International Academy on the Science and Impact of Cannabis (IASIC) seeks to educate the public about marijuana use.
The non-partisan organization is run by doctors.
We spoke to Eric Voth, president and chairman of the Board for IASIC, in our first virtual Community Conversations. Voth is a doctor who specializes in internal medicine, pain and addiction medicine.
Here is the interview:
This is the interview transcription:
S.T. Billingsley: I’d like to thank everybody for joining us here on our What’s Up Prince William, for our community conversations. Today, we have Eric Voth from the International Academy on the Science and Impact of Cannabis. Thank you very much for being with us today. Could you tell us a little bit about your organization?
Eric Voth: Well, you bet, IASIC, which is what we refer to it as, is really a group of professionals, mostly physicians that are really concerned about the marijuana issue. We pulled together earlier this year, after all of us have had decades of experience and we thought we need to get the medical message out so that people have knowledge about the effects. And also employers would have knowledge about what some of their employees may be going through and really provide a reliable, responsible resource to the public, because that’s just not out there. It’s very difficult to hunt down a lot of the medical information and the marijuana lobby has done such an effective job, I wouldn’t say a great job, but an effective job of pushing marijuana as essentially safe and great recreational drug. And, “Oh, don’t worry about it.” And they’ve really manipulated society the same way the tobacco industry did back in the fifties and forties. In fact, they probably took most of their processes and projects right out of the tobacco playbook.
S.T. Billingsley: Gotcha. So your website has quite a bit of information on it and links to information. What are some of the risk that you are finding with marijuana usage?
Eric Voth: Well, it’s pretty remarkable, the extensive number of problems that marijuana use has. Now, obviously someone who just has a little bit of low grade, very rare use is not going to experience many of these things, but acutely, effects on driving are a big one. One of the things we’ve seen in many of the states that either went to medical marijuana or legalized totally, was the immediate increase in motor vehicle fatalities, not just accidents. Certainly great examples of California, Colorado, they’re still tracking that huge increases.
Eric Voth: The other part that’s really been striking, I would say, is over the last probably 10 to 15 years, the incidents of acute problems like acute psychotic episodes that maybe went away, or went then on to develop into acute manic episodes, acute schizophrenia, that kind of thing and a lot of violent episodes. We’ve seen all sorts of violence showing up in the literature and in the research, spousal violence, just plain fighting, screaming, actually some murder episodes. Personally I’ve been extremely concerned about a lot of this violence we’ve seen around the country, young males, the classic example of the demographic that uses a lot of marijuana getting involved in significant violent episodes.
Eric Voth: So then chronically you’re looking at certainly a cannabis use disorder that has been clearly characterized. Now that’s that habituated use like addiction, like you’d consider with other drugs and a relative inability to just stop it. There’re withdrawal symptoms that people show, et cetera. So, the big picture there is, it’s not a safe drug, it’s a serious drug of abuse. It’s playing right into a lot of the social difficulties that we’re seeing out there. And we at IASIC pulled together to really try to get that out to the public, to try to get it out to our medical colleagues, because a lot of the medical colleagues are not well educated on marijuana either.
S.T. Billingsley: Gotcha.
Eric Voth: That’s a long answer to a short question.
S.T. Billingsley: Right. So one of the things we talked about, you know, one of the things that you hear a lot, I’ll just call it in social media, the benefits of marijuana usage, or the CBD, the oils, how does that kind of come into play with that? But also, you’re talking, I saw on your website, people may not know what they’re getting when they’re getting those.
Eric Voth: Well, first of all, separate out marijuana from CBD. Cannabidiol is a constituent in marijuana, but pure CBD may have some other therapeutic elements to it. Again, even there, because it’s not brought through the FDA and because there’s no standards for purity, or what percentages are effective for therapeutic, it’s just getting a pig in a poke. If you go into these stores around, the dispensaries, you don’t see 10% THC, X percent CBD, X percent, you’ll say, “Oh, high THC, low this, high that, really good shit. I mean, it’s a whole world that is absolutely foreign to medicine. And to call it medicine is really a sham. So first comment there is, there are FDA approved THC derivatives on the market that are reliable, responsible, and should I prescribe them to folks for certain things? Second issue is, all of this “beneficial” stuff that hits social media.
