The Transylvania Times -

Marijuana Use Discussed At Forum - Brevard, NC


September 18, 2017

Matt McGregor

Members of the public discussed various reasons why they had used marijuana in the past.

A discussion about the pros and cons of marijuana was held Thursday by the C.A.R.E. Coalition at the Board of Elections.

Kristen Gentry, youth and community outreach coordinator for the C.A.R.E. Coalition, an organization whose goal is to reduce substance abuse and misuse in Transylvania County, said what "sparked" the forum was a survey they did showing trends in teenagers reporting that it is easier for them to obtain marijuana than it was for them to get alcohol.

"They are also thinking more and more that it's not as big a deal over the years, and so we come to this from a public health and public safety perspective," Gentry said.

After doing another survey in May, Gentry said the C.A.R.E. Coalition found that many people had a lot to say, which she said prompted them to hold this event.

"Everybody had different viewpoints, different values, and they come at this from a different perspective," Gentry said, "and we'd like to hear it."

Moderated by Brevard Mayor Jimmy Harris, some Transylvania County residents spoke about their experiences and research into the use of marijuana.

Kyle White said he grew up with anxiety issues. As a child, he said he learned that marijuana helped him with not just his anxiety, but his academic performance as well.

"I had bad comprehension problems when reading, but if I'd use marijuana, I'd even ace tests, and marijuana was the only way I graduated high school," White said. "If I took a test clean and sober, I'd fail every time, no matter how hard I studied, because when it came down to it, I was just reading words, I wasn't comprehending the words."

White said he'd been prescribed too many prescription medications in the past with side effects that made him feel sick, but he said marijuana never left him "feeling like crap."

"Adderall had me up all the time, Ativan knocked me out and right now I've actually been clean from anything for 93 days, but in all my years, I've found marijuana to be the only thing that worked," White said.

Janessa Shelton said, because of marijuana, she was able to give her 16-year-old daughter, Jackie Glover, a shower without Jackie screaming.

"She has a catastrophic form of epilepsy and severe autism, and a whole host of medical complications, and in 2012, her doctor told me that cannabis can help her, but until our state changes the laws regarding medical marijuana access, our hands are tied," Shelton said. "When she finally began cannabis treatment, she was able to talk, her seizures were reduced as well as her severe sensory processing issues."

There are many layers to this issue, Shelton said, and she said she is grateful the community is having this conversation.

"I really hope that we can move forward in our laws, and I would implore all of you to reach out to your legislators," Shelton said.

Ben Lamm, a pharmacist, said he's not a "big fan" of testimonials as being a source for whether or not the legalization of marijuana would be beneficial, and said he prefers looking at the research.

"There have been a number of studies, but one problem is that it's considered a 'Class 1' drug, which means you can't even do research without special permission, and I think that's a real big problem," Lamm said.

As far as medical marijuana goes, he said studies have shown that it can be used to treat pain and spasms.

But he said it can lessen the IQ of children, worsen anxiety and depression, and increase psychosis in those with predispositions to psychotic illnesses.

"It has the same carcinogenic chemicals that smoking tobacco has," Lamm said.

As far as chemical dependence, Lamm said there is a 9 percent chance of dependence, whereas nicotine has 69 percent and alcohol has 23 percent chance of dependence.

Joe Cohen, chairman for the C.A.R.E. Coalition and emergency medicine physician at Transylvania Regional Hospital, said, as someone trained in biological science, scientific research behind the idea that marijuana has the cure for many different ailments, isn't solid.

"It would appear that marijuana can be used legitimately for relieving nausea, pain, anxiety and insomnia, and it might be appropriate for patients with serious conditions who have failed conventional treatments or who were in the final stages of their lives," Cohen said, "but marijuana consists of 60 different active ingredients which may vary substantially between different products, so the effects aren't entirely predictable, and the THC content has increased over the years so it's not the marijuana of the 1960s."

Cohen said doctors have no way of knowing how to recommend marijuana and it hasn't been properly tested by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and that its potential for abuse is strong.

"Everyone knows what the legalization of alcohol has done to society," Cohen said, "and do we really want to legalize another drug for abuse?"

As a physician, Margaret Newton said she used to be against the use of marijuana until she met an 82-year-old woman she called "Hemp Momma," who she said educated her on the science behind marijuana and the benefits of its medicinal use.

Newton then quoted from a statistic stating that "every year 106,000 Americans are killed from over the counter prescription drugs."

"My mind has been completely changed and turned around because I've seen how people can get benefits and value from marijuana, and the idea that it is a 'gateway drug' and addictive is propaganda," Newton said. "I've never known one person to transition to another drug from marijuana."

Dow Davis, a student at Brevard College, said, the laws about marijuana came about racially.

Matt McGregor

Brevard Mayor Jimmy Harris was the forum moderator. Different views on the topic were brought up during the forum.

"People were scared of 'reefer madness,' and scared of what marijuana would do to a black person and how he would attack somebody when stoned, or at least that was the idea that was prevailing around that time," Davis said. "Over the years, marijuana laws have continually been oppressive to people of color, because, from rich to poor, many people smoke marijuana, but only the poorest feel the brunt of its laws."

Davis said his mom has multiple sclerosis, and he said her symptoms improved when she smoked marijuana, but that his dad got worried about them having it in their neighborhood in Durham because police frequently raided the predominately African American neighborhood to arrest dealers.

"My cousin got busted for selling weed, and this shouldn't be happening," Davis said. "If it were regulated, dealers could have a legal job selling weed, because contrary to popular belief, dealers aren't stupid people; they just have a hard time finding a break."

Davis finished by stating that marijuana could be used to "connect everyone," instead of as a tool "for oppression."


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