Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Uncle Sam on Pot—Part 3

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water, there are still more reasons for us to fear marijuana. I promise this is the last of them. At least until the DEA makes up some new ones. Below are a few more statements from the DEA web site followed by my analyses of them.

Consider also that drug use, including marijuana, contributes to crime. A large percentage of those arrested for crimes test positive for marijuana. Nationwide, 40 percent of adult males tested positive for marijuana at the time of their arrest.

Really? I know a lot of people that smoke pot, but I don’t know any that are criminals (besides the fact that they smoke pot, that is). Granted, that’s just an anecdotal observation based on a small sample. But still. If it was that likely to turn people into criminals, I’d surely know at least one person that it happened to. And besides, marijuana shows up in a test for up to 2 weeks. Just because someone tests positive, doesn’t mean they had smoked recently. And I’d be interested to know what percentage of people test positive for alcohol at the time of their arrest.

Or maybe they’re referring to people arrested for possession. In that case, I guess maybe they have a point. If it is a crime to possess marijuana, then I wouldn’t be surprised that a fairly high percentage of people arrested for possession would test positive for marijuana. Although I think it might be a little more accurate to say that it’s the drug laws, as much if not more than the drugs, that are contributing to crime.

Is marijuana a gateway drug? Yes. Among marijuana's most harmful consequences is its role in leading to the use of other illegal drugs like heroin and cocaine.

OK, now they’re just flat-out lying. There is not a single shred of evidence to support this claim, and overwhelming evidence to refute it. I don’t think anybody’s seriously believed the “gateway” phenomenon since the LaGuardia Report in 1944, if not long before. Surely the DEA must know by now that nobody believes that marijuana is a gateway drug. Blatant lies are not doing anybody any good, and just serving to further erode the government’s credibility.

In Summary:

  • Marijuana is a dangerous, addictive drug that poses significant health threats to its users.
  • Marijuana has no medical value that can't be met more effectively by legal drugs.
  • Marijuana users are far more likely to use other drugs like cocaine and heroin than non-marijuana users.
  • Drug legalizers use “medical marijuana” as red herring in an effort to advocate broader legalization of drug use.

There you have it. The official marijuana doctrine of your federal government. It’s entirely based on twisted facts, gross exaggerations, and outright lies. So what are you going to think when they try to convince you of something else that may sound a little far fetched? Like weapons of mass destruction. Or why warrantless wiretapping is such a good thing. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Keep trying to fool me over and over again with the same old story, and you could only be the shameful U.S. government.

As for me, I think I’m going to go out and commit some random crimes, do a little driving under the influence, maybe stop by the emergency room and mention marijuana, then when I get back home, start using heroin.*

* This is what is known as “sarcasm” (i.e., remarks that mean the opposite of what they seem to say and are intended to mock or deride). I’m not really admitting to nor planning to commit any crimes.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Uncle Sam on Pot—Part 2

Did you seriously think the previous piece covered all the reasons the DEA has for keeping marijuana illegal? Well, think again. Below are some more statements from the DEA web site followed by my analyses of them.

Any determination of a drug's valid medical use must be based on the best available science undertaken by medical professionals. The Institute of Medicine conducted a comprehensive study in 1999 to assess the potential health benefits of marijuana and its constituent cannabinoids. The study concluded that smoking marijuana is not recommended for the treatment of any disease condition. In addition, there are more effective medications currently available. For those reasons, the Institute of Medicine concluded that there is little future in smoked marijuana as a medically approved medication. [emphasis not added]

I talked about this statement and its source in a previous article, so I just want to say that I wonder what made them pick this particular study to base their position on medical marijuana on. Could it be that it’s the only one they could find that supports their position?

The DEA supports research into the safety and efficacy of THC (the major psychoactive component of marijuana), and such studies are ongoing, supported by grants from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Not really. It is virtually impossible to get permission to do real medical marijuana research in the U.S. Europe is currently the hot bed of leading-edge medical marijuana research.

Furthermore, the DEA recently approved the University of California San Diego to undertake rigorous scientific studies to assess the safety and efficacy of cannabis compounds for treating certain debilitating medical conditions.

As far as I can tell, that study began in 1999 and was not exactly what this statement makes it sound like. It was a study of the neurobiological effects of long-term, chronic cannabis “addiction.” That doesn’t sound too much like medical marijuana research. Perhaps there was another recent major federally-funded project in San Diego that I failed to find anything about. Maybe it didn’t turn out they way they wanted and it got buried. More likely, it never existed.

It's also important to realize that the campaign to allow marijuana to be used as medicine is a tactical maneuver in an overall strategy to completely legalize all drugs.

Maybe. That might be true for marijuana; I don’t know about all drugs. But that doesn’t in any way affect its medicinal value. If people started using aspirin recreationally, that wouldn’t make it any less effective for treating headaches. But that’s beside the point. The government uses even more lame, more transparent excuses to keep marijuana illegal. So what’s wrong with the other side doing the same to try to get it legalized?

Or maybe it’s just a strategy of the pro-marijuana folks to allow the government to change their mind and not look like idiots for the past 70 years. So the government can say, “We let them use it medicinally and it’s not so bad, so let’s mellow out a bit and let them smoke it recreationally. See, we can be reasonable. Your government isn’t all bad.” I wouldn’t put it past those fun-loving legalization people to give their government a chance to keep their dignity and at the same time do the right thing.

