The Truth? Marijuana not as dangerous as portrayed.

May 27th, 2009 | By | Category: Columns, Opinions

by Mike Courson

The truth will set you free. These words have been used by many ideologies to promote their version of the truth. I get the impression that, in most cases, there is but one truth, even if several different groups with opposing ideas try to sell me their version.

What I saw recently in an anti-drug advertisement seemed to be more propaganda than truth, sort of reminiscent of the old Reefer Madness ads. The commercial features a group of losers offering a responsible young man some marijuana. The Centers for Disease Control says over 30 percent of college students have used marijuana in the last year. One treatment website says nearly 40 percent of American adults have tried the drug. Can they all be losers?

Truth can be an uncomfortable thing. In this case, nearly a century-long, multi-billion dollar campaign to tell Americans the evil of marijuana use may not only be deceitful but, according to a 2008 ABC report, may have increased use in other, more harmful drugs.

Therein lies one of the biggest lies. Marijuana is classified by the Drug Enforcement Agency as a Schedule I drug, right alongside its brothers like LSD, heroin, and PCP. Interestingly enough, cocaine and Ritalin are both classified as less-severe Schedule II drugs. That’s right: while doctors and parents freely hand out Ritalin to our kids, the drug schedule suggests cocaine might not be so bad either. Please, though, watch out for that marijuana. It might make you kill your family with an ax.

Like so many other behaviors, we have somehow crossed morality with substance abuse. It has always been a weak link in my opinion. Though not a Bible reader, I can appreciate ideas like “Do unto others,” and the Golden-Rule. One can probably be under the influence of marijuana and keep true to these tenets. Under the influence of alcohol, any 21-year old can legally buy in a store? Seems many acts of violence have been committed that way.

This is why I have never understood America’s inability to teach kids the truth. Tell a kid something bad will happen if he uses a curse word, and he quickly learns not to trust you. He will say the word, and often times, because it’s a group of letters and sounds just like other words, nothing bad happens. Why not teach him about respect and politeness instead?

Substance use is a lifestyle choice, not a morality issue. If laws were always moral, the tobacco that kills hundreds of thousands of Americans each year, and the alcohol that kills tens of thousands more, would be illegal (along with so many of the prejudicial laws this country has seen and continues to see today). Instead, we’ve picked marijuana as the scapegoat. Not only that, but we use overkill to drive the point home by falsely categorizing it alongside much more dangerous drugs.

But it’s a gateway drug, right? No more a gateway than anything else. Did you know that 100 percent of all hard drug users drink water also? Most drink milk.  Many eat meat. Are these gateway substances? No, it is the natural progression. Some Americans do not drink, but some do. For many, the drink is not enough. Others want a mild alternative. Marijuana has long been the answer. For some, this is still not enough, but that decision would have been reached if marijuana had not been in the picture. The fault for hard drug use hardly lies with anything consumed prior to that.

Marijuana use is just unhealthy, right? Probably. Most things we put in our bodies these days are. But unhealthier than fast food, tobacco, or alcohol? Morgan Spurlock ate fast food for 30 straight days in the documentary Supersize Me. Comedian Doug Benson pulled a similar feat in Super High Me, a documentary where he did not use marijuana for 30 days, then smoked the drug continually for 30 days before completing tests he had performed while sober. The results: nothing socially or medically profound in the tests before using or while using. The same could not be said about Spurlock’s film.

The applications of these myths can be costly. Despite an underage DUI arrest, Michael Phelps became an American hero winning eight gold medals in the 2008 Olympics. Kelloggs, maker of Wheaties and the Frosted Flakes that in no way have played a role in diabetes or obesity pandemics in American children, casually overlooked the DUI because money was to be made. After a photo of Phelps with a bong hit the world media, Kelloggs and many Americans alike came out against Phelps. Hardly an everyday example, but certainly an illustration on just how powerful the attitude against marijuana can be.

Don’t hit girls. Hold the door for others. Be nice. Just a few direct lifestyle choices that work. Maybe someday “don’t do drugs (except those legal or about to be legal)” can be added to that list so we can avoid all these lies and embarrassingly bad campaigns.

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9 comments
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  1. I agree that pot is harmless and it should be legal. Mexico just legalized possession of small amounts of drugs. Switzerland reaffirmed its legal heroin system. Portugal decriminalized all drugs in 2001. A group of 10,000 very serious policemen, prosecutors, attorneys and citizens have formed a group to legalize ALL drugs, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (http://leap.cc ) They see what happened when we legalized alcohol in 1932 as a good example of how drug legalization would work. They’re sick of chasing drug users and sending innocent people to prison for decades just because they like to get high. This foolish war on drugs has lasted 37 years and cost us over a TRILLION dollars and we are not an inch closer to stopping drugs. Mark Montgomery boboberg@nyc.rr.com

  2. New song on peso.com

    Let Grandma smoke marijuana
    Happy alone in her garden.
    Let Grandma smoke marijuana
    Peacefully live in the jungle.

    She’s happy and free
    Living in her means.
    Don’t need your medicare candy.

