Guest opinion: A different take on marijuana |

Guest opinion: A different take on marijuana

Heather Lauer

What do you know about cannabis?

Let’s start with its name and some basics.

Highest classification: cannabaceae. Other Terms: cannabis, marijuana, hemp, weed, pot, ganja, etc. Cannabis is a genus of a flowering plant that includes three species or subspecies: sativa, indica and ruderalis. The plant is indigenous to central Asia and the Indian subcontinent.

There are 483 identifiable chemical constituents known to exist in marijuana. Two of the most common cannabinoids (constituents) that exist are THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), which has psychoactive properties, and CBD (cannabidiol), which is non-psychoactive and is claimed to have medicinal properties. Cannabis has been used for a variety of things. Hemp, for instance, has been grown for the last 12,000 years for fibers to make paper and textiles.

Now, how could this plant change our community for better or worse? How will this effect your safety and your children’s safety? Is marijuana harmful?

Though the smoking of marijuana is still under debate due to the carcinogenic potentials, there are other ways to use marijuana, such as edibles. An article by Rolling Stone Magazine titled “Top 10 Marijuana Myths and Facts” cited a 2006 UCLA study that concluded even heavy marijuana use does not lead to lung cancer. The story quotes the lead author as saying, “We hypothesized that there would be positive association between marijuana use and lung cancer and that the association would be more positive with heavier use. What we found instead was no association at all and even a suggestion of some protective effect. This and other studies suggest that pot can actually inhibit the growth of cancerous tumors.”

There is still much to be learned, but with legalization we can potentially open up greater opportunity to find out what cannabis can truly accomplish and if there are harmful side effects from its use.

Other concerns are with driving under the influence of marijuana. Law enforcement has been working on a legitimate way to test marijuana consumption and its behaviors and tolerance, but for now there is no solid test to depend on.

Is marijuana a “gateway drug?”

A 1999 study by the Institute of Medicine found “no conclusive evidence that the drug effects of marijuana are causally linked to the subsequent abuse of other illicit drugs.”

Are you going to be safer or in greater danger if marijuana is in your city?

According to the Colorado Department of Public Safety, since the legalization of marijuana in Colorado, marijuana arrests have decreased by 46 percent between 2012 and 2014, possession arrests have decreased by 47 percent and marijuana sales arrests have decreased by 24 percent.

The previously mentioned Rolling Stone article cited a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that found one out of every 15 high school students reported smoking marijuana most days.

“For the first time, United States teenagers reported smoking more pot than cigarettes. But teenagers don’t smoke anymore pot in states where medical marijuana is legal than in ones where it’s not. Legalization advocates argue that the best way to reduce use by minors is to legalize and regulate pot,” the article states.

As a city, you want to think about the potential increase in crime if regulated marijuana is not a part of your city, especially since it is still legal state wide. But what about federally?

The Colorado Department of Public Safety states that the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) is monitoring in two ways.

“First, United States attorneys prosecute cases that threaten federal marijuana enforcement priorities and consult with State officials about areas of federal concern, such as the potential impact on enforcement priorities of edible marijuana products. Secondly, officials reported they collaborate with Department of Justice components, including the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and other federal agencies including the office of National Drug Control Policy, and assess various marijuana enforcement related data these agencies provide. The General Accounting Office (GAO) indicated that the United States Department of Justice has not documented its monitoring approach, leading to a gap in their knowledge about state-level adherence to the Cole Memo”.

What is the Cole Memo?

The Department of Justice states the Cole Memorandum, “ provides guidance to United States attorneys on the proper prioritization of marijuana enforcement in their districts given the number of states that have moved to legalize marijuana for medicinal, agricultural or recreational use. Specifically the Cole Memorandum lists eight Federal Law Enforcement priorities where the department will focus its limited investigative and prosecutorial resources in all states.”

These eight priorities are:

Preventing the distribution of marijuana to minors.

Preventing revenue from the sale of marijuana from going to criminal enterprises, gangs and cartels.

Preventing diversion of marijuana from states where it is legal under state law in some form to other states.

Preventing State authorized marijuana activity from being used as a cover or pretext for the trafficking of other illegal drugs or illegal activity.

Preventing violence and the use of firearms in the cultivation and distribution of marijuana.

Preventing drugged driving and the exacerbation of other adverse Public Health consequences associated with marijuana use.

Preventing growing of marijuana on public lands and the Attendant Public Safety and Environmental dangers posed by marijuana production on public lands.

Preventing marijuana possession or use on federal property.

Though the federal government still considers marijuana an illegal substance, there are ways to do this so that there are fewer negative impacts on everyone involved in the eyes of the federal government.

This marijuana movement is only going in one direction: forward. Just like the prohibition of alcohol, so too will cannabis be remembered in that lineage. Dispensaries will be seen as equals in your community.

Other arguments as to whether or not marijuana is safe come down to the responsibility of the user — just like guns and alcohol — especially if dispensaries take precautions such as child locks on exit bags and on all marijuana products with recommended dosage suggestions, etc.

Has South Lake Tahoe City Council and the police force forgotten how to state a non-biased argument like we learned in grade school?

We need to ask questions and be allowed to do so without being bullied by fear mongering. That tactic only comes out when people simply don’t know enough about cannabis to make a valid conclusion. Hence, fear of change. Change is the only constant and your perspective is your experience. Educate yourself to make a well-rounded decision; not a decision as sheeple but as people of South Lake Tahoe.

Heather Lauer is a native of Colorado, who has lived in South Lake Tahoe on-and-off for the past six years. She has worked with dispensaries in Colorado and in California. She can be reached at

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