The Columbian (Vancouver, WA) Tuesday, march 27, 2012
I found it disturbing that the March 23 story “State: Pot initiative could generate $560M a year in taxes” would announce that the pot initiative could generate millions of dollars a year for the state coffers.
Yet, also in the same paper was a story “Houston drowned; cocaine, heart disease were factors,” concerning Whitney Houston’s tragic death, related to cocaine and marijuana use.
To those who support a marijuana legalization initiative for recreational use, I have one question: Is the savings we realize really worth the cost in human suffering, addiction and death?
In the first installment of this series, I discussed the fallacy of rescheduling as part of the “medical” marijuana issue. This final part focuses on the issues brought up by the governors in their rescheduling petition: a so-called “consensus” opinion of doctors who approve of raw marijuana as medicine, and, the issue brought on by the California Medical Association that essentially says research on marijuana cannot go forward without legalization. I will tackle each at a time.
The governors’ petition asserts that there is a “consensus of medical opinion concerning medical acceptability of cannabis amongst the largest groups of physicians in the United States.” In support of this statement, the petition cites the American Medical Association’s (AMA) alleged “reversal” of its position that marijuana should remain a Schedule I substance. However, contrary to the governors’ petition, the AMA does not believe that there has been sufficient research to justify making herbal marijuana itself available as a prescription medication: “Despite more than 30 years of clinical research, only a small number of randomized, controlled trials have been conducted on smoked cannabis.”1
Furthermore, while the AMA’s Report does state that the Schedule I status should be “reviewed,” it limits the purpose of such review to the “goal of facilitating clinical research and development of cannabinoid-based medicines, and alternate delivery methods.”2 AMA does not recommend that marijuana should be rescheduled in order that it can be directly prescribed and dispensed in its raw form to patients. In fact, the AMA recommendation goes on to caution: “This should not be viewed as an endorsement of state-based medical cannabis programs, the legalization of marijuana, or that scientific evidence on the therapeutic use of cannabis meets the current standards for a prescription drug product.” In the body of its report, AMA further clarified its position:
The future of cannabinoid-based medicine lies in the rapidly evolving field of botanical drug substance development, as well as the design of molecules that target various aspects of the endocannabinoid system. To the extent that rescheduling marijuana out of Schedule I will benefit this effort, such a move can be supported.3
The term “botanical drug substance” is derived from an FDA guidance document: “Guidance for Industry: Botanical Drug Products.”4 It refers, not to herbal plant material, but to extracts or similar preparations of the active botanical components. Rather than accepting that marijuana meets the “current, modern accepted standard for what constitute medicine,” the AMA is essentially stating that research into crude marijuana plant material is a dead end.
Rescheduling is not necessary to make marijuana products available for research
A committee of the California Medical Association recently called for the rescheduling of marijuana “so it can be tested and regulated.” However, it is not necessary for marijuana to be rescheduled in order for legitimate research to proceed. Schedule I status does not prevent a product from being tested and researched for potential medical use. The FDA (and its Controlled Substances Staff or CSS) will allow an investigational product containing a controlled substance (including Schedule I substances) to be tested in clinical (human) trials if there is adequate evidence of safety from non-human studies.5 The CSA imposes stringent security, record keeping, and other requirements, but these apply equally to Schedule I and Schedule II substances.
Under the CSA, the only differences between Schedule I and II are rather technical:6 Before granting a Schedule I research registration, the DEA will separately inquire whether the FDA believes that the researcher is qualified and competent and the trial design will elicit scientifically valid data.7 A Schedule I research registration must be renewed each year, whereas research registrations for other controlled substances are valid for 3 years. Schedule I research registrations are protocol, as well as substance, specific. By contrast, a Schedule II registration is valid for research into all Schedule II substances and protocols. Physicians, if they possess registrations to prescribe and administer products containing controlled substances, may conduct research (if permitted by the FDA and the relevant ethics committee) on any Schedule II substance; they need not obtain a separate research registration from DEA.
These additional Schedule I restrictions can delay a research program but are not insurmountable. Furthermore, it may be possible to make minor amendments to the CSA to “equalize” Schedule I and Schedule II research requirements without necessitating a rescheduling of marijuana. Now that would be an interesting thing for governors and the CMA to call for, but apparently neither seemed bothered enough to do the homework required to make such an argument.
Today, Schedule I research certainly does go forward. In a recent pharmaceutical company-sponsored human clinical study investigating a product derived from marijuana extracts, the DEA registered approximately 30 research sites in the U.S. and also registered an importer to bring the product into the U.S. from the U.K., where it was manufactured (this is for a drug called, Sativex, which combines two of marijuana’s active ingredients). What other research projects are happening? That will be the subject of a soon-to-be released report I am working on – stay tuned.
We should also mention the marijuana-based medications already on the market today. Dronabinol (Marinol ®) and Nabilone (Cesamet ®) are concentrated, synthetic versions of the most active ingredient in marijuana – THC – taken as a pill. They are in Schedule III and Schedule II, respectively, and they have been shown to be effective in the treatment of nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy in people who have already taken other medications without good results. These have undergone FDA’s process and are completely legal under the Controlled Substances Act.
