The Fight over Marijuana Legalization Comes to the BALM Community – Our Response
In the past two years, we have seen a considerable uptick of families coming into the BALM due to their teen and adult children experiencing negative consequences from their marijuana use, all the way from academic fails, loss of jobs, and car accidents, to psychotic breaks. Meanwhile, more and more states are either going for, considering, and/or fighting over legalization of recreational and medical marijuana. The BALM doesn’t take political stands. Rather, we see the challenges facing our families and work hard to educate them on the science behind what their loved ones are doing and the BALM approach to being their loved one’s BEST chance at recovery.
This week on the Daily BALM, we discussed marijuana use for the fourth time in 5 years. The first time, we had a long-term member of marijuana anonymous share her story of recovery from marijuana addiction. That was about four years ago and gave me my first taste of how strong people’s opinions were on the topic. The speaker was telling her personal story and during the q and a period a participant shared her opinion about legalization and as I recall, a heated discussion ensued. At the time, my response was what it always is in our community: We have these BALM interviews (called the Daily BALM) to inform our families about the many aspects of use disorders and recovery so they can be their loved one’s BEST chance at recovery.
The second time was eight months ago. A psychologist specializing in neurofeedback was discussing ways to use the technology in early recovery to lessen stress, restore brain function, and increase focus. I asked a question about whether neurofeedback could help a person effectively reduce and/or eliminate marijuana use. The discussion was interesting and educational. Afterwards, I received an email asking if I had abandoned harm reduction, since we were discussing abstinence on the call. I explained that abstinence is a form of harm reduction still important in the treatment and recovery world and that we would be discussing a variety of forms of harm reduction, including abstinence, in our calls.
The third time was about five months ago. A representative of SAM (Smart Approaches to Marijuana) came to share research on the effects of marijuana. As I understand it, SAM is about decriminalizing Marijuana, but not legalizing it and legalizing medical marijuana for proven purposes. They support and disseminate the research on the impact of marijuana on individuals using it as well as on the communities where marijuana has been leagalized. During the call, one caller attacked the BALM for no longer being objective because we allowed someone speaking out against legalization. Again, I explained that as long as I was seeing a considerable uptick in families with teen and adult children experiencing negative consequences from their marijuana use, we would seek out those with a research-based approach to help those families. The reporting on what life has become in areas impacted by legalization was an eye opener for me.
The fourth time happened this week. We invited Michael DeLeon, head of Steered Straight to discuss the effects of marijuana use on the young brain. Michael started his talk with an explanation of many of the frightening effects of the powerful modified marijuana now out on the streets and available legally in some states and then discussed what he is seeing in towns impacted by legalization. I was mesmerized as I learned so many new facts about what marijuana was and is doing to young brains. As a sideline, he mentioned that he is no longer against legalization because he believes “that train has left the station”. So, he explained that he goes around the country telling people about the deleterious effects of use so that adults can be educated as they make their own decisions about use, and parents can make decisions to protect their children and teens from the many forms of marijuana from smoking to consuming via cookies and candy that are now available in states where recreational marijuana is or will be legalized.
I respected his view and was greatly impacted by the science he was sharing. At that point, a participant asked a question- or rather made a statement on chat – about how his changing his stance was irresponsible. (For details you would have to listen to the program.) Michael then spent much of the rest of the program defending his stance, though Jeff and I worked throughout to bring him back to discussing the effects of marijuana on the developing brain. We empathized with his felt need to defend his position and also wanted to make clear that for us, his opinion on legalization was not the issue. Facts for suffering families on the effects of use was what we were thirsty to hear. Again, we made the point on the call of our mission: to help ALL families blaze the trail to recovery in their homes.
The call itself was interesting and invigorating for many of the listeners and we appreciate Michael’s willingness to share with our community and the broader world of families and professionals. At the same time, we encourage our families to stay on track if they still have suffering loved ones: Make BALMing a priority in your own home first.
BALM has long been a place for families to come to educate themselves about use disorders and recovery so they could figure out how to get their own lives back while also helping their loved ones get theirs back. To do that, we need knowledgeable people to come talk to our families about research, lived experience and evidence-based recovery. Our families are thirsty for getting as much valid information about how to help self and family as they can.
While we respect and support people and advocates for going into society and working to right wrongs wherever they see them, we remain people with a purpose: helping each family who comes our way to advocate for recovery in their own lives and their own homes. We still say that love is the answer, first at home, then in the larger society.
We see those who advocate for the legislation designed to help our suffering loved ones get the help they need and those who fight to prevent future societal suffering as heroes in their own right. At the same time, we reserve our Daily BALM calls for substantial use disorder and recovery information so our families can do the important work of saving their family members’ lives.
There are BALM calls devoted to advocacy. When that is the case, we will let you know in advance. Most of the time, however, we are there to help you get the information you need to make better decisions, the inner and outer transformation to empower you to do so and the support to help you catapult your process forward.
Once their own families are out of the woods, or the epidemic has taken their loved one from them, we support BALMer’s who choose to help on the societal level if they are able to, but ours is a program of family healing, not political advocacy.
So please, if you have a loved one who is suffering, join us. We will help you help them while also helping you help yourself. We don’t have all of your answers, but we will move you in the direction of family recovery, while giving you powerful tools along the way.
As for marijuana, we will continue to educate, as we will with other substances and processes that are having a deleterious effect on loved ones and families. That is not an abandonment of our purpose. Rather, it is an empowerment of families, which is our purpose.
Be A Loving Mirror!
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