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Archaic ideas about Cannabis at the County

1p BOS meeting on 6/15

On the docket: Item 4 - Report Back On Health and Safety Considerations Relating To Cannabis

Meeting page linked here

Agenda doc linked here

Supervisor Serna reviewed the materials ahead of time and prefaced the item with some remarks - before the Sheriff Lieutenant started his presentation - pointing out that what was about to be presented by the Sheriff’s office and Department of Health Services was focused only on the adverse (negative) effects of cannabis on health and safety. He requested that positive effects of cannabis be presented to the Board in a subsequent meeting. Supervisor Frost agreed.

They moved to add the item to the agenda for the July 12th meeting, when the Board will be voting on an item that would involve approval of a measure involving a cannabis tax to go on the ballot.

Supervisor Kennedy spoke next to say the tax issue (the Board putting a tax measure on the ballot) and cannabis legalization of any kind (changing cannabis policy) are two separate issues.

Supervisor Desmond agreed, saying he sees the two things as mutually exclusive.

Full coverage of these opening comments can be found in the video below!

Sheriff Lieutenant provided this slide deck for the presentation - video from the presentation can be found below!

We'd like to provide some light commentary on a few of the slides presented by the Sheriff Lieutenant:

...WHAT? That's an absolutely insane thing to say.

This is an excellent observation, especially considering that the cited article is from 1979!

This one is good, it's important to note that according to this study, the proliferation of cannabis dispensaries DECREASES violent crime in higher income areas, but INCREASES it in lower income areas...sooo does that mean that people with lower incomes are more violent when using cannabis than people with higher incomes? Feels a little like coded language, if I do say so myself.

Classic argument here about property values and violent crime...

Classic argument about property values and violent crime immediately contradicted! However, you can also find in the circled text the argument that IF crime hasn't increased, it's because of the deterrent effect of added security. Good to know that added security is the answer to "crime."

The Lieutenant ended by sharing a few research findings that research has indicated cannabis didn’t do anything to “increase crime” (see image above for an example).

Supervisor Serna questioned some of the research findings highlighted in the Lieutenant’s presentation, and the Lieutenant acknowledged Supervisor Serna made valid points - that there are “countless studies going different directions" on the societal impact of legalized cannabis. So, that's something!

Supervisor Serna said what needed to be said: there is another view, that cannabis has positive benefits, and that other substances like alcohol have comparable, if not more, evidence of possible adverse impacts. Shout-out to Serna for that!

Supervisor Frost elicited some helpful clarification about who enforces environmental impacts from illegal grows…. The Lieutenant said it requires a unique, multi-agency task force to address such impacts.

Here Supervisor Frost realizes that there’s “no way to influence driving under the influence” of ‘strictly marijuana’ and that that is a problem. The Lieutenant said California Highway Patrol agrees.

Supervisor Desmond weighed in, explaining there’s no objective ‘blood alcohol level’-type test for cannabis like there is for alcohol.

Cannabis hasn’t been as big of a problem that people thought it was going to be on roadways. He pointed out the reality we’re in: that cannabis is here; it’s legal; and it’s proliferated, because that’s what people wanted. There’s no data to say there is any correlation to tie cannabis specifically to increased crime rates

Next up, Dr. Melody Law, Deputy Health Officer, and Dr. Ryan Quist, Director of Behavioral Health from Sac County Department of Health Services (DHS) gave a presentation using this slide deck. As expected this presentation focused on the harmful impacts of cannabis use and did not address any potential benefits (one example can be seen below).

Chair Nottoli asked about the data presented showing a rise in emergency room visits. Dr. Quist talked about “cannabis disorder being associated with depression, suicide, and psychotic symptoms” and the conversion from temporary to chronic psychotic symptoms being a bigger issue with marijuana compared to “other illicit drugs.” Supervisor Serna and Nottoli were surprised by this and asked for more information from Dr. Quist.

Supervisor Frost shared an anecdote about a friend’s son, age 18 or 19, who smoked marijuana and “flipped into a psychosis and schizophrenia” and from the studies she’s read in the past, that’s the time for the schizophrenia to manifest in people – age 19-25 – for individuals predisposed to schizophrenia. She asked whether it was the THC that’s causing people to flip into schizophrenia. Dr. Quist said that is what research studies are saying.


Supervisor Serna asked for clarification about addiction (e.g., psychological vs. physical addiction, acute and long term withdrawal symptoms after long-term use) and also “stated out the obvious” about relative addiction and health impacts from substances like alcohol and opiates and amphetamines. Dr. Law, an “addictionologist”, provided responses - that addiction potential depends on factors like chronicity of use (amount of use/frequency and potency) - ‘The more and stronger you smoke, the greater potential for addiction.’ She returned to Supervisor Frost’s point, stating marijuana acts as a trigger for psychosis.

Dr. Law ended the Department of Health Services’ presentation by saying they lack data to make conclusive statements and that legalization could help demonstrate the positive effects of cannabis. Supervisor Frost asked if cannabis was a gateway drug. Dr. Law says the CDC reports that cannabis use among youth does show increased rates of using other substances.

Supervisor Serna was quick to ask whether the same could be true for alcohol. Dr. Law said she hasn’t read up on that issue.

In the video below you can find the conclusion of the DHS presentation, and a collection of some great public comments - below the video you can find a quick comment recap!

McKenzie Wilson prefaced their comments by expressing their love for this plant! The commenter pointed out the one-sidedness, and fear-mongering of the presentations and lifted up the medical benefits of cannabis (for things like depression and schizophrenia). McKenzie uplifted the issues of regulatory burdens, and the disenfranchisement on communities of color caused by the historical war on drugs, and the need for the City’s cannabis tax revenue and expenditures to be tracked and distributed appropriately.

McKenzie pointed out that the “Just say no” approach is outdated and ineffective

McKenzie concluded by highlighting the irony of the fact that the regulated, competitive market created by the government is the cause of the very same rising THC levels that Board members and staff have raised concerns about.

Keyan Bliss called in to echo the comments of McKenzie. He criticized the ineffective, outdated, D.A.R.E-like presentations given by the Lieutenant and County Health Services staff that may have resulted in encouragement of cannabis use rather than discouragement - whatever their intent was. Keyan also made a request for follow-up on the relative health impacts of alcohol and tobacco, to which deaths can be directly connected. Chair Nottoli reiterated that the follow-up item on July 12th will cover the medical benefits of cannabis.

Chair Nottoli clarified next step procedures with the County Executive and Counsel for the Board of Supervisors to vote on putting a draft measure on the ballot related to cannabis taxation. They will next discuss the ballot measure issue on July 12th.

Stay tuned!

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