Davis: Pot jokes lead to a serious topic

 
 
Posted11/16/2015 1:00 PM

We editor types, many of us more or less children of the '60s, had a pretty good time cracking wise about the startup of medical marijuana in Illinois and the suburbs.

Not that any of us have firsthand knowledge, mind you, but the names sure struck us as anything but medicinal: from Ghost Train Haze to Grape Purple God. One other thing reminded us of the days of Purple Haze and Moby Grape: These transactions are cash only.

 

"Oh, nothing can go wrong with a deal like that," cracked one wiseguy, possibly me.

Actually, there are very good reasons pot may be purchased only with green: Banks and credit card companies aren't tripping over one another to do business with the dispensaries and marijuana cultivators. Pot sales are still illegal in most states, while marijuana use violates federal law. Federally insured banks fear getting into the drug business could cost them their licenses, an industry expert told staff writer Jamie Sotonoff.

State banks are less ginchy, but there still are worries about large daily cash deposits, and money smelling like marijuana. Paying for pot through your health insurance is "very, very far off," the expert told Sotonoff.

With clinics in Addison, Mundelein and North Aurora up and running this past week, and one scheduled to open in Schaumburg today, there is some rather serious concern among those in the drug-prevention business: Will the newfound "positive" perception of pot, and its ability to ease the pain of seriously ill people, plus the far-out names for the drug, create more illegal use, particularly among young people? The answer varies among experts staff writer Marie Wilson talked to in a comprehensive story that apears in today's editions.

On one hand, owing in part to extensive discussion about the health benefits of pot before state legislators approved its use, there is evidence that some high schoolers are less inclined to think of it as a dangerous drug. That was the conclusion of both a national survey and one of high schoolers in two large Aurora- and Naperville-area districts.

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And that's of concern to health experts who say teens' less-than-fully-developed brains are more susceptible to harmful effects of prolonged pot use, especially in the prefrontal cortex, which helps control impulses and weigh potential outcomes.

On the other hand, another expert cautions against overreacting to medical marijuana availability with excessive fear and loathing. (I'm reminded of the hysterical "Reefer Madness" movie we were forced to watch in high school. Still a classic.) Go overboard with dire, overblown predictions, the expert told Wilson, and you'll lose your young audience. "Sometimes the message kids get is if you smoke marijuana you're going to become a heroin addict or your life is going to be ruined."

There is much, much more to Wilson's report on the impact of medical marijuana. It's well worth your reading, particularly parents of teens. To say it will save lives might be a stretch, but it is fair to suggest it might point you in a good direction.

jdavis@dailyherald.com

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