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I grew up during the 1950s and ‘60s, seeing much recreational drug use during my youth. Marijuana was widely used while I was pre-med at UCLA where I also obtained a BA in psychology.

During the years immediately following the end of the Vietnam War, I attended the Boyne School of Dental Science at Creighton University in Omaha.

I observed people in California and in our nation's heartland using alcohol and cannabis (THC) in its various forms, taken separately or combined.

I watched people lose touch with their normal self, some hallucinating and entering a completely altered reality. Most people under the effects of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, had difficulty thinking and communicating with people nearby, losing their balance and self-control, with some becoming very hungry, giddy, uninhibited or even freaking out negatively, like on a bad trip experienced by people using LSD. Some of these effects are shared with alcohol use, which are better understood.

Not as understood is how marijuana affects brain function.

Many direct toxic effects occur during the time THC is inhaled or even ingested. Though much more study needs to be done, continued THC use causes incrementally worsening and permanent effects on cognitive brain functioning and memory. Some cases even experience structural changes in the brain.

My biggest concern is what will happen when people are high while operating machinery, most significantly driving, or possibly mishandling weapons. Additionally, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends physicians advise women against using THC while attempting to get pregnant, during pregnancy, and while breastfeeding. More study needs to be done to discover the impacts on the developing fetus, like what has been discovered with alcohol use during pregnancy.

We live in a drug culture, both legal and illegal, prescription and over-the-counter. The FDA has recently asked prescribers to greatly reduce or ideally cease the use of opioids to reduce a patient’s pain due to its strong addictive characteristics.

People are killing themselves and other innocent people by inappropriately using alcohol, and/or opioids while driving automobiles. Adding THC to this mix is a poor decision, since much less is known about the effects of THC than with alcohol, not to mention when THC is combined with alcohol and perhaps even including opioids.

I believe the choice to allow the use of THC as a nation, state and local community, a substance not very well understood, is reckless. Controls on how it's grown, processed, distributed, and consumed aren't mature, nor widely in place. FDA warnings aren't associated with THC products.

Even if money is to be made in the process, opening up this can of worms, freely allowing THC use, with or without the concurrent use of alcohol and/or opioids, is a very bad choice, in my opinion. This choice moves us as a society in the exact opposite direction from what is healthy and safe.

Please vote against recreational use of marijuana in our community.

Thomas A. Hurd, DDS, is a Lompoc resident.