Thanks for not smoking
Advocates of legalizing or decriminalizing marijuana ignore research that undercuts their arguments.
According to a documentary in 2011 on the National Geographic channel, 50 percent of Americans have used marijuana at least once, and yet the drug remains illegal with stiff prison sentences for those caught smoking or selling it.
The weird combination of marijuana’s popularity and illegality resembles another, once forbidden substance and era, alcohol and Prohibition, which spawned a crime wave.
Why hasn’t marijuana’s similar illegality created a subculture of criminals who sell it and kill each other fighting for a bigger share of the market as mobsters did during Prohibition?
Arguments For and Against Legalizing Marijuana
Advocates of decriminalization argue that unlike alcohol, which makes some drinkers belligerent or worse, marijuana mellows all but the angriest of people. Unlike other illicit drug users, marijuana smokers rarely turn to crime, perhaps because the drug is cheap and arguably non-addictive, whereas heroin and other illicit drugs are expensive and so addictive that junkies will rob liquor stores to pay for a fix. No one has ever knocked over a 7-11, craving a hit of weed.
Although marijuana is the most profitable crop in some areas of Northern California, its cultivators and sellers do not engage in turf warfare, mob-style rub-outs, and all the other criminal enterprises that accompany the trade in heroin and crack.
Could it be that dope-dealers and growers are sampling their product and are so stoned out of their minds they couldn’t use a gun against a competitor if they wanted to? Marijuana users know how difficult it is to drive or even remember something they said 30 seconds ago, aka short-term memory loss. Imagine trying to operate a submachine gun or manufacture a homemade bomb to use on rivals, the typical M.O. of organized crime.
So, why not decriminalize marijuana? Lots of reasons, none of which has anything to do with morality or Americans’ puritanical legacy that abhors pleasure, hence the criminalization of prostitution and gambling and other largely victimless crimes?
A Sober Examination of the Health Risks of Marijuana
Rather than a issue of morality or politics, marijuana’s prohibition should continue for a lot of health reasons. The amount of carcinogenic tar in marijuana is 10 times the amount found in an unfiltered cigarette. Taking a puff on a bong is comparable to 10 puffs of a Camel. To enhance the high, many marijuana smokers keep the drug in their lungs for 15 seconds or longer before exhaling. Imagine doing the same with a Marlboro you’ve removed the filter from.
Marijuana contains a lot more toxins than tobacco, some of which account for the burning sensation grass smokers experience in the lungs and throat.
Filtering dope through water in a bong diminishes the burning at a cost: Water also decreases the amount of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the psychoactive ingredient that causes the high, so the smoker has to ingest more marijuana and its cancer-causing tar to achieve the euphoric and other, reinforcing and enhancing properties. More smoke = more carcinogens.
Despite its potential for causing lung cancer and more debatable claims, Dr. Julie Holland, a respected attending physician at Bellevue Hospital’s psychiatric emergency room in New York, and editor of The Pot Book, says, “Cannabis [the flowering marijuana plant] is non-toxic.”
Reefer Madness II
An unintentional camp classic, the 1936 “documentary” Reefer Madness, exaggerated and fabricated the harmful effects of marijuana.
An April 2011 National Geographic documentary, Drugged: High on Marijuana, amazingly perpetuated myths about marijuana use and its harmful effects, which, in Reefer Madness led to murder and insanity.
In the same overwrought style as the 30s documentary, the National Geographic documentary called marijuana an “herbal terrorist” because of its legitimate health dangers.
The documentary reported that marijuana causes hypotension (low blood pressure), which in turn can make the user dizzy and sometimes pass out. Some find the drug makes them anxious or even paranoid.
In the 1980s, Rolling Stone magazine interviewed once rabid pot-smokers from the 60s and 70s, before hybridization allowed farmers to grow plants with an exponentially higher concentration of THC.
When Rolling Stone published the interviews with ex-marijuana fans, they reported they had stopped using the drug because the massive amount of THC in every puff turned them into self-loathing paranoiacs afraid of everything.
Besides being dangerous, driving on marijuana can also be a very scary experience as some people become so disoriented they get lost while traveling on familiar streets. A stand-up comic referenced this fearfulness when he said, “You can always spot a stoned driver. They’re the ones driving 10 mph in the left lane...on the freeway.” Buh-duh-bup.
The use of the term paranoia is not hype or scare tactics of the Reefer Madness variety. Research conducted by Dr. Celia Morgan at the University of London and reported by the National Geographic documentary has shown that up to 50 percent of users will develop short-term psychosis. The classic bad trip.
The higher the concentration of THC due to agricultural and other enhancing techniques, the more unpleasant the journey. Apparently, Dr. Julie Holland, who believes the drug is non-toxic, has never met Dr. Morgan or read her research.
NORML (the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws), is a bogus lobby funded by, among others, people who want to get high or grow and sell the drug without spending years in state prison, supporters of keeping marijuana illegal maintain.
Yes, pot alleviates the nausea of cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, eases chronic pain, and stimulates the appetite of AIDS patients with wasting syndrome and no appetite. Those are some of NORML’s more powerful arguments for legalization.
Wrong. Or misleading at best.
THC, the active ingredient that makes marijuana so popular and creates euphoria, is available in another formulation that is not carcinogenic, doesn’t make you faint, cough or suffer red-eye as veins in the whites of the eyes enlarge due to smoking grass.
A miracle and extremely expensive prescription drug costing as much as $4,000 a month, 10 times the price tag for an equivalent amount of marijuana, has all the beneficial properties of marijuana but none of its drawbacks, especially criminal penalties for use.
A Wonder Drug Safer Than Marijuana
So what is this wonder drug?
It has been available in tablet-form since 1986 as a Schedule III prescription, the DEA category for drugs with less potential for abuse or addiction than medications in the first two schedules created by the federal Controlled Substances Act of 1970.
In the Marinol vs. marijuana debate, another lobby seeking legalization of pot, MD Safe Access Now!, says Marinol lacks one ingredient of marijuana that works as an anti-inflammatory, anti-convulsant, anti-psychotic, anti-oxidant, and immune system booster.
The pressure group also claims Marinol causes greater tolerance than marijuana, which, if true, can lead to dependence or addiction.
"Marijuana is cheaper, more consistent and dependable in its effects on the user. Most importantly, unlike Marinol, it contains all the [ingredients] that are helpful for a much larger number of conditions than Marinol is. Natural marijuana really is necessary for many patients, and Marinol should not be passed off as an acceptable substitute," MD Safe Access Now! says.
The high cost of Marinol is not prohibitive but a bogeyman for the pro-marijuana lobby, which ignores the fact that most insurance plans grudgingly pay for the drug.
Who would have guessed that the risible 1930s camp masterpiece, Reefer Madness, despite its scare tactics, overwrought exaggerations, and outright lies, was a documentary after all?
Dubb, T. MD Safe Access Now! "Why Marijuana Cannot Substitute for Marinol." January 8, 2009.
Earleywine, Mitch. Understanding Marijuana: A New Look at the Scientific Evidence. New York: Oxford University Press, USA, 2005, pp. 16, 126, 170.
Holland, Julie, ed. The Pot Book: A Complete Guide to Cannabis: Its Role in Medicine, Politics, Science, and Culture. Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions-Bear & Company, 2010.
Holland, Julie. NPR interview transcript. "'Pot Book' Explores History and Science of America." October 15, 2010.
Morgan, Celia. "Drugged: High on Marijuana." The National Geographic Channel, April 2011.
Causes Frank Sanello Supports
ACLU, ASPCA, Amnesty International, Doctors Without Borders