By contrast to the careful and detailed structure of the Controlled Substances Act, the governors’ petition offers no criteria or guidelines that would clearly identify the scope of legitimate “medical use.” The CMA report also misstates the facts. At present in California, and several other states, it is widely recognized that the concept of “medical use” of marijuana is highly questionable. For payment of a small cash sum, almost anyone can obtain a physician’s “recommendation” to purchase, possess, and use marijuana for alleged medical purposes. Indeed, numerous studies have shown that the most customers of these dispensaries do not suffer from chronic, debilitating conditions such as HIV/AIDS or cancer and are instead otherwise healthy individuals.8,9 Both sides of the argument agree that this system has essentially legalized marijuana for recreational use, at least amongst those individuals able and willing to buy a recommendation.10 The governor’s petition would potentially expand that system on a national scale, permitting any physician in any state to prescribe any form of marijuana for any medical condition. The CMA call, while a great way to generate publicity on legalization, is also predicated on a false assertion that the only way to do research into marijuana is to legalize the drug. Sadly, vociferous calls for rescheduling and legalizing like these simply further muddle and confuse an already highly charged debate.
Kevin A. Sabet, PhD, Policy Consultant and Assistant Professor, University of Florida, College of Medicine, Division of Addiction Medicine, Department of Psychiatry. To read more from Dr. Sabet, visit www.kevinsabet.com or follow him on Twitter@kevinsabet.
Marijuana is a topic of significant public discourse in the United States, and while many are familiar with the discussions, it is not always easy to find the latest, research-based information on marijuana to answer to the common questions about its health effects, or the differences between Federal and state laws concerning the drug. Confusing messages being presented by popular culture, media, proponents of “medical” marijuana, and political campaigns to legalize all marijuana use perpetuate the false notion that marijuana is harmless. This significantly diminishes efforts to keep our young people drug free and hampers the struggle of those recovering from addiction.
The Administration steadfastly opposes legalization of marijuana and other drugs because legalization would increase the availability and use of illicit drugs, and pose significant health and safety risks to all Americans, particularly young people.
This Web-based resource center provides the general public, community leaders, and other interested people with the facts, knowledge, and tools to better understand and address marijuana in their communities.
This resource center will be regularly updated and expanded to address emerging issues, research, and prevention tools, and highlight successful local efforts to reduce marijuana use.
Visit Resource Center http://www.whitehouse.gov/ondcp/marijuanainfo
The American Society of Addition Medicine says Marijuana is a mood-altering drug capable of producing dependency. Its chief active ingredient is THC (delta-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol), but there are many other ingredients.
Marijuana has been shown to have adverse effects on memory and learning, on perception, behavior and functioning, and on pregnancy. Because of the widespread use of this drug, its effects on mind and body, and the increasing potency of available supplies.
Persons suffering from alcoholism and other drug dependencies should be educated about the need for abstinence from marijuana and its role in precipitating relapse, even if their original drug of choice is other than marijuana.
Treatment programs providing addictions treatment for chemically dependent patients should include tests for cannabinoids with other drug test panels and consider test results when designing treatment plans.
Read the report ASAM Statement on Marijuana
The Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986. requires that the Governor cause to be published a list of those chemicals “known to the state” to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity. The Act specifies that “a chemical is known to the state to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity … if in the opinion of the state’s qualified experts the chemical has been clearly shown through scientifically valid testing according to generally accepted principles to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity.”
The lead agency for implementing Proposition 65 is the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) of the California Environmental Protection Agency. The “state’s qualified experts” regarding findings of carcinogenicity are identified as the members of the Carcinogen Identification Committee of the OEHHA Science Advisory Board.
OEHHA announced the selection of marijuana smoke as a chemical for consideration for listing by the CIC in the California Regulatory Notice Register on December 12, 2007, subsequent to consultation with the Committee at their November 19, 2007 meeting. At that meeting, the Committee advised OEHHA to prepare hazard identification materials for marijuana smoke.
At their May 29, 2009 meeting the Committee, by a vote of five in favor and one against, found that marijuana smoke had been “clearly shown through scientifically valid testing according to generally accepted principles to cause cancer.”
Read the full report Marijuana Smoke and Cancer
There are a number of indicators, which may assist you in identifying a potential Marijuana Grow Operation in your neighbourhood, these include:
- Rarely does anyone appear to be at home.
- Visitors come and go at odd hours, entering/leaving the home quickly often through the garage and only for brief periods of time.
- They avoid contact with neighbours. Windows are kept closed and covered to conceal activities inside.
- Condensation may be present on window panes. [There are numerous vents to remove excessive heat use to make the plants grow faster.]
- Equipment used in the growing operation such as large fans, lights, plastic plant containers or bags of potting soil are carried into the home.
- Sounds of construction or electrical humming from equipment may be heard.
- If the home is serviced with an underground hydro service, evidence of digging in the soil around the hydro meter may be the indication of an electrical by-pass. There may be localized surges and decreases in power.
- Strange odours are coming from the house. Marijuana plants produce a unique skunk-like odour that you may occasionally smell, usually at dusk and dawn.
- Exterior appearance of the property may be untidy. There is little outside maintenance done (unshovelled snow, uncut grass, etc.), and garbage bags containing used soil and plant material may be discarded in areas surrounding the house or loaded into a vehicle for disposal.
- Mail delivered to the house may not be collected regularly resulting in an overflowing mailbox.
- Warning signs are posted in windows or around the outside of the building. These may warn people to “Beware of Dog” or that “Guard Dogs” are on the property.
