Marijuana in the 21st Century Seminar
Earlier this month I attended a symposium on the effects of marijuana on our communities’ youth. The speaker, Ben Court, is a subject matter expert, recovered addict, and author who currently works at a Colorado-based nonprofit Phoenix Multisport. Beyond the information I posted on our Facebook and website, which included the drastic increase in potency between the marijuana of the 1970s and 80s, which was around 30% THC content and what is currently being cultivated now. Marijuana now contains potency in the range of 70% - 80%THC content. This increased potency is having an extremely dangerous effect on our children and adults using marijuana. However, for a number of years now the already high-grade and potent marijuana is being synthesized through a chemical process which brings the THC content up to the mid to high 90s leaving it almost 100% pure THC. Depending on the process used to synthesize the marijuana, it can be in the form of hard shards similar to that of glass candy called “shatter” or a more malleable version similar in consistency to fudge referred to as “dabs”. In either form this super charged drug is extremely dangerous and has mind altering effects. Those who use this type of synthesized marijuana are at risk of suffering from Marijuana-induced psychosis. This is characterized by a complete break from reality and may be permanent. Prior to the creation of this super charged form of marijuana, there was no such diagnosis in the mental health medical books. With Colorado right next door and shops popping up just about everywhere after the state enacted legal recreational marijuana use, this issue is more prevalent than ever and is finding its way into our community. Not only are we plagued with marijuana in our community, we are also seeing the evermore present signs of fentanyl. This drug is 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine. The fentanyl is finding its way into other widely used drugs to enhance the potency which is leading to overdoses in our community. As the jail captain, I noticed overdoses were on the rise and that some of these people were or had been recently released from the jail. After speaking to our medical staff, I was told that the overdoses were probably occurring due to the victims of the overdoses having a lower physical threshold for these drugs due to the length of time they were incarcerated. When they were getting out of jail, they were again using but in the same amount that they had been prior to being arrested. This lower physical threshold to the drugs caused them to overdose. Because of this dangerous trend of inmates overdosing after release, we reached out to the LEAD, Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion, program coordinator who supplied us with pocket-size literature to give the at-risk inmates information on the dangers posed and the signs to look for during an overdose. The LEAD program is something that we have talked about a bit in other posts but to give everyone a refresher, it is a program designed to help divert those with substance and mental health issues, who find themselves in contact with law enforcement, into treatment programs in leu of arrest. If they are already incarcerated, we work with them to get them into treatment as well as possible employment or housing options once they are released. The LEAD program coordinator regularly works one-on-one with the inmates in the jail and ensures a warm handoff from the time they are released to the programs they will enter into to help them beat their habit. The LEAD program is grant-based and was awarded to the Cheyenne Regional Medical Center West Campus. Part of the grant guidelines is that they partner with local law-enforcement agencies. As this grant is coming to a close, the Sheriff’s Department along with the county commissioners secured an additional grant to continue this valuable service to our community. In the near future the LEAD program will be based out of the Laramie County Sheriffs Dept. Not only does this program help people get off drugs, it also has the added benefit of lowering the recidivism rate or the rate which people come into jail because the services don’t just stop once the person is in treatment, the LEAD coordinator continues to work with these individuals long-term to ensure that they maintain their positive changes. The data collected from the LEAD program shows significant declines in the number of law enforcement contacts with those participating in these services. Once elected as Sheriff my goal is to request a full-time position for the LEAD coordinator so we will no longer need to rely on grants for this valuable service since grants are never guaranteed. The money savings alone by decreasing the recidivism rate and also reduction in crime that come with lower drug use in the community will more than pay for this position. Some may feel that it is a waste of money to try and save people from overdoses, but although these individuals may be drug users, they are also members of our community. They are someone’s brother, mother, father, friend or neighbor. They suffer from addiction which can be treated and they can once again be productive members of our community. The Sheriff’s Department also works with those who are homeless and in need of resource information once they leave the facility. Each one of these individuals receives bag with a sack lunch, clothing if needed and literature on resources available within our community to give them a hand up. We also offer Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous classes while people with addiction problems are housed within our facility to help them kick the drug or alcohol habit.
As you can see, this is an issue in our community, but we have been working on ways to help people with addition issues that are incarcerated at the jail so that maybe they can stay clean even after leaving our facility.