Anti-pot Prop 139 missed the Alzheimer’s memo

Paul Danish/Sue France

There may be a major anti-marijuana initiative on the Colorado Ballot this November. Here’s what you need to know about it, and about a couple of studies that make a mockery about one of its claims regarding “permanent loss of brain abilities.”

The initiative is called Proposition 139. Its proponents last week were given the green light to start circulating their petitions by the Colorado Supreme Court. They have until August 8 to collect 98,000 signatures to get it on the ballot.

If passed, Proposition 139 would impose an upper limit of 16 percent THC on the potency of marijuana and marijuana products. Marijuana industry spokespeople say this would effectively ban 80 percent of the marijuana products being sold today.

The initiative would also impose a labeling requirement that would require all marijuana and marijuana products to contain a warning label listing “identified health risks,” which reads like something out of a bad remake of Reefer Madness.

The “health risks” that would have to be listed on all pot, concentrates and edibles sold in Colorado include:

(i) increased chance of a harmful reaction due to
higher tetrahydrocannabinol levels;

(ii) birth defects and reduced brain development;

(iii) increased risk of brain and behavioral
problems in babies;

(iv) breathing problems;

(v) permanent loss of brain abilities;

(vi) altered senses and mood swings;

(vii) impaired body movement and impaired

(viii) depression, anxiety and temporary paranoia;

(ix) potential for long-term addiction.

If Proposition 139 gets on the ballot and passes, this laundry list of alleged horrors will be written into the Colorado Constitution.
Proposition 139’s chances of actually getting onto the ballot are murky. The supporters will have a total of only seven weeks to gather the needed signatures, which is a heavy lift, but not an impossible one if they are well-organized and sufficiently well-funded to hire paid petition circulators. In other words, they have a real chance of making the ballot if the rubber band is off Sheldon Adelson’s bankroll, as well as mounting a serious campaign in the fall.

The Colorado marijuana industry would do well to assume that Prop 139 will be on the ballot in the fall and they ought to start raising some serious money to fight it. Starting now.
Many of the items on Proposition 139’s putative warning label are based on junk science studies that have already been debunked. We’ll go over it point by point if Prop 139 actually makes it onto the ballot.

However, one item merits special mention ­— item five, “permanent loss of brain abilities.”

This is because some studies are emerging that show marijuana — far from causing “permanent loss of brain abilities” — can combat Alzheimer’s Disease.

A 2014 “pre-clinical” study (a laboratory study conducted on cells, not patients) done at the University of South Florida and published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease found that small doses of THC can reduce the production of protein fragments called beta-amyloids that destroy synapses in the brain and eventually form plaques that lead to nerve cell death. The study also found that THC directly interacts with beta-amyloids inhibiting aggregation into plaques.

More recently, an Israeli study of a small group of Alzheimer patients by researchers at Tel-Aviv and Bar-Illan Universities, also published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, found that ingestion of cannabis oil corresponded with decreased levels of aggression, irritability, apathy and delusions.

“Adding medical cannabis oil to Alzheimer’s disease patients pharmacotherapy is safe and a promising treatment option,” the researchers concluded.

For years, marijuana prohibitionists claimed that marijuana caused cancer. Eventually, multiple studies found that not only did pot not cause cancer, it had strong anti-cancer properties.

While not as much work has been done on marijuana and Alzheimer’s, these initial studies suggest a similar pattern may be about to emerge regarding marijuana neo-prohibitionists’ and re-criminalizers’ brain damage claims.

“Permanent loss of brain abilities” indeed.


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