Marihuana Grow Operations pose a number of potential risks and dangers to the neighbourhoods, in which they exist, including:
- POISONOUS FUMES – These may result from alterations made to the chimney venting of furnaces and hot water heaters, from chemicals used in the growing process, or from moulds that flourish in these warm moist environments.
- FIRES – Overloaded electrical systems, improper wiring and the extreme heat generated by high intensity light bulbs increase the potential for fire. A fire in a Marijuana Grow Operation has the potential to spread to neighbouring homes and present increased risks to fire fighters.
- ELECTROCUTION – Improper wiring pose risks to the occupants and visitors to the Marijuana Grow Operations. Electrical bypasses are done to facilitate the theft of electricity and they create a potential for electrocution to persons outside the home as the ground near the home may become charged with electricity.
- VIOLENCE – Operators of Marijuana Grow Operations often arm themselves with weapons, as they are potential targets of “home invasion” style robberies. This raises the risk for confrontation between the protectors and the invaders, as well as risk to police during a search warrant entry. Residents in neighbouring homes may fall victim to a “home invasion”, where the invaders target the wrong home.
- INCREASED CRIME – Money to purchase illicit drugs, including marijuana is often derived from some form of criminal activity (theft, fraud, robbery), which poses both a financial risk and a potential risk of physical harm to all members of society.
- BOOBY TRAPS – Traps may be set by the operators of Marijuana Grow Operations to protect their product from unauthorized persons entering the home or property. These traps represent a danger to the trespassers and to emergency responders.
- HIGHER UTILITY COSTS – The cultivation of marijuana requires large amounts of water and electricity. To reduce costs operators of Marijuana Grow Operations will steal these utilities from or from the utility provider a neighbour. The cost for these thefts is borne the neighbour or by the utility providers, who in turn pass the costs on to all customers in the form of increased billing rates.
- STRUCTURAL DAMAGE – Houses used as Marijuana Grow Operations are frequently modified to suit the needs of the growing operation. These modifications may affect the structural integrity of the home, as they do not comply with the Ontario Building Code. High humidity from the grow operation may also cause damage to the structure of the home or may cause excessive mould growth which may impact the health of future occupants.
- ENVIRONMENTAL DAMAGE – Chemicals used in the grow operations may discharged onto the surrounding soil or dumped offsite in some other non-environmentally friendly manner.
- HAZARDS TO CHILDREN – During investigations police have found children or evidence of children having been present in Marijuana Grow Operations. There are significant long-term health risks for children who live in or visit grow operations. Additionally the end product marijuana supplied to children is viewed by some as a gateway drug to harder drugs such as methamphetamines and cocaine.
On Tuesday, major newspapers and pro-pot blogs alike published stories with the headline “Marijuana use does not harm the lungs.” They reported a surprising finding in a study of over 5,000 people, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, that occasional marijuana use did not harm the lungs. Heavier use, such as very frequent use, as well as occasional tobacco use, however, did show a decline a lung function. Most surprisingly, the study’s authors speculates that the mild beneficial effects they found in occasional marijuana smokers could be due to enhanced lung capacity resulting from the heavy and extended inhalations entailed in marijuana smoking. On the flip side, since beneficial lung effects were only observed in occasional marijuana smokers, the authors speculate that exposure to potential toxins was insufficient to outweigh or undo the observed benefits they report.
It’s an intriguing study. After it was published, some former Oxford colleagues and I looked at the researcher’s methods and study design. We didn’t find anything in the study design to question its methodology. Yes, it would have made sense to test the THC levels of marijuana in these smokers, who started using 20 years ago, when the THC and tar levels were much lower than they are today. But the researchers followed standard protocol, and there is no reason to believe they had a pre-set agenda. They were, by all news accounts, judicious and cautious about making grand claims about marijuana’s positive health effects.
In fact, the lead researcher admitted that “Marijuana is clearly an irritative smoke for the lungs,” citing coughing after taking a “hit” to illustrate his point.
This study looked at one single outcome—lung capacity. The truth is that marijuana is linked to all kinds of respiratory problems, and studies have consistently shown this, although they barely gain much attention—perhaps because people have come to expect such findings. Long-term studies from the USA and New Zealand have shown that regular cannabis smokers report more symptoms of chronic bronchitis than non-smokers. There is a four-fold greater quantity of cannabis smoke particles (tar) in the respiratory tract compared to the tar generated from the same amount of smoked tobacco. Again, the way marijuana is smoked may have something to do with this: marijuana smokers hold their breath significantly longer than tobacco smokers. Interestingly, this latest study shows that the heavy breathing in done by the occasional marijuana smokers may help them—but only in the short run, since more frequent use seems to wipe out any benefit. But marijuana smoke also includes an enzyme that converts some hydrocarbons into a cancer-causing form, potentially accelerating the changes that produce malignant cells. Animal lungs exposed to cannabis smoke developed abnormal cell growth and accelerated malignant transformation, to a greater extent than those exposed to tobacco. An interesting note is that researchers caution HIV positive individuals who smoke cannabis may be predisposed to pulmonary infections and pneumonia, a consequence that no doubt warrants further investigation.
