Part 1 of a 3 Part Series. This article first appeared on MomsStrong.org
K started getting high at a young age. He smoked just a little bit, almost every day, through junior high, high school, college and graduate school. To him, it seemed like harmless fun. But within a few years after completing his higher education, he became a homeless drug addict and dealer with schizophrenia. He went to jail eighteen times. Relative to so many others, K’s story ends well. He is alive, out of jail, off the streets, and is sober. He is receiving psychiatric care. He lives in a group home where his meals and transportation are provided, and his psychiatric medications are dispensed. He is alive to tell his harrowing story. To warn teenagers that what seems like harmless fun can actually ruin their lives, K and I wrote a book which is inspired by his experiences.
Dr. Karen Randall, an emergency physician of Pueblo, Colorado, sent a letter to the physicians of Vermont. Their state legislature narrowly passed a bill that would legalize marijuana, but it’s hoped that Governor Phil Scott will veto it. There was not enough time to read Dr. Randall’s at a Press Conference on May, 18, 2016. Here’s the contents of that letter:
Firstly, I’d like to thank you all for the opportunity to share some of my experiences as a physician in a region with heavy legal marijuana use.
In 2012, Coloradans voted to pass Colorado Amendment 64 which led to the state-wide legalization of recreational marijuana beginning in January of 2014. Since then, the number of medical and recreational dispensaries in Colorado has grown to more than double the number of McDonald’s and Starbucks combined. While individual counties could and did choose to abstain from allowing recreational marijuana sales, my county, Pueblo, was one of many that embraced Amendment 64 and the projected benefits of recreational legalization, even unofficially rebranding itself the “Napa Valley of Pot”.
This led to an influx of people looking to smoke without the risk of legal consequences and to cash in on the burgeoning “pot economy”. Unfortunately, many of these people arrived only to find that the supply of marijuana-related jobs was far outweighed by the demand, and few had backup plans. Since 2014, Pueblo’s homeless population has tripled, and our low-income housing have occupancy rates of 98% or more. We have seen a drastic increase in the number of homeless camps, and social services and outreach programs are buckling under the strain.
Our medical infrastructure is also reaching critical mass. Out of the 160,000 residents of our community, roughly 115,000 are on Medicaid. As a result, we have been losing primary care providers at an alarming and unsustainable rate. The largest local clinic has been looking to hire 15 new doctors, but has only been able to hire 1 in the past two and a half years. My emergency medical group has been able to fill less than half of our open positions. The average wait time to see a new primary care provider is months with the wait for a specialist even longer, and many primary care physicians in the area are no longer taking new Medicaid patients.
Additionally, the legalization of marijuana has led to normalization of behavior that in my professional opinion is strongly impacting our youth. Despite sales being legally restricted to those ages 21 and over, the Healthy Kids Survey of 2015 shows: 16% of Pueblo High School kids under the age of 13 have tried marijuana, 30% of high school kids had smoked within 30 days of the survey, 64% feel that it would be easy or very easy to get marijuana, and that 6.3 and 6.6% of respondents have used heroin and methamphetamines respectively, compared to 2% for the rest of Colorado. The number of ED visits for cannabis hyperemesis syndrome, accidental
pediatric ingestions, accidental adult ingestions and psychosis have sharply risen. There has been an increase in the number of babies testing positive for marijuana at birth (many internet and dispensaries are now recommending marijuana for nausea in pregnancy).
The potency of marijuana has risen tremendously since legalization, which is also a cause for significant concern. Almost all of what we do know about marijuana is based on studies where the marijuana was 1-3 mg of THC. Currently, dabbing provides 80-90 mg of THC; edibles provide 10 mg THC per bite and are frequently packaged in quantities to total 100 mg of THC. Fortunately, legislation has passed so that edibles must be packaged in safety packages and can no longer be sold as appealing candy gummies, suckers, etc. Currently, law requires that chocolate be labeled with a stamp and dose quantity but it still looks like a chocolate bar to a child.
Ads and claims to the health benefits of marijuana are rampant on the internet with reported cures for almost every ailment, yet there is very little research, if any to support those “health benefits” and frequently people come to the area with a disease process (for instance, Parkinson’s disease) and purchase marijuana. Many of those looking for cures are seniors who are not toleratant to the dosage/strength of the current marijuana being marked and they come to the ED with side effects.
I deeply appreciate having been given a platform to share my experiences with you today, and I strongly encourage the physicians of Vermont to consider the broader medical, economic, and social ramifications of the legalization of marijuana.
