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OpinionColumnistsWilliam F. B. O'Reilly

Pot is all the rage -- and that's dangerous

In this photo on Friday, Nov. 21, 2014,

In this photo on Friday, Nov. 21, 2014, former U.S. Marine Sgt. Ryan Begin rolls a medical marijuana joint at his home in Belfast, Maine. Credit: AP / Robert F. Bukaty

Think maple syrup spread across a sheet pan and hardened. Or a thin crepe made of brittle amber resin.

Smash it into tiny shards, drop a piece in a pipe, and what have you got?

"Shatter."

It's the hot new smokable marijuana concentrate, and it's guaranteed to keep you high all day, so high in fact that it's sending freaked-outkids to emergency rooms across the country, mostly in Western states. But that shouldn't be for long. Drugs have an annoying habit of drifting eastward in America.

The average THC potency of domestically grown pot in 2009 was 5.6 percent, according to a University of Mississippi Potency Monitoring Project report. Shatter can be up to 90 percent pure THC.

If that's not to your or your kids' taste, maybe "wax" is. Wax is what its name implies: a wax made from cannabis oil. Smoke it or ingest it and you'll get a THC hit of 50 to 80 percent. It can also be called "butter," although "budder," as it's sometimes spelled, can also be made from Hashish resins.

Looking to get high? One of the new marijuana lip balm products will certainly do. They're made to look like Chapstick or Blistex containers. Spread them on your lips and ka-boom! No more pesky learning. A quarter-ounce jar of the stuff with 56 mg of THC is on sale right now for $8 at a Colorado cannabis retailer. It's advertised online as "pure, medicated lip balm." Cute.

These are just a smattering of powerful THC concentrates spreading throughout America, both legally and illegally, largely due to marijuana legalization in just a handful of states and Washington, D.C. This is what happens when American marketing and manufacturing ingenuity meet a growing legal market.

E-vaporizers, "sexy oil," "Full Melt" and "Butane Hash Oil" are among the myriad marijuana concentrate products now available. Old edible THC standbys like pot and hash brownies have given way to a booming THC candy market. Pot-infused lollipops are a big hit with children. Go figure.

Does anyone -- except the guy reading this in his mother's basement with a black light and a velvet Hendrix poster -- think this is a good national development?

I think it's slow suicide.

But I can hear the protests:

What about alcohol? Isn't that worse?

What about cancer sufferers? How can we deny them something that eases their pain and nausea?

People are going to do it, anyway. Why not get tax revenue?

These are all fair points, but none of them negate the emerging reality of where newly legalized marijuana in just four states -- Washington, Colorado, Oregon and Alaska -- is leading us. Seven more states -- Arizona, California, Hawaii, Maine, Nevada, Massachusetts and Missouri -- are close to joining them. New York recently passed legalized medical marijuana, but hasn't rolled it out in earnest yet.

Marijuana farmers and distributors who lobbied in the name of mercy for the medically needy, clearly had, or now have, bigger dollar signs in their eyes than just the medicinal market. In just a few short years, pot has become big business in America, and big businesses always seek to expand their product reach. Ask the tobacco industry. At the same time, state legislators addicted to revenue streams, and political contributions, are abandoning long-held positions virtually overnight. No question: Pot is all the rage right now.

A majority of Americans for the first time favor legalizing marijuana by a 52-42 margin, according to a 2014 General Social Survey. I don't know if that's because so many adults polled smoked pot in their youth and don't think they can pass judgment without being hypocritical or if peer pressure on a massive scale is in play. Whatever it is, it's sparking a robust and dangerous marijuana concentrates market and that should be raising red flags.

Mark Twain once wrote that, "It's easier to stay out than to get out." His quote should be mailed to every state legislator in America.

William F. B. O'Reilly is a Republican consultant.

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