Sadly, advocates caught up in their adulation of the JAMA finding neglected to mention any of these findings from the over four decades of research tying marijuana use to mucosal injury, inflammation, increased cough and phlegm production, and wheezing. They also left out marijuana’s link to increased bronchitis, worsening of asthma symptoms, and worsening of cystic fibrosis symptoms. (In case you’re wondering, the evidence linking marijuana and lung cancer are mixed, with a recent study stating that “cannabis smoking increases the risk of developing a lung cancer independently of an eventual associated tobacco exposure.” Other studies have failed to find such a link.)
I asked a few other experts for their take on the study. Mark Gold, perhaps the most distinguished professor in the country on drugs and the brain and body, told me, “It is possible, but not proven, that cannabis smoke may be less toxic than cigarette smoke, but it is not better than clean air. Clear, unbiased, and convincing evidence of safety and comparable efficacy are needed for therapeutic claims. It is smoke, after all.”
“Columbus brought Tobacco to the “New World” and it took nearly 500 years for absolute proof of tobacco smoke dangerousness to be established,” Gold continued “To this day, each year, over 400,000 United States deaths are due to tobacco smoke. We had occasional tobacco smokers in the 18th century and textbooks written describing the wonders and medicinal value of tobacco smoking. The occasional smoker increasingly becomes an anachronism with increased access augmented by social marketing, claims of therapeutic efficacy, reduced stigma and price.”
Bob DuPont, the man who introduced modern drug treatment to Washington D.C. and served three presidents as founding director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, said, “Every user of alcohol or marijuana starts out intending to be a moderate, infrequent user and is quickly reassured that this goal is easily achieved. But it does not work out that way for a significant proportion of those initial users.”
Furthermore, he asks, “What other health-related advice is justified when a large minority of people who take that advice suffer terrible — often fatal — consequences?”
Indeed, one could imagine a study on speeding that would show the vast majority of people who speed do so safely and get to their destinations faster than those who obey speed limits. They are not arrested and have no accidents – in fact for some reason researchers are still not sure about, they tend to have significantly less accidents than slower drivers. But that doesn’t mean we would suddenly approve of speeding and promote its activity.
We still have a long way to go to fully understand how, why, and if marijuana affects all different kinds of bodily functions, and certainly this new research should lead us to more serious study ofmarijuana’s effect on the lungs specifically. Any objective look at the existing science will show that, marijuana causes decreased cognitive skills (including attention, motivation, memory and learning), as well as impaired driving, psychosis, or panic during intoxication, and addiction, which occurs in about 1 in every 10 users (a number similar to alcohol, and lower than cocaine, which addicts about 1 in 6 people who ever use it). There is no doubt that this finding on lung function and marijuana gives us much to mull over. For example, a longitudinal study is needed that looks at current trends of high dose marijuana and heavy users, especially those using frequently for “medical purposes.” But to say that marijuana smoke is now good for you, as some have suggested, is both disingenuous and dangerous.Kevin A. Sabet, Ph.D., a newly appointed assistant professor at University of Florida’s School of Medicine, is a regular columnist at The Fix and Huffington Post anda former Obama Drug Policy Adviser. He took a long, deep breath of Manhattan air before writing this article from his favorite coffeeshop in Greenwich Village. He is based in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
The NCI is responsible for coordinating the National Cancer Program and for maintaining our momentum in cancer research. Recent updates to their website include:
“We agree that it is the role of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to evaluate and approve drugs for use in the United States. We also agree that cannabis and cannabinoids should be subjected to the same rigorous scientific investigation as other drugs and medical devices to determine their effectiveness and safety.”
In the General Information section the wording was revised to make it clearer that “Cannabis is not approved by the FDA for any medical use.”
In the General Information section, a sentence was replaced to add clarification. The CAM Editorial Board realized that the previous wording could have been misinterpreted as being a recommendation for prescribing Cannabis, which was not the intent of the Board.
In addition, the current evidence for the antitumor properties of Cannabi is discussed only in the context of laboratory studies and not in research involving humans.
The national pro-drug lobby spends millions of dollars to persuade voters to falsely believe “medical” marijuana laws are about compassion for the terminally ill. Because there has been little coordination between the states, the people of targeted states are unaware of the negative consequences of these bad laws until after they have been fooled into passing them. These laws are simply a back-door route to legalization, a shield for widespread recreational use of marijuana, and a springboard for a lucrative marijuana industry that can’t be regulated. Once passed, those selling these laws to voters on the premise of compassion quickly demonstrate their only real interest is capitalism.
Similar to the experience in other targeted states, virtually all of the money spent on Arizona’s “medical” marijuana initiative came from the Marijuana Policy Project. The Arizona prevention organization raised and spent a paltry $25,000 on their campaign as compared to well over $800,000 spent by the Marijuana Policy Project. Their disingenuous campaign tactics were ones used successfully in other states. Their campaign materials were printed in advance and their talking points were well rehearsed. Their main message was an impassioned plea to allow suffering, terminally ill people access to “medicine.” A beautiful young woman who had been a cancer patient was the official spokesperson. The media ate it up, giving plenty of free media time to the beautiful young cancer victim as a human-interest story (thus not a campaign message requiring equal time from our opposition). We were outspent and disadvantaged by years of propaganda. It should have been a rout.
