Texas ‘Marijuana Meltdown’ Panel Focuses on Children, Disease, Low IQ
A panel event entitled “Marijuana: The Meltdown of our Country” hosted earlier this week focused on combating the consumption of cannabis by children.
Hosted by the Flower Mound Area Republican Club, organizers aimed to “provide an educational experience for youth to prevent them from going down the road of marijuana usage,” and to “assemble a panel of experts from the community to reach the youth to present factual evidence that marijuana is a gateway drug that starts them down the road towards other drug usage.”
Earlier in the month the organization created a Facebook event page which drew the attention of cannabis law reform activists, who questioned the accuracy of the information which would be provided. This ultimately led to the page being taken down by organizers, who stated that those people were intent on disrupting their meeting. Some activists say that the page was taken down in an attempt to lead people to believe the event had been canceled. The day of the panel there was a large police presence, and some activists were turned away at the door. The club cited overcapacity as the reason, though there were empty chairs.
A small handful of activists did make it inside after purchasing tickets for food at the venue, and Texas Cannabis Report has obtained audio from the event. However, no pictures or video were taken due to restrictions by event staff.
The four panelists included Denton County Sheriff William Travis, Flower Mound Police Chief Andy Kancel, County Court at Law No. 1 Juvenile Court Judge Kimberly McCary, and Winning the Fight founder Kathy O’Keefe.
Travis, who has been the leading voice in Texas against cannabis law reform, stated that he wanted to preach a little bit to the crowd, and stress the point that “we’re not all about putting people in jail, we’re about solutions and reaching out to our youth.”
Texas averages about 78,000 arrests per year for marijuana possession.
He began by stating marijuana is addictive, something other panelists would stress as well, adding that 9 percent of the people who consume the non-toxic plant become addicted to it. He also claimed that it causes anxiety, depression, anger, aggression, undermines student learning, and causes a reduction in IQ.
Drawing comparisons between marijuana and alcohol, Travis, along with the other panelists stated that marijuana was far easier to obtain. He also attempted to draw a comparison between alcohol content and THC content, saying that marijuana is more dangerous these days because of the increased THC content while alcohol content in beer has remained low. It has been found though that marijuana tested in the 60s and 70s were also lumped in with hemp, which has an extremely low THC content, and it is believed that while potency has risen, the averages are skewed and the increase has not been as much as many have been led to believe.
Travis encouraged parents to be on the lookout for signs that their children are consuming marijuana, and noted that consuming marijuana extracts in vapor pens has become popular.
“Marijuana is the number one drug being fought against in this country, and it is overwhelming law enforcement” he stated. He added that marijuana is very dangerous and will lead to kids doing other things, saying that 85 percent of the people coming into to Denton County jail started their career with marijuana.
Kancel began by stating that there are drugs everywhere, and that arrests for drugs have been consistent over the years in Flower Mound. He says that over 50 percent of arrests have been related to marijuana, while 20 percent are related to prescription medication.
He stressed the importance of community programs to help reach out to children to keep them safe and drug free, also adding that children and parents need to know that it’s ok to ask what’s going on in children’s lives. “Be up front with children that it’s ok to look through their stuff and rooms.”
Drug testing kids was stressed by all of the panelists, and the Flower Mound Area Republican Club spent $500 to provide attendees with drug tests to administer to their children based on the notion that drug testing them automatically gives them an out when people offer them drugs.
Judge McCary was the most outspoken during the panel, saying multiple times that it was a night for telling the truth.
“I can count on one hand the number of bad children I’ve seen during my 22 years as Judge,” she stated. Some of the reasons she sees kids coming into her court for marijuana include untreated mental illness, depression, anxiety, and trauma. She says that these kids cope with all of this by self medicating with marijuana.
McCary compares this to adults coping with life by going out for a drink after work, however since it is easier for children to obtain marijuana, that’s what they use for coping.
“Using marijuana for a short amount of time is really fun, but it will go downhill quickly” she stated, hammering on her point that she has seen many children who started out with marijuana and ended up doing other drugs, often because the marijuana they get is laced.
Cannabis law reformers have consistently argued however that this is a symptom of prohibition, and that legalizing the plant for adult consumption will reduce access to children and put drug dealers out of business.
A member of the audience later questioned if prohibition leads to the problems currently being experienced, however the responses ranged from “people just want to make money” when referencing if synthetic drugs exist because of the prohibition on natural marijuana, to McCary stating that loosening the laws does not fix the problem, and it does not help the kids address their problems.
McCary says that sometimes though kids find their parents’ stash and end up taking it, and other times they are peer pressured into consuming it. She states that consumption causes kids to be stupid and lazy, fail at school and work, and not want to participate in extracurricular activities. She also says it causes kids to steal in order to pay for marijuana, and sometimes even sell their bodies.
At one point during the panel she says that marijuana scares her so much because it doesn’t scare other people, adding that marijuana causes people to become sick and contract diseases, though she did not cite sources nor are there any available to substantiate those claims.
“No matter what you’ve heard, what you’ve seen, or what studies you’ve read, marijuana is a gateway” McCary claimed.
O’Keefe rounded out the panel by telling the story of her son who died at 18 due to a heroin overdose. A mixture of heroin, alcohol, marijuana, and xanax were found in her son’s system when he died.
She says he began self medicating with marijuana at 14 for ADD, but O’Keefe and her husband did not think that pot was that big of a deal. She says that she realizes now she should have set boundaries and been firm with them, including drug testing her son.
O’Keefe also stated that a lack of education on their part led them to be where they are now.
One resident of Denton who was in attendance felt the event was biased and lacked sound information.
Caroline Turner, a member of the cannabis activist community, says that the atmosphere was very tense. “There was an officer that had eyes locked on me the entire time. There was a particular board member that was constantly glancing at what was clearly myself specifically.”
She also questioned the drug test kits that were handed out, saying “I think that’s a ridiculous idea. Its the parents responsibility to establish a relationship that welcomes honesty. And plus, why is the Flower Mound Area Republican Club funding going towards drug tests for members’ children?”
Turner gave her overall impression of the event, stating “according to organizers, this event was to talk about marijuana as a gateway drug. Especially considering that the gateway theory has been dis-proven as a logical fallacy, and with a lot of outright incorrect information they cited, the true reason for this event seemed to be fear. I think this reflects part of the bigger strategy of the traditional Republican party in general. The only way an anti-government party can maintain control is to scare people into demanding government intervention, which totally defies what you would expect the party standard to be. I was not surprised at all by the rhetoric of the speakers, but thankfully, their numbers are waning as we move forward in society.”
Recent polling shows that 58 percent of Americans support legalizing marijuana, and 86 percent of Americans are in support of using marijuana for medical purposes.
A survey by Texas Lyceum shows that 75 percent of Texans want to reduce the penalty for marijuana possession. As for legalization, about 46 percent are supportive while 48 percent are opposed.