Friday, January 29, 2016

Marijuana Cultivation

– an article from Jefferson County’s “Behind Badge” newsletter

In August, a large marijuana cultivation site was identified in the Pike National Forest. Officials from the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office partnered with the U.S. Forest Service, Department of Homeland Security Investigations and the Colorado National Guard Joint Counter Drug Task Force to eradicate the illegal marijuana grow site.
The eradication team collected more than 3,900 plants and approximately 3,000 pounds of irrigation pipe, pesticides, flammable liquids, camping gear and trash. While the investigation continues, this eradication represents an important step in gaining control over the illegal production and sales of marijuana on public lands and federal property. Marijuana cultivation on public land wreaks havoc on the natural resources our outdoor enthusiasts and residents enjoy. But even more alarming is the criminal element and inherent public safety risks these criminal enterprises bring.

In adherence with the Sheriff's Office's mission (Protect ~ Serve ~ Enforce) we will continue to investigate, and hold accountable those attempting to take advantage of the marijuana laws in Colorado. 

With the legalization of marijuana in Colorado, it's no surprise that law enforcement has been presented with a multi-faceted problem. Locating and eliminating illegal marijuana grows not only requires strong partnerships, but a complex understanding of the laws and enforcement responsibilities. Before we present the Sheriff's Office's goals and approach, let's revisit both state and federal laws, and county ordinances:

Federal Law: Marijuana cultivation continues to be illegal under federal law.

State Law: In November of 2012, Colorado voters approved Amendment 64, which permits adults 21 and older to possess one ounce of marijuana and grow up to six plants for personal use.

County Ordinances: Jefferson County ordinance states that no more than six plants may be grown in each residential property for each adult age 21 or older, and in no case may more than 12 plants be grown on any single residential property. The ordinance does not allow for commercial grows in unincorporated Jefferson County. Cultivation and consumption is meant for private, personal use, so it is not allowed on any Jefferson County Open Space lands or any other public place.

In the last several months, the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office investigated 16 suspected illegal marijuana grow operations in unincorporated Jefferson County. Nine of the grows were in residences; four of the grows were in compliance with both state law and county ordinances. The remaining five grows were cited by Jefferson County Planning and Zoning for violating county ordinances. The other seven grows, located in commercially-zoned properties, were also referred to planning and zoning as they were in violation of county ordinances.
The goal of the Sheriff's Office is to continue to work with local, state and federal partners in investigating public safety concerns and hold accountable those who participate in illegal marijuana activity. First and foremost is the need to collaborate with each other to share resources and data. In July, a coalition of various Jefferson County entities (sheriff's office, planning and zoning, health department, school district, and county attorney, and members of the public) reviewed Amendment 64 enforcement considerations and designed a three-pronged approach to address priorities:

* Address prevention, treatment, and educational needs with marijuana usage,
* Identify appropriate enforcement with varied laws and,
* Address the need to share information via a unified database. 
If you suspect that an illegal marijuana grow operation is occurring please contact the
Jefferson County Sheriff's Office at 303-277-0211.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Marijuana Effects – What the Science Says

“Marijuana use has been associated with substantial adverse effects, some of which have been determined with a high level of confidence.” So say leading scientists from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), who conducted a review of research as reported in the August, 2014 New England Journal of Medicine. This study, focusing on recreational marijuana use, may help address the myths that marijuana is a benign, natural substance that helps reduce stress. Similarly, a review of the science around medical marijuana by Michael E. Schatman, PhD, in February 2015, sheds light on some of the myths related to medicinal use.