The polls predicted a rout in Arizona. We now understand that the conducting and releasing of disingenuous polls is another one of the national pro-drug lobby’s campaign tactics. Throughout our campaign, well-funded pro-drug groups released (or encouraged the media to conduct and release) poll after poll showing that we would lose by a landslide. Apparently, the pro-drug lobby believes people (and legislators) are sheep. The simple question — “Are you in favor of ‘medical’ marijuana?” – does not reveal the deeper (and more relevant) feelings concerning the widespread recreational use, as well as increased social and economic ills, caused by these laws. This “polling” tactic is going on all over the country. The “polls” simply do not accurately reflect the opinion of the majority on the real issues.
As you know, contrary to the claims of the pro-drug lobby, state “medical” marijuana laws are not popular! (Similar to their strategy of relentlessly repeating their false mantra for 20 years that “marijuana is harmless,” they have spent millions and millions of dollars to deceive the public with disingenuous, loud and aggressive campaign tactics proclaiming the popularity of “medical” marijuana.) Marijuana advocates don’t mention that in California and Colorado, more cities and counties ban marijuana businesses than allow them! Nor do they mention that state “medical” marijuana laws create chaos, causing increased crime, youth marijuana use, and traffic fatalities and spawning a business that simply can’t be regulated.
As evidence that the public is becoming more aware of the chaos, just this past year, among other significant events:
- the people of Montana, through a grassroots campaign created by four moms, led a repeal effort (which led to repeal by the legislature, but then vetoed by the Governor, followed by the passage of a severely restrictive bill that now is being challenged in court by marijuana advocates),
- the people of South Dakota soundly rejected a “medical” marijuana initiative,
- the people of Oregon soundly rejected a “medical” marijuana dispensary component for their existing program,
- the people of California defeated a general legalization bill, despite being outspent by marijuana advocates $3.8 million to $300,000,
- the people of Arizona very narrowly passed a “medical” marijuana bill, despite the fact that opponents were outspent by advocates $800,000 to $25,000, and
- a repeal bill was introduced in the New Mexico legislature, resulting in a memorial bill requiring comprehensive studies over the next year.
More and more states are saying yes to medical marijuana. But local governments are increasingly using their laws to just say no, not in our backyard.
In California, with the nation’s most permissive medical marijuana laws, 185 cities and counties have banned pot dispensaries entirely. In New Jersey, perhaps the most restrictive of the 17 states that have legalized marijuana for sick people, some groups planning to sell cannabis are struggling to find local governments willing to let them in.
Dispensaries have also been banned in parts of Colorado [and Montana, California] and have run into opposition in some towns in Maine.
Local politicians have argued that pot is still illegal under federal law, that marijuana dispensaries bring crime, and that such businesses are just fronts for drug-dealing, supplying weed to people who aren’t really sick.
Cities and towns are prohibiting dispensaries outright or applying zoning ordinances so strict that they amount to the same thing. The ordinances typically set minimum distances between such businesses and schools, homes, parks and houses of worship.”
According to a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control, drug overdoses have increased almost six-fold in the last 30 years. They now represent the leading cause of accidental death in the United States, having overtaken motor vehicle accidents for the first time on record.
One might expect such news to spur politicians to explore new options for drug abuse treatment, prevention and enforcement. Instead, at precisely the wrong time, extremists on both sides have taken over the conversation. Unless we change the tone of the debate to give drug-policy centrists a voice, America’s drug problem will only get worse.
Indeed, moderates have historically been key contributors to both the debate and the practice of effective drug policy. In 1914, Representative Francis B. Harrison, a New York Democrat, worked with Republicans and President Woodrow Wilson to pass the first major piece of federal anti-drug legislation, in response to a surge in heroin and cocaine use.
Other moderates, from Theodore Roosevelt to John F. Kennedy, made drug policy an important part of their domestic agendas. President Bill Clinton worked closely with Bob Dole, the Republican Senate majority leader, on sensible measures like drug courts and community policing. And Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. is the reason there is a drug czar in the first place, having pushed the idea for years before President Ronald Reagan approved it.
So where are the moderates now? Certainly, the current political climate makes it hard to come together on any question. Republicans are too timid to touch any domestic policy issue, like effective drug prevention and treatment, that might appear to cost taxpayers more money. And too many Democrats have yet to recognize that drugs are an issue that they and their constituents should care deeply about: after all, drug abuse and its consequences affect the most vulnerable in society in especially harmful ways.
In their place, a few tough-on-crime conservatives and die-hard libertarians dominate news coverage and make it appear as if legalizing drugs and “enforcement only” strategies were the only options, despite the fact that the public supports neither.
This stalemate comes just as a new range of cost-effective, evidence-based approaches to prevention, treatment and the criminal justice system are within our reach. We know much more about addiction than we did 20 years ago; with enough support, we could pursue promising medications and behavioral therapies, even a possible vaccine against some drug addictions.
Meanwhile, smart, innovative law enforcement strategies that employ carrots and sticks — treatment and drug testing complete with swift but modest consequences for continued drug use, or incentives for abstinence — have produced impressive results, through drug courts or closely supervised probation programs.
And drug prevention has moved from a didactic classroom exercise to a science of teaching life skills and changing environmental norms based on local data and community capacity. We now know that recovery from addiction is possible, and that policies that give former addicts a second chance are in everyone’s interest.
Most recently, Gil Kerlikowske, President Obama’s top drug policy adviser, introduced a sensible four-point plan to curb prescription drug abuse: educate prescribers, parents and young people about the dangers of overdose; shut down illegitimate “clinics” that freely sell these drugs; establish electronic monitoring at pharmacies; and encourage the proper disposal of unused medications. Yet his plan received little attention from the news media or Capitol Hill.
