Recently a San Francisco area television news station had a very unflattering news report on Plumas County. The subject of the report was the fact that Plumas County had the highest number of overdose deaths related to opioid use, per capita, than any other county in California. This is not just a local problem, but a national one.
I have had first hand observation, of this issue, because as a pharmacist I was the last in-house pharmacist at Plumas District Hospital in Quincy, at a time of California Board inspection and a part-time pharmacist at Quincy Drug, which reflects on this problem.
A little background on the subject of opioids. This class of drugs originally was derived from a plant called the poppy, specifically the opium poppy, which from the juice of the unripe seed capsule gave us alkaloid chemicals morphine and codeine. These drugs were given for pain and morphine, being the stronger, was used extensively during WW2 for injured troops on the battlefield.
Heroin is derived from morphine, but has no analgesic (pain killing) value, but a great psychoactive effect, and is highly addictive and is banned in the United States and other countries. Since the ‘80s and ‘90s other, stronger analgesic drugs have been synthesized and have come to market, i.e. hydrocodone and oxycodone.
These are the primary drugs that have come under scrutiny by medical and legislative bodies for their huge potential for abuse and overdose, including death. The cause of death is a result of respiratory failure — you stop breathing. These are the opioids.
But these drugs have now been mixed, by illegal offshore laboratories, with a synthetic analgesic, fentanyl, which is 90 times the strength of morphine, and a single tablet of hydrocodone and fentanyl has caused the death of six individuals in California a short while ago. But these illegal labs are not finished. They’re working on other psychoactive, more potent, and with no medicinal value drugs. Every day large amounts of these drugs are interdicted at the borders of the U. S. And unless individuals realize the dangers associated with these unknown substances the deaths will continue. In my experience working in a psychiatric hospital, with addicted patients, I have come to realize that the use of narcotics is a form of escape. The feeling of overwhelming warmth and detachment from the problems of depression, in living every day life is itself a reality.
Now I come to the true purpose and subject of this article. The introduction of legal growing of marijuana in Plumas County.
But first a little scientific background on the subject.
Most people have heard of the chemical called THC, which is the ingredient in marijuana that gets users high. But recently, attention has shifted to another compound in marijuana called cannabidiol or CBD.
CBD is one of over 60 compounds found in cannabis that belong to a class of molecules called cannabinoids.
CBD and THC levels tend to vary among different plants. Marijuana grown for recreational purposes often contains more THC, the psychoactive component, than CBD.
Unlike THC, CBD does not cause a high. While this makes CBD a poor choice for recreational users, it gives the chemical a significant advantage as a medicinal, since health professionals prefer treatments with minimal side effects.
CBD is non-psychoactive because it does not act on the same pathways as THC. These pathways, called CB1 receptors, are highly concentrated in the brain and are responsible for the mind-altering effects of THC. Now the basic marijuana plant has a concentration of THC at between 5-8 percent. These are the plants from the beginning of time until modern times when the hybridization has increased the concentration to 26-30 percent. This is an increase of five times the psychoactive effect, and herein lies the problem. The side effects of decreased motor functions and memory impairment to name just two.
CBD has a wide range of medical benefits. Antiemetic- reduces nausea and vomiting, anticonvulsant-suppresses seizure activity, anti-tumor, anti –inflammatory, just to name a few. Unfortunately, most of this evidence comes from animals, since very few studies on CBD have been carried out in human patients.
But a pharmaceutical version of CBD was recently developed by a drug company in the UK. The company, GW Pharmaceuticals, is now funding clinical trials on CBD as a treatment for certain types of epilepsy and schizophrenia. Likewise, a team of researchers at the California Pacific Medical Center, led by Dr. Sean McAllister, has stated the hope to begin trials on CBD for as a breast cancer therapy. Now the point of all this is to separate the benefit of drugs and risk involved in using them. Minimize the risk and side effects and concentrate on the medicinal value.
For this reason, introducing legal pot farms in Plumas County, with all the potential crime, intrusion of drug cartels, not to mention the impairment of citizens driving around is not desirable. I lived for a time in Humboldt County, (70s-80s) and saw how the marijuana grows went from the countryside to the cities, where neighbors had to arm themselves, because of indoor grows had taken over the house next door, and others were breaking in mistakenly.
Lassen and Tehama counties as well as other counties around us have turned this down, let’s do the same. Let us not become a notorious county, like we did with opioid overdose use.
My background is that I have been a pharmacist in California for almost 50 years; I have worked in all areas, of pharmacy from acute care, to retail, to psychiatric care, nursing home, prison and as a lecturer. I have degrees in chemistry, as well as pharmacy.