By Chris Rooney (Marinscope Newspapers)
As California follows along with other states legalizing recreational marijuana, there’s at least one local voice trying to be heard through the thickening smoke.
Lynn Fox, Ph.D, founder of Powerful Teachers and Parents, has been waging her own war against marijuana for decades. With society deeming the drug more acceptable and legalization sweeping the nation, she feels her message is more urgent than ever.
“It’s a billion-dollar industry,” says Dr. Fox. “And all of this is about the money.”
A professor at San Francisco State University and a Professor Emerita, Dr. Fox is one of the nation’s leading voices against legalizing marijuana. She’s trained more than 200,000 K-12 teachers and authored 11 books on relevant subjects — one of which a widely used textbook titled “Creating Drug Free Schools and Communities: A Comprehensive Approach,” co-authored with Dr. Shirley Forbing.
She and Dr. Forbing also developed three national models for the Federal Government. For Dr. Fox, fighting to tell the truth about the perils of marijuana has been a long battle.
“There was a huge problem at San Diego State University,” Dr. Fox says of the university where she served as professor in the late 1980s and early 90s.
The university’s epidemic inspired Dr. Fox to create programs for drug-free campuses — and communities. Some schools were so drug-riddled that “potty patrols” were established to help clean out pot smoking in restrooms and make them safe for students.
Dr. Fox’s campaign against legalizing marijuana has been an uphill battle, and it has many fronts.
Show me the money
Dr. Fox says that the marijuana lobby is not dissimilar from the type of power brokers who kept tobacco safe from regulations for so long.
“There are about five billionaires behind this,” she said of those who have the most to gain by legalizing marijuana.
Despite what the pro-pot contingent declare, Dr. Fox says the taxes raised by marijuana sales do not defray the costs of increased policing, healthcare or addiction services. She said legalizing marijuana in California would produce less than .003 percent of the budget.
Dr. Fox said the law to legalize marijuana in California was a whopping 62 pages long and was undermined by loopholes. “They’ve been taken,” she said of voters who passed the ballot measure. She added that her campaign to prevent legalization had maybe a million dollars, but in one weekend, the pot supporters spend between eight and 10 million dollars in advertising.
It’s the wrong shade of green
According to Dr. Fox, all you have to do is ask some of the wine growers in Sonoma and Napa County about marijuana farms to understand the impact they have on the environment, especially when water is scarce. “They’re stealing water,” Dr. Fox said of the pot growers.
She says one plant uses six gallons of water a day and natural waterways are diverted in order to quench that might thirst. Additionally, police agencies that seek out pot farms routinely say growers poison the environment with contaminates and illegal fertilizers.
And then there’s the stench. Dr. Fox said that one of the complaints she receives from those caught in crossfire is that “skunk weed” isn’t only odiferous when being smokes, but that the plants reek for months while being grown for cultivation.
It’s not your grandfather’s reefer
More so than the financial and environmental issues, Dr. Fox says the primary concern should be the simple fact that today’s marijuana hardly resembles the pot that got people a bit stoned years back. “This is not the same as in the 70s,” Dr. Fox says, saying the joints of yore yielded less than three percent tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main mind-altering ingredient found in the Cannabis plant. The modern version, she says, has 20-30 percent THC in smoked form and up to 96 percent butane hash oil (BHO) extracts used in edibles and vaping.
“People have no clue,” Dr. Fox said of the drug’s potency. “It could be up to 40 percent stronger.”
Dr. Fox noted a significant increase in pot-related car accidents in Colorado, one of the first states to legalize marijuana. Colorado’s district attorney dispatched a letter to California Gov. Brown relating his state’s problems stemming from legalizing pot.
Hook ‘em young
Alcohol Justice, a Marin County agency fighting the sale of alcohol to kids, managed to wage an effective campaign against “alcopops,” booze-fueled items marketed for the underage set. By the same measure, Dr. Fox would like to see an end to marijuana-laced products being created and marketed for kids.
“Who do they think they’re pushing to,” she asked, noting that marijuana products come in gummy form, and one product looks very similar to a regular Hershey chocolate bar. “I was thinking about this at Halloween. Who knows what wound up in kids’ bags?”
Dr. Fox offered a startling statistic: the average age of someone’s first use of marijuana is just 12.4 years — a sixth-grader. She pointed out that for every kid who first smoked a joint at the age of 15, there’s another kid who toked up in the third grade.
Locally, none of this bodes well. “Marin County has the highest use of opioids in adults per capita,” Dr. Fox says.
Which brings the problem, Dr. Fox, theorizes, full circle. A more potent drug is more likely to be a gateway to stronger narcotics, marketing to the underage market leads to adult abuse, and Marin is already faring poorly on that front.
As a doctor, and one who has tackled this issue for health-related causes, Dr. Fox says the impact of marijuana on adolescent development (“more severe on them than adults,” she says) has been under-reported. Similarly, while everyone has heard of fetal alcohol syndrome and crack babies, few are aware of the impact that marijuana has on the unborn fetus. Dr. Fox points to increases in depression, suicide, brain damage and psychotic breaks as being a result of stronger and easily purchased marijuana product.
Among the interviews and videos that Dr. Fox and her powerfulteachersandparents.com website offer, a teenager says her age group today isn’t trying to get buzzed, but to get totally blasted. According to Dr. Fox, that just became a lot easier.