The review article by investigators from NIDA which focuses on recreational marijuana use shows that during intoxication, marijuana can interfere with memory, perception of time, and motor function, which can lead to serious consequences, including motor vehicle crashes. In addition, repeated use during adolescence can result in long-term brain function changes.
Noting that legal drugs, including alcohol and tobacco, account for "the greatest burden of disease" because of their widespread exposure, the authors stated that “as policy shifts toward legalization of marijuana, it is reasonable and probably prudent to hypothesize that its use will increase and that, by extension, so will the number of persons for whom there will be negative health consequences".
Highlights of the review of findings for recreational use are noted below:
  • Addiction to marijuana is a real phenomenon. Cannabis withdrawal syndrome is characterized by irritability, insomnia, dysphoria, and anxiety. Approximately 9% of individuals who experiment with marijuana will become addicted. However, this rate increases to 17% among people who began using marijuana during adolescence, and up to half of individuals who smoke marijuana daily are addicted.
  • Adults who smoked marijuana during adolescence have objective evidence of impaired neural connectivity in multiple centers within the brain. There is an association between frequent marijuana use in adolescence and lower scores on intelligence testing during adulthood.
  • Marijuana use during early adolescence is associated with worse school performance and a higher risk of dropping out of school.
  • Solid epidemiologic evidence exists that marijuana acts as a gateway drug to the use of other, more harmful illicit drugs. Animal models suggest that THC, the main active ingredient of marijuana, can prime the brain for enhanced responses to other drugs.
  • Marijuana use is associated with higher frequencies of anxiety and depression, although no causative link has been established between marijuana use and these disorders. Marijuana may also promote a higher risk for psychosis, particularly among individuals with a preexisting genetic vulnerability.
  • Heavy marijuana use has been associated with unemployment, criminal behavior, lower income, and reduced satisfaction with life.
  • Marijuana is the most commonly cited illicit drug in promoting motor vehicle crashes. A meta-analysis found that using marijuana increased the risk for a motor vehicle crash approximately twofold. Other research has found that the risk for motor vehicle crashes after the use of marijuana is similar to that of persons beyond the usual legal limit of blood alcohol while driving.
  • The risk for cancer associated with marijuana is unclear, but it does not appear as dangerous as tobacco. Heavy marijuana smokers may experience chronic bronchitis, but lower levels of marijuana use have a negligible effect on the risk for pulmonary disease.
The Schatman article focusing on medical marijuana and draws several conclusions, including the following:
  •        Because of the rise of THC concentrations, “medical” marijuana is rarely good medicine and there are a number of dangers associated with the use of whole-plant marijuana, whether used for recreational or for supposedly medical purposes.
  •        Though studies related to the potential use of cannabidiol (CBD), are in their infancy, this  component of marijuana shows some promise for the treatment of several difficult-to-treat conditions (without the harmful effects of THC).  Notably, CBD has been found to mitigate the euphoric (“high”) effects of marijuana use. 

Looking for a Tool to Screen for Cannabis Use Disorder?

The Cannabis Use Disorder Identification Test – Revised (CUDIT-) is “readily applicable as a screening tool” to identify problematic cannabis use and provides an excellent basis for interventions.  With only 8 questions, it can be implemented relatively quickly and support decisions about referring.   Read more about the screening tool and its applications at this link.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Welcome to "Marijuana and Health in the Spotlight"

Welcome to the Jefferson County Public Health (JCPH) e-newsletter providing health information and resources for Jefferson County service providers and others concerned about the use and commercialization of marijuana.  JCPH welcomes any feedback about "Marijuana and Health in the Spotlight" so that we can best assess its usefulness and develop a schedule for publication.

This newsletter is in response to an identified information and resource gap regarding marijuana in Jefferson County. In 2015, JCPH convened two meetings  that engaged over  80 service providers, including law enforcement, educators, behavioral health, health care and prevention advocates, in discussions about marijuana
and the changing landscape  its commercialization has created.   The meetings, held in May and July 2015, also provided an opportunity to prioritize potential resources needed to effectively respond to these changes. 

In considering what resources may be needed, participants pointed to a lack of local data on youth marijuana use trends as well as a lack of related indicators such as perceptions of harm. This data gap leaves communities to rely on secondary data, data from neighboring counties and input from those “working in the trenches” to anticipate possible prevention and intervention needs.  

The following resource lists were identified as needed and are now being provided via links to JCPH website and creation of this e-newsletter:

  • List to help service providers find reliable data. 
    Marijuana and Health Data Resources
  • List of prevention and education resources
    Marijuana and Health Prevention and Education Resources
  • List of prevention, screening/treatment resources.
  • Piloting an electronic newsletter for service providers that includes current “hot topic” issues about marijuana.  “Marijuana and Health in the Spotlight” has been created and can be found electronically on the JCPH Marijuana and Public Health web page.
  • Plan to reconvene service provider/prevention advocates group.  
    A group meeting has been scheduled for: 
    Thursday, February 23, 201 from 4:00 p.m. – 5:30 pmJefferson County Administration and Courts100 Jefferson County Parkway Lookout Mountain RoomGolden, COThe meeting will provide a forum for continued discussion about marijuana and related issues by service providers and prevention advocates in Jefferson County.

 Issues and areas of concern discussed during 2015 service provider/prevention advocate meetings:

·         Adolescent attitudes about marijuana use and its harms are changing – in the direction that indicates we could be facing serious problems.

·        Commercialization of marijuana (medical and recreational retail) appears to be contributing to the misperception by youth that marijuana is a benign drug. This misperception can lead to initiation of use by adolescents.

·         Well-designed, longitudinal studies now show that early, regular use of marijuana may produce serious, irreversible changes in cognitive functioning which contribute to lower achievement, in school and life. 
       View the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) Director’s comments on marijuana’s lasting effects on the brain. (Study) Participants who used cannabis heavily in their teens and continued through adulthood showed a significant drop in IQ between the ages of 13 and 38—an average of 8 points or those who met criteria for cannabis dependence. (For context, a loss of 8 IQ points could drop a person of average intelligence into the lowest third of the intelligence range.) Those who started using marijuana regularly or heavily after age 18 showed minor declines. By comparison, those who never used marijuana showed no declines in IQ.

If you have questions about or want to comment on this first edition of the Marijuana in the Spotlight e-newsletter or the resource lists provided, please email Donna Viverette at or call 303-275-7555.