Reefer Madness: For Real

09-25-2022Pastor's LetterFr. John Bonavitacola

Dear Friends,

Since around the 1980’s we have been fighting a “War on Drugs”. And as a friend of mine reminds me, “Drugs are winning the War on Drugs”. Despite our best efforts and intentions, drug use, drug related crime, enrichment of the drug cartel’s wealth and power and drug related deaths are off the charts. And all this got a big assist from Arizona voters.

In the last national election, Arizonans overwhelmingly voted via Proposition to legalize the for-profit Cannabis industry (previous effort to legalize Cannabis for “medical” purposes was also successful). So, was the experiment a success?

Aside from making a few people filthy rich, legalized weed has harmed individuals and impoverished our communities. Whatever tax revenue that cannabis has produced has been far offset by the cost to individuals and communities. Specifically, in terms of medical care costs, mental health care, family breakdown, and social cohesion.

Voters were sold that marijuana is a natural substance. ‘God’s weed, you know man’. Well, so are poppies which produce opium and heroin. The weed produced today is not what is found in nature. Through genetic engineering, the weed grown and processed today has astronomically high levels of THC, the psychoactive substance in Cannabis. The cannabis products sold today contain up to 90-100% THC. To rephrase the Buick motto: “this is not your dad’s weed”; not even close to the stuff you smoked in the 60’s which had about 2% THC.

As a result, what we are seeing is that people who smoke, ingest, consume large amounts of THC on a regular basis have high levels of mental illness, including: psychosis, delusions, schizophrenia, and outbreaks of violence all cannabis induced. The potency of the drug today puts marijuana that is sold in Dispensaries on the same level as methamphetamine, cocaine and heroin. The old film, “Reefer Madness” which was soundly mocked, had little evidence to support its claims. We have the evidence today. And it is madness.

If you are around 30yrs or older, the weed you smoked back in the day, probably had about 20% THC levels. So, there is no comparison to what young people (and others) are consuming today. The high level of THC makes the substance highly addictive and greatly increases the chance it will drive you insane. Because weed is so easily obtainable, despite the ‘Only for those over 21’, nonsense that voters were sold, young people today are becoming addicted to Cannabis in large numbers. What’s more, unlike someone who “toked” now and then, this Cannabis, delivered in wax vaping pens, is being smoked from sunrise to sunset much like cigarettes, since just like tobacco, withdrawal sets in, and you get uncomfortable, and the next hit pushes the withdrawal symptoms away.

Many young people tell me that they no longer use the restrooms while at High School, because all they encounter are other students vaping Cannabis. I also know young people who went into full-blown Psychosis and Schizophrenia after consuming today’s cannabis. And it is an awful site to behold. To watch a 17yr old, with a bright future and every reason to look forward to tomorrow, descend into the horror of Schizophrenia, is heart-breaking beyond words. As one young person described to me: “I know the moment my brain changed. It was when I smoked a joint. It was like Cannabis was the key that unlocked the cage that held Schizophrenia and let it loose in my brain. I have never been the same since.”

With the advent of legalized and high potency cannabis, ER physicians are seeing something new: increasing numbers of young people with the worst Psychosis ever seen along with delusions that are accompanied by severe violence. And Meth and Cocaine are not underneath it all. Cannabis is.

But there is good news. Many voters, voted to approve the Initiative to legalize for-profit Cannabis in Arizona because they didn’t think Pot users should be taking up bed space in jails and prisons. Well, that did happen. They do not, any longer take up bed space in our Correctional facilities. No, instead they take up lots more bed space in Hospital Emergency Rooms, Psychiatric Facilities and cemeteries.

The Cannabis Industry profits off addiction, in a way that is much worse than the Tobacco Industry. It also profits off human suffering. And just like Tobacco, the Industry will only tell you how great their product is. In fact, about 65% of Americans still believe that Cannabis is benign and harmless. The Corporate advertising is working.

Still, just because drugs are winning the War on Drugs doesn’t mean we should surrender.

Love, Fr. John B.

PS: Thanks to all of you who support my FullCircle Program, which helps young people deal with substance misuse and other issues. Your support and donations will help us win this war!