Of course, there is no magic bullet for America’s drug problem. The magnitude and complexity of our drug problem require us to constantly refine and improve our policies through thoughtful analysis, innovation and discussion.
Moderates should lead that conversation. To remain silent not only betrays widely shared values of compassion and justice for the most vulnerable. It also leaves policy in the hands of extremists who would relegate a very serious and consequential discussion to frivolous and dangerous quarters.
Kevin A. Sabet, a drug-policy consultant, was a senior adviser in the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy from 2009 to 2011.
Cannabis use significantly increases the risk for incident psychotic symptoms in individuals with no prior history of psychotic experiences.
In persons with evidence of psychosis, cannabis use increases the persistence of these symptoms, according to researchers from the University of Maastricht in The Netherlands, who have done much of the existing work in the area of cannabis and psychosis.
It has been known for many years that persons with schizophrenia or other psychotic illness use more cannabis than the general population, and other work has shown that individuals using cannabis during adolescence and early adulthood have a higher risk of developing psychotic symptoms. It remains unclear, however, whether the association between cannabis and psychosis is causal or whether an underlying genetic predisposition for psychosis may prompt cannabis use as a way of self-medication. A second issue is whether cannabis impacts on persistence rates of psychosis and which biological mechanisms may underlie this process.
Read more Cannabis use Increases Psychosis Risk.
AB 390, a bill to legalize marijuana in California, has gone up in smoke at the State Capitol.
Children need to grow up in safe neighborhoods and attend schools free of marijuana users and sellers. We need to continue to protect our youth from the dangers of drugs. That starts with stopping the proliferation of pot.
The demise of this disastrous California bill goes to show that our voice was heard at the State Capitol and legislators on both sides of the aisle agreed we don’t want a proliferation of WEED in our streets and communities…our churches…parks and schools.
Legalizing marijuana is bad public policy and most of the legislators know it. In my opinion, once the public wakes up and understands the dangers of legalizing marijuana, legislators voting to legalize may find themselves on the wrong side of public opinion. A lot of voters are going to let their representatives know they will not stand for legalizing such a dangerous drug.
Marijuana is a dangerous and destructive drug…and we must not rest until the pro-legalizers are defeated once and for all.
To think some California lawmakers would resort to legalizing the sale and manufacture of drugs to generate tax revenue in which to balance our state budget is an outrage!
There are many ways to get the economy moving again. Putting a flood of mind altering drugs on the streets and then taxing their sales is not one of them.
It doesn’t make sense for our legislators to ban cigarette usage in public places because it is harmful to health, while at the same time saying “yes” to marijuana smoke, which is also carcinogenic.
California lawmakers recently banned trans fat because it is harmful to health. And now they want to make marijuana legal because it’s supposedly good for consumption in certain cases?
If we say marijuana is okay for adults…then what message do do send our children? That it’s okay for them too?
How do we expect our youth to say “No!” to drugs when the adults are saying “yes.”
Why would our public policymakers legalize marijuana, tax it and then go back and use that same money AND MORE for drug prevention programs to convince kids to not smoke dope. It’s bad public policy. It doesn’t make sense.
Taxing marijuana is “blood money” plain and simple. And California lawmakers would have blood on their hands if they voted to legalize this dangerous drug.
Pot should never be legal for general use in California. It’s bad for health, it’s bad for our communities, it’s bad for kids and it’s bad for our brains.
California will go down a dangerous path for which there will be no turning back if voters legalize marijuana. To think people will smoke pot while driving on our roads, visiting our parks, walking in our neighborhoods, sitting in their backyards (with the odor wafting over our fences) and passing near our schools. It is a disaster waiting to happen of enormous consequences. Has anyone given any thought to this?
Rogue legislators like Tom Ammiano want to legalize marijuana because they say it will be a windfall for the economy. Many others think it would actually be a drain on the state budget and the root cause of many job losses due to absenteeism and lost productivity.
There is no guarantee that legalization would undercut the black market, especially if the drug is taxed. Drug pushers would simply sell it “tax free.”
Legalizers think the revenue from a new marijuana tax will solve California’s budget woes, but AB 390 specifically states that people can grow their own weed, which many will do. How do you tax that?
Where will we get the money to pay for a new watchdog agency to regulate the drug? And will employees of this same agency be allowed to smoke it during their work breaks since it will be legal?
AB 390 to legalize marijuana was passed in the California Assembly Public Safety Committee (Tom Ammiano’s committee) on January 12, 2010. Increase the use of drugs, and our public will be safer? Was there another motive?
President Obama was right to declare he wants to usher in a new era of responsibility; and that includes ensuring marijuana remains classified as an illegal drug. There’s no excuse for legalizing another harmful drug known kill through the inducements of carcinogens and mental instability.
Because marijuana is illegal at the federal level, one can imagine California becoming a favored destination for drug buyers – and an exporter of drug dealers.
The “legalizers” will argue we are overcrowding our prisons with people arrested for simple possession of marijuana. The truth is: no one ever stays in jail for more than a day just for possessing it. Anyone that is in jail or prison for marijuana either:
- Also had a role in distribution; or,
- Pled down to possession in exchange for information; or,
- Violated terms of parole/probation, and their original crime was much more serious
Legalizers say: “If marijuana is legalized we can tax it and bring in much needed revenue to our state.”
