When Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf recently announced his support for legalizing recreational marijuana in Pennsylvania, the GOP leaders of the Republican-controlled state Legislature indicated the idea was a nonstarter. Nevertheless, state Rep. David Delloso, a Democrat from Delaware County, introduced a bill last Monday that would legalize recreational marijuana for adults 21 years of age and older, and give state stores the monopoly on selling it. On a separate matter Friday, Dr. Rachel Levine, the state’s health secretary, confirmed a death in Pennsylvania from lung injuries associated with vaping.
The LNP Editorial Board is not seeking to be the anti-fun police. We’re not anti-fun. We’re pro-health.
For that reason, we editorialized Wednesday against legalizing marijuana in Pennsylvania. And we strongly oppose a bill — co-sponsored by Democratic state Rep. Mike Sturla, of Lancaster — that would require legalized recreational marijuana to be sold in Pennsylvania’s state stores.
We don’t think the commonwealth should be in the business of selling booze in the first place. To pitch the idea of selling pot next to wine and whiskey strikes us as the height of insanity.
Sponsors of the legislation cite Democratic Auditor General Eugene DePasquale’s report that said legalizing recreational adult use of marijuana in Pennsylvania would create a $1.66 billion industry and generate $581 million in tax revenue.
We’ve already said no to legalized marijuana. Now we’re saying absolutely no to Delloso’s bill.
We’re unconvinced by the argument Delloso made to LNP.
Marijuana would be “well taxed and well regulated to protect the kids,” Delloso told LNP’s Jeff Hawkes by phone. “When I was a kid, you knew what bars would sell you a six-pack, but you knew that no matter how hard you tried, you weren’t getting out of a state store with a bottle of Jack Daniel’s.”
Here’s a better idea: How about educating kids in a straightforward way — as opposed to the scared-straight tactics employed by some — about responsible drinking? About the differences between an adult drinking a glass of wine at dinner and teens binge-drinking until they’ve blacked out? And about the absolute imperative of using designated drivers and ride-sharing services when, at age 21 and beyond, you drink outside your home?
But don’t make selling marijuana the business of the commonwealth for the sake of “the children,” when your real hope is to raise revenue.
Our Wednesday editorial elicited this tweet from a pro-legalization commenter: “The dust bin of history awaits you.” We were amused but not fazed.
We aim to be a voice of reason, not an echo, and certainly not the cool kids at the party.
Which brings us to another subject.
The perils of vaping
It’s becoming ever clearer that vaping is another activity we should strenuously discourage in our teens.
Data from the 2017 Pennsylvania Youth Survey showed that 11% of Lancaster County students — and about 20% of high school seniors — vaped at least once within a 30-day period.
While it’s true that e-cigarettes have helped some adults quit smoking tobacco, it’s also true that young people are being harmed by vaping.
Please heed the words of 17-year-old Xander Amidon, of Berks County, who told LNP’s Heather Stauffer last week of his dangerously close dance with death.
“I never thought it would happen to me,” Amidon said.
As of last week, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were 18 deaths and 1,080 confirmed and probable lung injury cases associated with e-cigarette product use, or vaping, in the United States.
About 78% of the 578 patients who had information about the substances they vaped reported using THC-containing products, with or without nicotine-containing products. (THC is the compound in marijuana that makes its users high.)
The Pennsylvania Department of Health said Friday that our commonwealth has reported nine confirmed and 12 probable cases of the lung illness — and tragically, now, the first death — to the CDC and are investigating an additional 63 cases.
Amidon, a junior at Governor Mifflin High School, was in his third year of playing club rugby “and had been vaping for about six months,” Stauffer reported. He said he used some name-brand vapes containing nicotine and some black-market marijuana products containing THC.
His illness began with what he thought was a cold: runny nose, sore throat, fatigue. But then he woke up feverish and sweating. His mom, Kari Ide, asked a friend who’s a nurse to listen to his lungs, but nothing seemed amiss.
As his condition worsened, he went to a hospital emergency department, where a chest X-ray was clear. Days later, he and his mom returned to the hospital, and that time, his chest X-ray showed his lungs to be filled with a whitish substance. Doctors said it was lucky he’d returned to the hospital when he did.
He received treatments of oxygen, antibiotics and steroids, and turned over his vaping supplies to the CDC for testing.
He’s home, but remains weak, and “and the path ahead of him remains uncertain,” Stauffer wrote. “He’s eager to get back to rugby and what had been normal life, but acknowledges that’s not likely to happen any time soon.”
Amidon said he figured the stuff he was vaping was safe because he knew the person he was buying it from.
But, he said, “If you really think about it, he gets it from somewhere and then that person gets it — it just goes on and on.”
The CDC still doesn’t know why vaping is making so many people sick. It recommends that people stop vaping, especially with products that contain THC, and says people should never alter vapes or buy vaping products on the black market.
The problem “seems to be some kind of direct chemical injury, similar to what one might see with exposures to toxic chemical fumes, poisonous gases and toxic agents,” Dr. Brandon Larsen, a Mayo Clinic surgical pathologist and the senior author of a study published last week in The New England Journal of Medicine, said in a statement.
Amidon’s mom says she tried repeatedly to keep her son from vaping — including removing the door of his bedroom. In the way of all parents in such situations, she told Stauffer she wishes she had done more.
“Stupid is what teenagers do; we all were there at one point,” Ide said.
Stupidity is often what we call a young person’s misguided sense of invincibility. As Amidon said, he never thought he’d be the one to get sick.
He escaped a close call. But as his mother pointed out, some people don’t get the luxury of being able to look back. Please don’t let this be the case in your family.
TO GET HELP
Help is available for those who want to quit. Call 1-800-QUIT-NOW or visit smokefree.gov for more information.
Encourage young people to learn the facts and get tips for quitting tobacco products by visiting the surgeon general’s e-cigarette website (e-cigarettes.surgeongeneral.gov).