Thank you for your attention, Dr. Karen Randall, FAAEM Southern Colorado Emergency Medicine Associates Pueblo Colorado
Dr. Randall presented her experiences at a press conference in Pueblo on October 20, 2016.
Drug Policy Alliance, NORML and Marijuana Policy Project are optimistic. They’re huffing and puffing now, having won 7 out of 8 states with marijuana ballots in the November election. They also smirk knowing that President-elect Trump supports states’ rights for marijuana. In 20 or 30 years, they’ll have freedom and no one else really matters. Pot lobbyists don’t explain the real picture. What if the whole country ends up just like Humboldt County?
Humboldt County Leads the Way
The oldest, strongest marijuana culture in the USA is not in Colorado, but in Humboldt County, California. Humboldt, Mendocino County and Trinity County also form this region called the Emerald Triangle. REVEAL, an online investigative platform, reported on the secretive world of sexual abuse and rapes in marijuana country. (On the other hand, pop culture magazine Rolling Stone, published a story about a gang rape on campus which turned out to be false, while ignoring the facts of sexual abuse taking place in pot culture.) There’s politically-motivated denial and deflection, but heavy weed smokers have lots of delusions.
There were 2,000 domestic violence calls in 2015, an increase of 80% over the previous four years.* A routine domestic violence call in December led to a huge bust for guns and weed. Marijuana gained a foothold in Humboldt nearly 50 years ago, and it seems guns and weed are a way of life since that time.
See the video about the ecological damage from illicit marijuana grows
Environmentalists convinced politicians that the logging industry must stop cutting down the redwoods. So the marijuana growers found an opening and they’re clearing out the trees! Aerial views show the redwood forests pockmarked by marijuana grows. It doesn’t seem that High Times and Alternet have caught on to the irony that marijuana green is not environmentally green.
In May of 2008, approximately 1000 of gallons of red diesel overflowed from an indoor marijuana grow’s fuel room into a creek. The marijuana grower had left a valve open when pouring a larger diesel tank into a smaller one. The fuel had spread so far down the rugged stream bed when a neighbor smelled the pungent odor and investigated. He found “20 to 30 pools of red diesel” far below the spill. The environmental cleanup was a massive operation, from damage which rivals the impact of an oil spill in the ocean.
Marijuana and Fire Damages
Fires are frequent throughout California, and marijuana sometimes causes these fires, including hash oil (BHO) explosions. The massive Soberanes fire this summer uncovered several illegal marijuana sites. Marijuana growers may have started the fire.
The true irony is that when recreational marijuana was legalized in Colorado, these home explosions grew more frequent, rather than less. In one week of April 2014, there were four BHO explosions. BHO fires didn’t occur in California before 2010, so liberalizing pot laws and expanding marijuana access created a new problem. (In 2010, pot was decriminalized in California.)
Murders, Suicides and Missing People
If a tv news magazine were to expose the murder, rape and sex trafficking in Humboldt, reporters may be at risk. An investigative journalism report released in September revealed that some trimmigrants and girls end up getting abused or raped. The marijuana apologists mislead by insisting that murders and rapes happen because prohibition forces growers into hiding.
There were at least 22 murders in Humboldt County in 2016. Only 134,000 people live in the county. (Often it’s difficult to distinguish murder from suicide, which occurs at a rate twice the national norm.) Humboldt reported 352 missing people in 2015, more per capita than any other county in the state.
Domestic Violence, DUIs and Humboldt’s Other Problems
Humboldt County district attorney Maggie Fleming sat down for an interview with Paul Mann of the Mad River Union recently. (The entire article is in Lost Coast Outpost.) “We see DUIs all day long in this community …. There are people who are drinking or using prescription meds or smoking marijuana or using methamphetamine or heroin and driving at 2 o’clock in the afternoon. Some of our fatalities are in the middle of the day,” Fleming explained.
She listed multiple factors powering Humboldt crime: high rates of driving while intoxicated; the county’s nightmarish marijuana, drug and alcohol culture; the prevalence of domestic violence and the deep-rooted poverty that inflicts childhood trauma and impairs children’s health, often with lifelong afflictions, including criminal behavior. She definitely sees the crime is a result of the drug culture. Both those with substance abuse problems and those selling drugs for financial gain instigate the crime.
“I see firsthand how marijuana is a social and environmental disaster,” a policeman from the Emerald Triangle wrote to PopPot.org. “Youth access, abuse, transient population moving in to grow or trim, associated criminal behavior all rising.”