- In 2005, the State of California spent $19.9 billion dollars on substance abuse and addiction or $545.09 per capita on alcohol and tobacco. But, the State of California collected $1.4 billion dollars of tax revenue or $38.69 per capita on the sale of alcohol and tobacco products. The costs far exceeded the revenue, and marijuana would likely follow a similar trend.
- The tax revenue does not account for the additional public health concerns and costs, such as cancer risks due to smoke inhalation or increased mental illness due to prolonged use.
Legalizers say: “People with medical issues should be able to smoke marijuana to relieve pain or other debilitating symptoms.”
- There is likely medical benefit from components in the cannabis plant. This is very different than legalizing smoked marijuana.
- Medicine should never be determined by voters.
- The general public does not have the knowledge necessary to vote on whether a particular pill or patch is beneficial for the treatment of heart disease, attention deficit disorder, or diabetes. Why is this different?
- The 1999 IOM report said that smoked marijuana should generally not be recommended for medical use; we don’t “smoke” medicine.
Legalizers say: “Marijuana toxicity has never killed anyone.”
- Marijuana contributes to dependence, mental illness, lung obstruction, lung cancer, memory loss, motor skill disruption and other harms in a way that tobacco does not, and its harms are underappreciated.
- ER admissions for marijuana-related illness (psychotic episodes, etc.) exceed those of heroin.
- There have been numerous cases of fatal car and other accidents caused by someone under the influence of marijuana.
Smoked marijuana is not medicine. Pot smoke contains more carcinogens than cigarette smoke and is simply not healthy for you. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration routinely tests new drugs according to a rigorous protocol to prove their safety before they are allowed to be sold to the public as medicine. Marijuana has passed no such test.
Legalization will increase drug use and health care costs. Marijuana is an addictive drug that poses significant health consequences to its users. Recent studies have linked marijuana use to birth defects, respiratory system damage, cancer, mental illness, violence, infertility, and immune system damage.
The latest information from the U.S. Treatment Episode Data Set reports that 16.1% of drug treatment admissions were for marijuana as the primary drug of abuse, compared to 6% in 1992.
Legalization will increase crime-related costs. 75% of children in foster care are placed there because of a parent’s substance abuse. Sexual assault is frequently facilitated by substance use – some experts put the number at over 60%. The U.S. Department of Justice found that 61% of domestic violence offenders also have substance abuse problems.
All forms of marijuana are mind-altering (psychoactive). In other words, they change how the brain works. A lot of other chemicals are found in marijuana, too — about 400 of them, some of which are carcinogenic. Marijuana is addictive with more teens in treatment with a primary diagnosis of marijuana dependence than for all other illicit drugs combined.
Long-term marijuana abuse can lead to addiction; Long-term marijuana abusers trying to quit report irritability, sleeplessness, decreased appetite, anxiety, and drug craving, all of which make it difficult to quit.
Numerous studies have shown marijuana smoke to contain carcinogens and to be an irritant to the lungs. In fact, marijuana smoke contains 50–70 percent more carcinogenic hydrocarbons than does tobacco smoke. Marijuana users usually inhale more deeply and hold their breath longer than tobacco smokers do, which further increase the lungs’ exposure to carcinogenic smoke.
Driving experiments show that marijuana affects a wide range of skills needed for safe driving — thinking and reflexes are slowed, making it hard for drivers to respond to sudden, unexpected events. Also, a driver’s ability to “track” (stay in lane) through curves, to brake quickly, and to maintain speed and the proper distance between cars is affected. Research shows that these skills are impaired for at least 4-6 hours after smoking a single marijuana cigarette, long after the “high” is gone. Marijuana presents a definite danger on the road.
Emergency Room admissions for marijuana-related illness (psychotic episodes, etc.) exceed those of heroin.
Is the quality of ‘street’ marijuana in question? Does it contain contaminates like heavy metals, fungus, bacteria and pesticides?
There are various laws and agencies that control the quality of food, drink and medicine we consume.
California AB 390 brought many of these issues to the forefront.
For the full report lick here 2010 Analysis of AB390.
Smoking a joint is equivalent to 20 cigarettes in terms of lung cancer risk, scientists in New Zealand have found, as they warned of an “epidemic” of lung cancers linked to cannabis.
Studies in the past have demonstrated that cannabis can cause cancer, but few have established a strong link between cannabis use and the actual incidence of lung cancer.
In an article published in the European Respiratory Journal, the scientists said cannabis could be expected to harm the airways more than tobacco as its smoke contained twice the level of carcinogens, such as polyaromatic hydrocarbons, compared with tobacco cigarettes.
The method of smoking also increases the risk, since joints are typically smoked without a proper filter and almost to the very tip, which increases the amount of smoke inhaled. The cannabis smoker inhales more deeply and for longer, facilitating the deposition of carcinogens in the airways.
“Cannabis smokers end up with five times more carbon monoxide in their bloodstream (than tobacco smokers),” team leader Richard Beasley, at the Medical Research Institute of New Zealand, said in a telephone interview.
“There are higher concentrations of carcinogens in cannabis smoke … what is intriguing to us is there is so little work done on cannabis when there is so much done on tobacco.”