    Like Prozac(R) and Lexaprol(R)
    Turn Grandma into a zombie.
    Some Zoloft(R)and Rapiflux(R)
    Pushed by the medicare lobby.

    Get liver disease
    For enourmous medical fees.
    Instead of smoking a weed.

    The Cartels in Mexico
    Want Grandma to pay to be happy.
    With violence and gun control
    Profits go out of the country.

    She’s happy and free
    Living in her means.
    Don’t need your medicare candy.

    Oh Grandma
    Oh Grandma

    She’s happy and free

    Let Grandma smoke marijuana
    Happy alone in her garden.
    Let Grandma smoke marijuana
    Peacefully live in the jungle.

    She’s happy and free
    Living in her means.
    Don’t need your medicare candy.

    Oh Grandma
    Oh Grandma
    Grandma

  3. Legalize it. Treat it like alcohol plain and simple.

    I’m so sick of the Gateway Drug Argument. Alcohol is the ULTIMATE GATEWAY DRUG. It’s probably 90% of people’s first buzz. And if they like it, the want more. None of my successful friends that smoke got into heavy drugs like coke.

    Once it’s legal it will be exciting for the first 3 months. After that, the people who smoke now, will probably smoke the same amount. And the people who won’t, simply won’t. Not much will change.

    And if treated like alcohol. Kids will have as much access to it as a 6 pack of beer. So legalize it.

    And to the folks that say NO and that have never done it, what right do they have to judge it?

  4. Legalize pot! It’s ABSURD that weed is illegal, but a far greater menace, alcohol IS legal. Pot is the far more benign substance.

  5. I agree with you guys half-way. It is absurd that drugs such as alcohol are legal while they do much more damage to the body and other people around the user. However, I don’t agree with the legalization of marijuana. To be honest, we shouldn’t be using any drug that puts us or those around us in danger. Be that alcohol, tobacco, pot, coke, meth, you name it. They’re all stupid and irresponsible ways of killing yourself.

  6. David,

    The point is that it shouldn’t be the government’s choice. Just like wearing your seatbelt shouldn’t be if you are an adult. As long as you’re not hurting anyone else it shouldn’t matter what you do; punish people who hurt people, like the pedophiles and rapists and murderers.

    Also, cannabis has never killed anyone and I don’t think smoking it or using it in another form makes a person any less responsible than using any number of prescription drugs. MD’s used to hand out amphetamines and valium to pregnant women like candy, but did that somehow make their use more responsible than if they had just scored their pills on the corner or from a friend?

    It’s all about responsibility. There are simply people who cannot handle things in moderation and those people will develop a problem with just about anything, from alcohol to sex or gambling or religion. Just because someone can’t control him or herself around prescription pain meds does that mean we should pull them for everyone? We should be doing the responsible thing and getting the people who need help into rehab rather than jail and actually giving people a chance to become productive citizens, and like Responsible Tax Payer said, regulating cannabis like alcohol would take it away from children because no one wants to lose their livelihood or business to get a kid stoned, just like they won’t do it now to get kids drunk.

    I wish people who made sweeping statements like the ones you did would bother themselves with a little research before spouting off, not to mention giving actual thought to what legalization would do for us rather than just having a knee-jerk reaction (just look at Portugal).

  7. @techincal felon
    As to your first point, I ask the question: “Why, then, does the Government exist?” I refer you to Aristotle’s Politics.

    Book 1 Part II
    For man, when perfected, is the best of animals, but, when separated from law and justice, he is the worst of all; since armed injustice is the more dangerous, and he is equipped at birth with arms, meant to be used by intelligence and virtue, which he may use for the worst ends. Wherefore, if he have not virtue, he is the most unholy and the most savage of animals, and the most full of lust and gluttony. But justice is the bond of men in states, for the administration of justice, which is the determination of what is just, is the principle of order in political society.

    Government, according to Aristotle, is the perfection of man’s innate political nature. A man who is without government “is either a bad man or above humanity”. Government was created by man to control man’s baser instincts and bring justice and order into an otherwise disorderly existence.

    Next, consider the nature of Cannabis. According to common knowledge and easily found on Wikipedia, the active ingredient in Cannabis, Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), is a psychoactive compound that binds to the cannabinoid receptor CB1 of the central nervous system resulting in euphoria; altered space-time perception; alteration of visual, auditory, and olfactory senses; anxiety; disorientation; fatigue; and other symptoms [Wikipedia: Tetrahydrocannabinol]. In a nutshell, Cannabis is a hallucinogen, meaning that it distorts your perception of the world around you.

    If a person’s view of the world is distorted, how can they be expected to make safe, rational decisions? Alcohol impairs the judgement and slows reaction time, thus altering one’s perception of the world around them. This is why it’s dangerous to drive, operate heavy machinery, etc. while under the influence of alcohol. Over-the-counter and prescription drugs often contain warning labels to this effect as well if the ingredients are know to have psychoactive properties. The reason for this is that to participate in such activities while in an altered mental state puts the user and those around them in danger of physical harm. Consider the consequences of drinking and driving for instance.