“Where there is pot …there are other drugs…..and all the behavior associated with lives less enabled,” he said. “The money isn’t worth the social cost to our world.”
–Emerald Triangle policeman
It’s clear that having a marijuana culture adds to the use of other drugs. Those laid back from smoking too much dope will try amphetamines to get them back up again. It also leads to rampant alcohol abuse, since booze just enhances the effect of the drugs. People think the homelessness problem in Humboldt is caused by mental illness, but one social worker in the area disagrees. He is certain that rampant drug/alcohol abuse precipitates the problem. Politicians in both parties remain clueless of how drug use creates mental health problems. Their ignorance will continue as long as it’s politically incorrect to blame pot for anything.
Seven hundred homeless children without parents or guardians in nearby Mendocino County, also part of California’s “Emerald Triangle” growing region. These street kids sometimes work on the pot farms, but basically no one has ever loved them enough to care for them. They’re likely to become drug users too, and the cycle of multi-generation drug use will continue.
Pueblo is a Warning to Other Places
Four years after Colorado legalized marijuana, the small city of Pueblo is another example of how pot commercialization can destroy life for the residents. “I can no longer allow my 13-year-old to walk the dog, one mother said. There was recently a murder 3 blocks from our house.” Pueblo failed to pass two referendums which would have closed dispensaries and growing sites in the city and county. Some people think of marijuana as an economic panacea for lost jobs in the steel industry. However, it has created a huge increase in the homeless population. Pueblo doctors recently made videos showing the damage marijuana is doing to the health care in the community.
International cartels have moved into Pueblo and bought up property for their marijuana grows. The black market is booming. Russians, Cubans, Argentinians and Cambodians have come to town. Pueblo, Boulder and Denver lead the state in percentage of high school students using pot, but in Pueblo there are more problems. Fully 12% of high school seniors have also used heroin.
Is marijuana growing also going to replace tobacco growing in Kentucky and Tennessee? Will it be a substitute for the coal mines that shut down in West Virginia and Pennsylvania? When policy is driven by knee-jerk reactions without careful planning, chaos follows.
At this time, the United States has more than half of the world’s illicit drug users. Six percent of America’s high school seniors are daily marijuana users. It appears that the legacy of drug use is going to continue creating this problem for America’s children. Humboldt County is the future of our country if we continue to believe marijuana use is perfectly harmless and normal.
The Emerald Triangle can’t hide behind its secrets after a report of widespread abuse, sexual exploitation and worker exploitation was published last week by Reveal News. There’s both worker and sexual exploitation. Cosmopolitan Magazine published another version of the story. Here are some of the most hideous incidents affecting children and teens.
A girl from Humboldt County started working for a local grower at 12. He gave her methamphetamine to speed up her work as a trimmer, and passed her around to pay off debts. She ran away to a homeless shelter and found that pimps were using it for a hunting ground.
Two other teens in that same homeless shelter report having been trafficked for sex. Both local and out-of-town teens may be involved.
They give girls weed, alcohol and food in exchange for trimming. Sex is also expected to go with it.
A 15-year-old runaway from southern California, was kept inside a box and forced to have sex with the two growers from Lake County, near Humboldt County, who had found her.
Federal prosecutors said they directed her to trim marijuana and have sex with them, sometimes while chained to a metal rack. For several few days, she was kept inside a box.
The men also shocked the girl with a cattle prod and told her she would be shot by neighbors if she attempted to leave, an employee later told police. The men were initially charged with human trafficking. When federal authorities took over, the trafficking charges were dropped. The men are expected to plead guilty to lesser charges of employing a minor and illegal marijuana cultivation. (The Cosmopolitan article has more information about this incident.)
After exploitation, teens and other workers many end up in homeless shelters
In summer and fall, temporary workers come in town to work the marijuana harvests. These “trimmigrants” sometimes end up homeless and without jobs. In one article, it’s reported that 100 European “trimmigrants” were stiffed for pay, broke, without a place to go and ended up in homeless shelters. Mexican and other immigrants also face abuse.
There’s a frequent “missing persons” problem in the area, which shows up through a quick search on the Internet. Sometimes the lost people are found, but at least 5 women have never been found.
Reveal is based in San Francisco and is a project of the Center for Investigative Reporting, found in 1977. Journalists Shoshana Walter and Elle Snow (not her real name) did outstanding jobs in their respective publications, Reveal.org and Cosmopolitan. Elle is a victim of sexual trafficking and she is now working against this problem and has started an organization in Eureka, Game Over. Listen to Against Their Will.