcohol level was 0.436. (legally impaired is .08 or higher). This intriguing campaign’s success is detailed in the book Marijuana is Safer so why are we Driving People to Drink by Steve Fox, Paul Amentano and Mason Tvert.

Prohibition pushed adults to avoid a safe drug over a more dangerous intoxicant, alcohol. The media is the megaphone for the government’s myths that marijuana is dangerous. Worldwide media giant News of the World in Great Britain published a photo of the Olympian swimmer Michael Phelps with his infamous bong hit. News bureaus around the globe jumped on this money making event to clearly convey the impression that Phelps had done something morally wrong and that he deserved to be punished.

The Olympic committee confronted Phelps’ excessive drinking and pot smoking by suspending him from the athletic competition without the legal authority to do so. He was required to apologize for his “regrettable behavior” and “bad judgement” promised he “will not do it again.” There was mockery and derision of Phelps over a wicked case of the munchies, but the bloggers failed to mock Phelps’ drunken behavior. The blowback had little to do with breaking the law but in acting inappropriately.

The financial terms of putting the Olympic logo on Budweiser Beer, the official beer of the Olympics, in thirty countries around the world, cannot be cheap. Neither is it cheap for the NFL who receives 100 million a year from sponsorships of Coors and Budweiser. If there is one thing the Olympic Committee and the NFL values is competition. Alcohol and marijuana are competitors.

Beyond the real threat of arrest, there is the loss of a job due to the government’s expansion of drug testing in the workplace. A positive drug test for marijuana can occur even when the user has not ingested marijuana for over a month as the marijuana is stored in fat tissue. Alcohol or heroin can be washed through the system in a couple of days. An employee can come into work after drinking alcohol but not lose his job because they are not testing for alcohol. If one resides in public housing the marijuana user can lose financial aid, be prohibited from adopting children, lose the right to vote, lose food stamps, and lose a driver’s license. No other offense, even murder or rape, has comparable sanctions. These negative effects drive people away from a safe alternative to drinking booze.

In 1997 the National Broadcasters Association (NBA) partnered with the Office of National Drug Control (ONDC) to produce videos on anti-pot propaganda. The videos were designed to be “indistinguishable from news stories produced by private sector TV news organizations.” The partnership was ended by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) as illegal but not before they were viewed by 22 million audiences.

The SAFER project provided the tipping point in the Colorado elections. SAFER contrasted alcohol with cannabis. Alcohol leads to intoxication, death, violence, impaired driving, lung cancer esophageal cancer cardiovascular disease, and serves as a gateway intoxicant to opioids.

Research reveals cannabis is 9% addictive vs 38% for alcohol, does not lead to violence, is a minor cause of traffic accidents, and provides multiple health benefits. There is no known death due to lack of receptors in our brainstem that controls breathing. Cannabis is a way-out drug as CBD reduces cravings.

Adults should have a choice in deciding which intoxicant they want to use recreationally, and the Colorado voters agreed.

Ruth Hill RN gives consults on medical cannabis. hilruth@gmail.com

All information for this article was taken from Steve Fox’s book

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