The researchers interviewed 79 lung cancer patients and sought to identify the main risk factors for the disease, such as smoking, family history and occupation. The patients were questioned about alcohol and cannabis consumption.
In this high-exposure group, lung cancer risk rose by 5.7 times for patients who smoked more than a joint a day for 10 years, or two joints a day for 5 years, after adjusting for other variables, including cigarette smoking.
“While our study covers a relatively small group, it shows clearly that long-term cannabis smoking increases lung cancer risk,” wrote Beaseley.
“Cannabis use could already be responsible for one in 20 lung cancers diagnosed in New Zealand,” he added.
“In the near future we may see an ‘epidemic’ of lung cancers connected with this new carcinogen. And the future risk probably applies to many other countries, where increasing use of cannabis among young adults and adolescents is becoming a major public health problem.”
Researchers at Columbia University have found that marijuana use is almost twice as high in states with medical marijuana laws compared to states without them. This, according to an article published in an upcoming issue of the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence.
Another recent finding underscores that disturbing message. Among youths aged 12 to 17, marijuana usage rates are higher in states with medicinal marijuana laws, says a study in last month’s Annals of Epidemiology.
This is concerning, because marijuana, according to the National Institutes of Health, is linked with dependence, respiratory and mental illness, poor motor performance, and cognitive impairment, among other negative effects. In fact, more kids now go to treatment because of a primary marijuana condition than for any other drug, including alcohol.
Read the report Columbia University Teen Attitudes on Substance Abuse.
Advocates for legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes are starting to suffer some scientific setbacks.
They made their case on the basis that cannabis can lessen pain in patients suffering such debilitating diseases as cancer and multiple sclerosis.
If marijuana has particular properties that can do this, those chemicals should indeed be extracted from the plant or artificially manufactured and then dispensed by proper prescription.
Cannabis does more harm than good.
A UCLA study has found a link between marijuana use and increased risk of head and neck cancers.
Another UCLA study, published in the Journal of Immunology, has found there is a chemical in marijuana that can cause cancerous cells to proliferate. The study also suggests that inhaling this substance may be a greater lung cancer risk than inhaling cigarette smoke.
It’s ironic that many advocates for legalizing marijuana are also fierce foes of the tobacco industry and cigarette smoking.
Source: Forbes Magazine, September 4, 2000
In October 2009, Ms. Rosalie Pacula of the Rand Corporation provided the following report on the issue facing states considering ‘decriminalization’ of Marijuana.
“If use increases, known harms will also increase. We know that today over one third of self-reported past year users in the household population meet criteria for marijuana dependence.
Additionally, over 160,000 people showed up in treatment facilities with marijuana as a primary diagnosis that were not referred from the criminal justice system.
However, the cost of treating people who are dependent and seeking treatment needs to be considered in a benefit-cost calculation, as the State pays for the vast majority of drug treatment.
There also may be costs associated with treating other marijuana-induced health problems.”
Read the report in full RAND Study, Issues to Consider
Visit RAND at www.rand.org
The issues around marijuana may seem complicated, but the bottom line is simple:
- We know from analysis at RAND that legalization would cause the price of marijuana to fall and its use woould rise, especially among youth.
- With more users, we will see more addiction. Marijuana addiction is real and affects about 1 in 9 people who ever start using the drug (a number similar to alcohol). If one starts in adolescence, that number jumps to 1 in 6 users.
- If you care about educational outcomes, you need to oppose legalization because marijuana use reduces learning and memory, increases drop-out rates and lower grades.
- If you care about economic competitiveness and jobs, you need to oppose legalization because employers will not hire those who test positive for drug use.
- If you care about safe roads, you need to oppose legalization because smoking marijuana doubles a user’s risk of having an accident.
- Taxes on marijuana would never pay for the increased social costs that would result from more users. Our experience with alcohol and tobacco shows that for every dollar gained in taxes, we spent $10 in social costs.
- Legalization would jeopardize our ability to get Federal funds, because of drug-free workplace requirements and the fact that marijuana is against Federal law.
- Our experience with even tightly regulated prescription drugs, such as OxyCotin, shows that legalizing drugs widens availability and misuse, even when controls are in place.
- Legalization would not curb violence. Marijuana accounts for only a portion of the proceeds gained by criminal organizations that profit from drug distribution, human trafficking, and other crimes, so legalizing marijuana would not deter these groups from continuing to operate.
- Legalization wouldn’t even reduce the burden of the criminal justice system. Today, alcohol ~ which is legal- is the cause of over 2.6 million arrests a year. That is a million more arrests than for all illegal drugs combined.
- In places that have experimented with quasi-legalization, marijuana use and associated problems have skyrocketed. That is why the Netherlands, the U.K., and other countries, after experiencing a wave of increased use, are now reversing their policies.
The study shows that smoking marijuana before the age of 16 leaves individuals with weakened executive function, such as planning, flexibility and abstract thinking.
One of the tests conducted as part of the study included subjects being asked to sort a deck of cards following one set of rules, and then quickly switching to another set of rules without warning. The individuals who started smoking at an early age performed significantly worse than non-users and those who started using marijuana later in life.
In other tests, early marijuana users continued to make the same errors repeatedly.
Previous studies by neuroscientists had shown that those who smoke large amounts of marijuana on a regular basis do not do well on tests of memory and other mental abilities.