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Buddy, can you spare a dime bag? - (3/30/2021)

By Dr. Ron Gasbarro

Buddy came into the pharmacy whistling and laughing. "Hey, doc," Buddy said to the pharmacist. "Seems like we are going to be able to go across the state line soon and buy recreational weed! Let the good times roll! (*wink*wink*)." The pharmacist knew that Buddy had an endless supply of marijuana – and so be it. In the pharmacist's view, marijuana should be federally legalized in the US for a slew of reasons ranging from legal to financial.

According to Forbes, a prominent business publication, 40,000 Americans are presently in jail for marijuana offenses even as the legal cannabis industry is booming, and cannabis companies are making healthy profits. Meanwhile, the ex-felon has a heck of a time finding a job with a prison record like that. The FBI reports that police arrested 545,602 people for cannabis-related crimes in 2019, a rate 9% higher than the 495,871 people arrested for violent crimes. Only 8% of those arrested for pot crimes were pushers; the other 92% were for simple drug possession. 

Public support for legal cannabis has skyrocketed over the last decade. According to the Pew Research Center, 92% of Americans favor legalization for recreational or medical uses. Currently, 48 states allow for some type of medical cannabis use, and 15 allow for adult recreational use. This year, New York, New Mexico, and Minnesota are predicted to go fully legal soon. 

Example: All New Yorkers over the age of 21 will be able to buy up to 3 ounces of pot — roughly the equivalent of 250 joints — for their personal enjoyment. Lawmakers in the state government will vote on it as early as next month. If it passes, legal marijuana could be sold in licensed shops as soon as December 2022. According to the New York Times, the move will pave the way for a budding $4.2 billion industry, with millions in sales tax revenue reinvested into towns and cities and infrastructure.

As both Buddy and the pharmacist know, marijuana is just not one thing. You can roll the leaves into joints or make edibles from it – brownies and lemon bars are popular. One can buy gummies, which can take an hour to kick in. Tinctures and sprays can be purchased for a quick high. Note that legalized cannabis products and marijuana leaves come in various strengths, the same way liquor does. Why? It depends for what you are using it. Lower doses are for newbies who use it for sleep and anxiety. Higher doses are for social butterflies, pain relief, and euphoria. The highest doses are for experienced users. The higher the dose, the more likely one will experience adverse side effects such as rapid heart rate, paranoia, and physical incoordination. Equate cannabis with alcohol use. Drinking a beer at a ball game will make you mildly buzzed. In contrast, a vodka martini, when taken as a triple, will make driving impossible. Low doses of cannabis may make you giggle at the antics of your dog and cat. Super-strength pot may find you face down on the living room floor with The Flintstones blasting on the TV.  

Some rules apply: No dope for kids. Do not drive while high. Adjust your dose accordingly. Know that just because one state has legalized pot, it may not be ok to cross state lines to buy it. Tell lawmakers you want adult recreational marijuana legalized in your state. Send a letter to the White House to ask for federal law changes. The pharmacist watched Buddy bounce out of the pharmacy with a smile on his face. "Now there goes a happy man," thought the pharmacist. 

Ron Gasbarro, PharmD, is a recovering pharmacist and writer-in-residence at Rx-Press.

 


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