    Considering the purpose and nature of government to protect mankind from himself and the fact that the psychoactive properties of Cannabis lend it to the creation of conditions dangerous to society, one can only conclude that an effective government would, by its very nature, restrict or prohibit the use of such a drug in some way, in order to fulfil its role as a control on the baser desires and tendencies of mankind, thus protecting those who originally created such government.

    In addition, there are many negative effects of consuming Cannabis that are restricted in their destructive properties to the user himself. Inhaling of any kind of smoke is known to be harmful to the human lungs, especially over long periods. In addition, Cannabis smoke has been proven to contain unordinarily high amounts of harmful chemicals [BBC Online, 2007, Cannabis smoke ‘has more toxins’]. Long-term effects have also been proven to be potentially harmful to the overall mental health of the user. Studies by Henquet C, Krabbendam L, Spauwen J [BMJ. 2005 January 1; 330(7481): 11.]; Patton GC, Coffey C, Carlin JB, Degenhardt L, Lynskey M, Hall W [BMJ. 2002 November 23; 325(7374): 1195–1198.]; and others show tendencies for Cannabis users to suffer a “predisposition for psychosis, and psychotic symptoms”. Such should be sufficient in this context to prove the dangerous effects one submits oneself to when consuming Cannabis.

    Returning to our original thoughts on the purpose of government. Self-preservation is a natural instinct in all animals as well as humans. Government is set up to protect and help man in a capacity he is unable to fulfil alone. Logically, an effective government should protect a man from harming himself because such actions the man might take to endanger himself are contrary to his nature and such a man is therefore incapable of preserving his best interest in the matter.

    Even if one could argue that the consumption of Cannabis affects only the user and not those around him, an effective government would still, by its very nature, restrict or prohibit such a drug in order to fulfil its role in protecting man from self-endangering actions.

  8. [Continued]

    Next, in regards to your comment about prescribed medicine. Your argument’s logic is flawed. Such dangerous substances have been restricted in order to prevent their abuse pursuant to the government’s purpose of protecting man. Such substances have relevant medical uses when administered appropriately by qualified medical personnel. The dangerous side-effects are weighed in relation to the benefits one might receive from taking said substances. Medical personnel are trained to weigh these risks and prescribe medications in amounts that are safe and appropriate. Appropriate use of prescribed medicines is vastly different than the uncontrolled consumption of drugs, prescription or otherwise. In addition to this, I’d like to note that I see no reason to prohibit the use of Cannabis in a medical capacity, given that it is administered by qualified medical personnel who weigh the risks and prescribe it in a safe and controlled fashion.

    In response to your thoughts on responsibility: Yes, there are people who cannot handle things in moderation. As I mentioned earlier, it is the purpose of government to step in and help those individuals who cannot help themselves. Government must also carefully weigh the many different options available to it in controlling such behaviors and make a responsible choice. One such example, is the regulation of prescribed medicine that you mention. Our government prohibits their use by the general populace, restricting it to the careful, responsible hands of medical personnel.

    I agree that rehab or counseling of some sort should be given to people who abuse substances or other things, such as gambling. However, rehab is not a replacement for jail. Rehab and jail fulfill two different roles in the hands of government. Rehab seeks to recondition abusers in a positive way to the point that they have a lessened propensity to such abuse. Jail punishes those who break the laws of the government, as a negative force in the enforcement of said law. Both positive and negative reinforcement play their unique roles in the government’s arsenal to prevent such abuses.

    The problem with your last statement regarding children and responsibility is that both alcohol and Cannabis are harmful to adults as well as children. It’s clear that the government’s current stance on alcohol is ineffective in protecting children and adults both. According to the 2007 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: National Results [Office of Applied Studies], 27.9 percent of 12 to 20-year-olds admitted to drinking in the past month. Also, 12.7 of all persons surveyed admitted to driving drunk. Such irresponsible use calls for a rethinking of the current laws. A responsible, effective government would restrict and control both of these dangerous substances across all age groups.

    As to the comment about Portugal, you were remiss in mentioning the fact that those laws still restrict the consumption and possession of Cannabis and completely prohibiting its cultivation. [Wikipedia: Legality of cannabis: Portugal]

    I hope my research has sufficed for you. I don’t make a habit of making sweeping statements with no research to back them up as you can now tell. My previous comment was simply an expression of opinion based on previous research, not to write a research paper detailing my position on the matter. However, when called into question, I don’t hesitate to provide the facts that I considered beforehand. I would also appreciate it if you would share with me the common courtesy of properly researching a topic and not ranting to support a flawed personal opinion based on the illegal and dangerous bias that your name, “technical felon”, implies you participate in.

  9. Do not take Aristotle’s Politics and twist them to your prevision. I can assure you that Aristotle’s just society would not condone filling jails with millions of people for having merely possessed a substance. A “crime” harms the life, liberty or property of another. If you actually understood Aristotle you would understand that he was a libertarian, not a totalitarian as you portray him. Go educate yourself before you use such verbosity to show your ignorance.