Does marijuana harm anyone besides the individual who smokes it? Consider the public safety of others when confronted with intoxicated drug users. Marijuana affects many skills required for safe driving: alertness, the ability to concentrate, coordination, and reaction time. These effects can last up to 24 hours after smoking marijuana.

I covered this issue in the previous piece. Nobody’s suggesting that stoned people be allowed to do things that endanger others. That’s just silly. And I sure would like to get a hold of some of that stuff that gets you high for 24 hours.

To be continued…

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Uncle Sam on Pot—Part 1

The DEA has some pretty good reasons for keeping marijuana illegal. Unfortunately, those reasons have no connection whatsoever to reality. Below are some of the reasons the U.S. government would like us to believe justify the war on drugs. They are taken directly from the DEA web site, and each is followed by my analysis.

Smoking marijuana weakens the immune system and raises the risk of lung infections. A Columbia University study found that a control group smoking a single marijuana cigarette every other day for a year had a white-blood-cell count that was 39 percent lower than normal, thus damaging the immune system and making the user far more susceptible to infection and sickness.

But what about the federal government’s patent (see the previous article)? It is for compounds in marijuana that act as antioxidants and neuroprotectants. That sounds like something that strengthens not weakens the immune system. Oddly enough, the reference they give for this “Columbia study” is an article in the Washington Times. I couldn’t find any reference anywhere to an actual study done at Columbia that fits with the findings the DEA describes.

But, you might say, maybe it’s the smoking they have a problem with when it comes to medicinal uses, not the drug itself. If that were true, I bet most medical users would not object to ingesting their medicine another way. If they were only given the opportunity.

Marijuana is an addictive drug with significant health consequences to its users and others. Many harmful short-term and long-term problems have been documented with its use.

That’s funny. That’s just the opposite of what every major federally-funded study in the past 70 years has found. I wonder what “documentation” they are referring to. The references they give for this statement are articles in Foreign Affairs Magazine and the Washington Times. Sound like some pretty solid sources to me. I know I base all my medical decisions on what some obscure news magazine says.

The short term effects of marijuana use include: memory loss, distorted perception, trouble with thinking and problem solving, loss of motor skills, decrease in muscle strength, increased heart rate, and anxiety.

Wow! There’s one they got right, at least to a certain extent. I guess that means that you shouldn’t drive or operate heavy machinery when stoned. Fair enough. But then again, I don’t think anyone is advocating the legalization of driving under the influence.

In recent years there has been a dramatic increase in the number of emergency room mentions of marijuana use. From 1993-2000, the number of emergency room marijuana mentions more than tripled.

Mentions? What does that mean? Was it mentioned in casual conversation. Like a guy in the waiting room is telling his friend that he smoked marijuana once? Or did somebody specifically ask about it? Perhaps the admitting nurse asked if the patient ever smoked pot and they replied yes. Notice how they carefully avoid saying marijuana was the cause of any ER visits? I’m not sure why they would be so careful to avoid misstating facts in this case when they flat out lie in others. Makes me suspicious.

There are also many long-term health consequences of marijuana use. According to the National Institutes of Health, studies show that someone who smokes five joints per week may be taking in as many cancer-causing chemicals as someone who smokes a full pack of cigarettes every day.

I have to say I’m a bit skeptical about this one too. Of course when you inhale the smoke from any burning plant you’re bound to inhale some nasty stuff. But there has been no evidence that smoking marijuana increases the probability of getting lung cancer anywhere near what smoking cigarettes does. In fact, recent research has shown that compounds in marijuana can actually reduce the likelihood of getting certain kinds of cancers. (A future piece will look at the findings from a recent NIH study. It’s obviously not the one the DEA is referencing.)

To be continued…

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

U.S. Government Patents Pot

Just so we’re all clear on the U.S. government’s position on medical marijuana, here it is from the horse’s very own mouth. Their position, taken from the DEA web site, is based on a 1999 study by the Institute of Medicine*:

Smoking marijuana is not recommended for the treatment of any disease condition. In addition, there are more effective medications currently available. For those reasons… there is little future in smoked marijuana as a medically approved medication. [emphasis not added]

I’d say that statement is about as clear as it could possibly be. According to the DEA, representing the federal government when it comes to drugs, there is currently no such thing as medical marijuana.

Why then does the federal government hold a patent on medical marijuana? Yes it’s true. It’s US Patent 6630507 - Cannabinoids as antioxidants and neuroprotectants. The assignee of that patent is The United States of America as represented by the Department of Health and Human Services. Just go to the US Patent and Trademark Office web site and do a search on that number if you think I’m making this up. Because it does seem, to me anyway, a bit far fetched, to say the least.

First of all, I didn’t realize the federal government could even hold patents. I thought work funded by tax dollars was in the public domain. Guess I was way off on that one.

But more importantly, I didn’t realize you could hold a patent on something that doesn’t exist. I mean if the government says something doesn’t exist, how can it grant itself a patent on it. Next thing you know, they’ll be patenting weapons of mass destruction. Or unicorns.

I don’t have anything more to say about this patent in particular, or its mythical nature, but I do have a lot more to say regarding the DEA and their position on all things pot. Stay tuned.

* The Institute of Medicine is an advisory group established in 1970 to give advice on medical issues to the government. As far as I can tell, they don’t appear to do much, if any, actual research. They appear to mostly review material and prepare reports.