A retired law enforcement officer renowned for the drug abuse seminars he leads around the country takes his mission to educate others about the danger of drugs very seriously and hopes the people who attend his course will do the same.
Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) Ed Moses was in town last week to hold a four-day Science Based Drug Education (SBDE) course for the Farmington R-7 School District. He was joined by co-presenter, Dr. John Duncan, an associate professor at the University of Oklahoma’s College of Medicine and author of many of the Sooner State’s drug laws.
Having worked 41 years in law enforcement, Moses has extensive knowledge of the dangers inherent in drug abuse. He spent 35 years with the Missouri State Highway Patrol, experiencing the drug world firsthand — five of those years were spent working as an undercover narcotics officer. And while his DRE title includes the word “expert,” Moses freely admits there aren’t any experts in his line of work.
“The field keeps changing," he said. "You can’t stay an expert. It’s changing that quick. It’s hard to keep up with. If I came back next year, it would be different.”
Moses explained that he and Duncan cover seven categories of drugs in SBDE — depressants, stimulants, hallucinogens, dissociative anesthetics, narcotic analgesics, inhalants, and cannabis.
“The target organ of drugs is the brain,” he said. “We are targeting prevention, education, treatment and enforcement. We have medical doctors and researchers. Few people get to see the science and the street manifestation. John and I are putting those two things together. Plus, John has advanced education — he’s a doctor of psychology at the University of Oklahoma and teaches med school there on how the brain works.
“I’ve had advanced training as a drug recognition expert. It’s a national program that an officer can evaluate someone under the influence. Within 45 minutes to an hour through our evaluation process — we’re about 92-93% accurate on what of the seven categories we use — [we can determine] what drug you are under the influence of. It’s a really exact science.”
Moses mentioned several symptoms of drug use that are easily identifiable.
“Marijuana causes what we call pupillary unrest or dilation rebound," he said. "We know that opiates cause the eye to constrict, even in a darkened room. Eyes move different or have a different size in one of the seven categories we are evaluating.”
Moses noted that many of the symptoms associated with brain injuries are remarkably similar to the ones police officers see in those who are abusing illicit drugs.
“Drugs mimic brain injury and brain illness,” he said. “This is how we got our standard field sobriety testing program on alcohol, the Gaze Nystagmus, and the drug recognition program. The officers said they see eyes move like that when they are on PCP, ketamine, methamphetamine or marijuana.”
According to Moses, the Los Angeles Police Department began offering informational programs on drug abuse in the 1980s. Decades later, Moses and Duncan are still trying to get the message out.
“John and I are taking this information and reaching out to the prevention, education, treatment and enforcement people," he said. "We get concerned parents all the way up to and including doctors, nurses, healthcare providers that are very advanced in it. This is putting the science and the end results together and explaining why you see what you see.”
Applying the signs of drug use to a classroom setting, Moses went over the indicators teachers may observe in students who are abusing substances.
“When students don’t remember well or the first of the week they are not learning well, but get better during the week, they probably smoked pot on the weekend or they got drunk,” he said. “A drunk student will not be a good student in the classroom on Monday and Tuesday. A pot smoker won’t probably be a decent student until Wednesday or Thursday. When you see a student not performing well or something different, this is a process to look closer to see if it is an injury or a medical issue that hasn’t been diagnosed.
“There are also lifestyle issues. Some students are staying up all night playing video games or drinking energy drinks and not doing food. When you see unknown behavior, is it injury, illness, lifestyle or is a substance abuse? If it’s a substance, what one of the seven might it be? The better we know where the influence is coming from, the better resource we can be to help that student and the family.”
Moses, who has held seminars for General Motors and Fabick Caterpillar, believes drug use in the workplace can create hazardous situations. He foresees a dramatic increase in liability issues arising from the implementation of medical marijuana — something he adamantly opposes.