Eric Voth: I just say, those are observations. If they think they’re really, really seriously going to be beneficial, it’s got to go through the FDA. The FDA has to systematically test it, systematically research it at specific dose levels, and then turn it into a medicine that can be used by the public. And by the way, I’ve never seen any medication ever smoked for anything. I mean, you don’t take your blood pressure medicines that way, you don’t take your cholesterol medicines that way, you don’t take your psychiatric medicines that way. I mean, so there are just so many flaws in that whole process of medical marijuana, that I think that part needs to be absolutely eliminated. And then if you want to talk about recreational pot, whole different issue.
S.T. Billingsley: Gotcha. So, when it comes to, I’m just going to bring up like, the FAA, the Federal Aviation Administration.
Eric Voth: Sure.
S.T. Billingsley: They have a pretty regimented outline on no drug usage testing, basically for the safety of the travelers. You know, a lot of people do not want people who have been smoking marijuana, working on their aircraft, and it doesn’t seem like they’ve actually changed those rules as the marijuana rules have been changing here, in the regular civilian part of the area. Have you seen anything where marijuana usage in your studies, where it’s affecting industries or other industrial type businesses?
Eric Voth: Well, you bet. There’s kind of two sides and two elements of that discussion. One is, what happens to industries that have employees that use pot, more injuries, more job injuries, more mistakes, that kind of thing. Absolutely. And then when you get into a transportation industry, that’s so critical and needs people to be so perfect like aviation. I mean, that’s just got to be a zero tolerance and I’m also a pilot and I guarantee you, I don’t want to be stoned anywhere near the time that I fly a plane. And any responsible pilot should certainly have that kind of an attitude.
Eric Voth: So, that’s one. But the other issue is in trying to have a drug-free workforce. We’ve been finding all over the country that we have this already diminished workforce, and now it’s hard for businesses and industries to find drug-free individuals to hire. So now you have this quandary, do we just quit drug testing? Oh, that’d be a terrible mistake. Then you got a bunch of stoners assembling aircraft and automobiles and working in your carpentry businesses, which probably are anyway, getting injured. So that’s got a long tail on it and a really serious impact on business and industry.
S.T. Billingsley: Because, just with our experience, unfortunately those who we have found to have been marijuana smokers were generally the ones who didn’t always tighten up the bolts. [crosstalk 00:09:38].
Eric Voth: Well, there good science on that. I mean that data exists, that yes there are more mistakes, more injuries, et cetera, in that regard. And to that point, I think businesses and industries are completely justified in requiring clean drug screens.
S.T. Billingsley: And I do appreciate you being with us today. Is there anything else that you would just like to add before we go today?
Eric Voth: Well, the first one being separate the issues of medical marijuana and what is a medicine, from recreational stuff. And that whole issue of using it as a medicine is really a ruse to get the public behind it and to support the legalization processes. And as we see people marching down the legalization pathway, you follow behind that and you just see more and more social problems, medical problems, psychiatric problems. And we need to find a way to roll that back. And I would encourage people that aren’t smoking pot that are thinking about smoking pot, to just stay away from it. Good gosh, there’s other ways to have fun and there’s other intoxicants, if that’s necessary, but pot is a real serious problem for us.
S.T. Billingsley: Oh, very good. Well, I really do appreciate you taking the time to talk with us today. I’m sure as this goes on, we very well may be talking here in the very near future, about some different issue, or different parts of this issue.
Eric Voth: And I’d encourage you to go to our website and look at the information we have there, because that’s all state of the art literature, right out of all the medical literature.
S.T. Billingsley: Great. We sure will, we will definitely put this link along with the article and everything so people can check it out for themselves.
Eric Voth: Very good. Thank You.
S.T. Billingsley: And thank you very much for being with us today.
Eric Voth: Take care.
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