“In the work environment, you have a lot of liability with impairment,” he said. “With this new debacle — I’m saying this very deliberately based on science and experience — of medical marijuana, we are really going to have a huge, unbelievable impact on our judicial system, workforce, liability laws and health issues.
"This is one of the biggest mistakes ever made in our state. What level is impaired? What level is a liability? Here is the dichotomy — you come into work and say you’re a medical marijuana patient. You can use it but [management is] responsible for the safety of the business.”
Moses claims that the very concept of medical marijuana is a fallacy.
“It can’t be, it’s not able to be a medicine," he said. "The FDA and DEA set the standards for medicine. It has to be proven safe, effective and consistent. If I buy an aspirin in California, it has to be the same aspirin in New York. You can pick two bags off the same marijuana plant and they’re not the same chemicals.
“They’re projecting that we probably have over a 1,000 variants of marijuana hybrid plants. Each one has different chemicals. In a few hours they’re unstable, they’re not the same chemicals. You can’t do that with a medicine. There is not one published research paper to say marijuana is harmless — it’s well proved it’s harmful. Marijuana cures nothing.”
While Moses accepts that chemicals can be extracted from marijuana to manufacture medicinal products, he still maintains that this does not make a marijuana plant a medicinal product.
“We get medicines out of botulism, penicillin out of mold,” he said. “The host substance doesn’t make those safe. Just because we can get something out of marijuana, doesn’t make marijuana OK.”
Moses also strongly criticizes the way in which medical marijuana is dispensed to those who have been licensed by the state to purchase and use the drug.
“What other medicine does the patient tell the doctor or the ‘budtender’ what they want and how much they want, how often I’m going to use it?” he asked. “It’s absolutely ridiculous. If it’s really medicine, why don’t we call it a pharmaceutical name like Epidiolex (a brand of cannabidiol)? We call it Durban Poison, Purple Urkle, Amnesia Haze, Diesel Fuel. That’s not medical names, that’s street drug lingo. But that’s what they’re labeling it in the shops.”
Moses sees other problems, such as the increase in the potency of marijuana being produced nowadays — a subject not often addressed by proponents of the drug.
“At Woodstock we were under 1% THC and the kids got stoned,” he said. “Ten percent is pretty strong. By the time you get to 15%, it’s psychotic. The national average of plant material is 15%. The national average of extract oils and waxes is 50% THC. We don’t have research over 20% THC. The largest amount of research is on 2%. If you get high on 2% marijuana, research has shown a residual effect 24 hours later.”
Moses believes altered speech patterns caused by the "marijuana rhythmic dialect" makes clear the drug's detrimental effect on the brain. Referring to a popular comedy duo from the 1970s, he said, “If you listen to Cheech and Chong, a speech specialist can tell you that’s what marijuana does to speech patterns. It slows the process, which impairs speed of thinking.”
Based on his research, Moses is also critical of another medicinal medical marijuana product that has become increasingly popular in recent years — CBD (cannabidiol.) Having asked other DREs if they were able to identify signs of mental impairment in those who only use CBD products, Moses said, “It is a depressant,” he said. “It’s not psychoactive, but neither is alcohol. They said that almost all of it has got THC, heavy metals and poisons in it. We don’t get any pure CBD oil out of these clinics. People don’t know that.”
Moses believes that prevention is the best way to stop drug abuse and educating youth about the danger drugs pose to their lives is of primary importance.
“We are concerned,” he said. “On the developing brain it is far more serious. Brain maturity is at age 28-30. The younger the organ, the quicker and more severe the damage. We are canaries in the mine. Our children are our canaries in 2021. Our kids are going to manifest the problems and we are going to see it years later. They are the canaries, the victims, that will tell our adults we messed up.”
Mark Marberry is a reporter for the Farmington Press and Daily Journal. He can be reached at 573-518-3629, or at email@example.com
"You can’t stay an expert. It’s changing that quick. It’s hard to keep up with. If I came back next year, it would be different.” – Ed Moses