Marijuana legislation is not a simple issue. In fact, it is a muddled quagmire of complex concerns. Most people have seen the 1938 propaganda film Reefer Madness depicting the tragic events and eventual insanity of high school students lured into using marijuana. In the 72 years since the film was produced, much research has been done to bring valid awareness to the dangers as well as medicinal qualities encompassed in this herb. Laws, however, haven't changed much since a movement in the '70s and passionate arguments are being fired from both sides.

Pro

If marijuana is legalized there will be:

• Quality control by FDA.

• No need for bootlegging, ending the demand filled by the deadly Mexican drug cartels.

• Hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue for debt-ridden states.

• Less burden on the prison system to house convicted recreational and medical users.

• A safer, more effective treatment option for some serious medical conditions.

Con

• Marijuana use is associated with impaired cognitive function, respiratory illness and mental disorders such as depression and anxiety.

• Marijuana is a gateway drug causing some users to move on to more dangerous narcotics.

• With easier access and lower prices, there will be an increase in usage.

• There will be more auto accidents as the rate of impaired drivers increases.

• High costs to health care, criminal justice and the workplace in lost productivity will arise.

Personal, not political

To some this is a political or legislative issue and purely ideological. For others this is very personal. There are many stories of marriages being brought to ruin, lives of teens being damaged and other devastating consequences attributed to on-going use of marijuana. For those people, legalization seems like the worst possible choice.

To others who have received relief from chronic pain, marijuana is a gift from God. People suffering horribly from multiple sclerosis, cancer or AIDS aren't seeking a recreational high; they simply want a more effective treatment option.

Laws are inconsistent and widely varying

Legislation varies widely from state to state as well as counties ... and those laws are often in conflict with federal regulations, which prohibit the use or possession of the drug altogether. California is the top state for approved medicinal use and is leading the charge for legislative reform of recreational use. There are about a dozen states where marijuana use has been decriminalized including Alaska, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, Ohio and Oregon. Users typically don't get jail time or a criminal record in these states. Southern states tend to maintain stricter policies, with Florida's laws considered the harshest in the U.S.

This year's mid-term elections included many reform measures on ballots across the country. The most prominent was Proposition 19, an effort by some Californians to legalize pot for recreational use in that state. It was defeated by 54 to 46 percent, but younger voters (under age 50) are highly supportive and many don't vote as often in the mid-terms. With this in mind, politicians on both sides of the aisle simply can't dismiss the issue and it appears to be looming larger in the 2012 election from coast to coast. There is likely to be similar legislation proposed in Washington, Oregon, Alaska, Colorado and Nevada in upcoming years. Right here in Ahwatukee Foothills we may soon see clinics dispensing medical marijuana.

Seeking truth

There is a mountain of seemingly valid and credible research supporting both sides of the legalization debate. There does seem to be a bias against medicinal use that doesn't exist for other treatment options. If the slate was wiped clean and marijuana was being evaluated by the FDA from scratch it would likely be considered a safe and useful prescription. However, current perception prevents a non-biased assessment by virtually anyone.

While there does seem to be a case for providing medically approved use of marijuana to those suffering serious, chronic or terminal illnesses, and the current system appears to be one of extremes. In most states it is not available for legal use under any circumstances while it is readily accessible for minor pain in those states that have laws approving medical use. Those laws are clearly being abused.

As you consider and pray about marijuana legislation: Take a fresh, honest look at this issue. Seek ways to protect and encourage families with drug-related problems. Pray for God to comfort and ease the pain of serious illness sufferers and for guidance, wisdom and non-political motives for elected officials as they decide on new legislation.

Most information is available on these site and associated links: http://norml.org/index.cfm and http://www.whitehousedrugpolicy.gov/publications/pdf/mj_legal.pdf.

Local resident Diane Markins can be reached at Diane@DianeMarkins.com. Visit her blog www.DianeMarkins.com.

(6) comments

wm97ab
wm97ab

"Con

• Marijuana use is associated with impaired cognitive function, respiratory illness and mental disorders such as depression and anxiety."

The "impaired cognitive function" simply isn't a issue for legalization.

In the first place, alcohol wins all the prizes for impairing people and causing problems. Alcohol accounts for far more problems from impairment than all the illegal drugs combined. It always has and it always will. That's why they passed alcohol Prohibition in 1919.

So the argument is that marijuana, which accounts for less than 1 percent of the impairment problems, needs to be illegal, which alcohol -- which accounts for about 99 percent of those problems -- should be legal. This is absolute nonsensical. People who spout this are not trying to solve any real problem. It is just plain Reefer Madness.

Alcohol is legal because of only one reason -- we proved conclusively that prohibition only causes more problems. Prohibition is not control. Prohibition is the complete lack of control.

Then there is the small issue that the only reliable way to tell if an experience pot smoker is stoned is to ask them. The impairment levels for experienced smokers are so small as to be barely detectable. Road and Track did an article titled "Puff, the Dangerous Driver." They took two groups of people and made them drive a closed course. One group got increasing doses of alcohol. The other got increasing doses of pot. The alcohol drinkers were quickly all over the road. The pot smokers actually got better at the course each time they tried. Pot was not very impairing. All the other major research shows basically the same thing -- even with heavy doses of pot, the impairment only barely reaches the lowest levels of alcohol intoxication.

If you are still worried about impaired driving, rest assured that a standard roadside sobriety test will find everyone who is impaired, regardless of what drug they have taken.
.

wm97ab
wm97ab

"• Marijuana is a gateway drug causing some users to move on to more dangerous narcotics"

Pure BS, created from whole cloth by Harry Anslinger, former head of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, in 1951.

How did the marijuana gateway myth get started?

First, there is no drug that will magically give you a craving for other drugs you have never had. That is a belief in witchcraft, not science.

Hemp was George Washington's primary crop, and a secondary crop for Thomas Jefferson, so hemp has been around in America for a long time, without apparently causing much destruction in society. Each sailing ship carried several tons of hemp in its rope and sails, so cultivation of hemp was a major industry. Even though cannabis was widely grown, there were no allegations that it led to harder drugs.

In 1910, they believed that the certain steppingstone to opiate addiction was "eating Mexicanized food". The fundamental idea comes from America's puritanical history. It is the idea that pleasure is sinful, and small pleasures lead to cravings for larger pleasures. In this example, those who crave spicy food will inevitably crave larger pleasures, such as opium.

In the 1920s, some states outlawed marijuana because of the belief that heroin addiction would lead to the use of marijuana - just the opposite of the modern myth.

Cannabis had been widely known and used in many medicinal compounds for hundreds of years, so there was ample evidence in the 1930s to know whether there was a connection between marijuana and harder drugs.

In 1937, Harry Anslinger, head of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, testified before Congress that there was no connection at all between marijuana and heroin. In the testimony for the Marihuana Tax Act he said:

ANSLINGER: This drug is not being used by those who have been using heroin and morphine. It is being used by a different class, by a mostly younger group of people. The age of the morphine and heroin addict is increasing all the time, whereas the marihuana smoker is quite young.

MR. DINGELL: I am just wondering whether the marihuana addict graduates into a heroin, an opium, or a cocaine user.

MR. ANSLINGER: No, sir; I have not heard of a case of that kind. I think it is an entirely different class. The marihuana addict does not go in that direction.

MR. DINGELL: And the hardened narcotic user does not fall back on marihuana.

MR. ANSLINGER: No, sir: he would not touch that.


The reason marijuana had to be outlawed, he said, was because it caused insanity, criminality, and death. One example he gave was of two young lovers who became so crazed after smoking a joint that they eloped and got married. Marijuana causes people to become so crazy that they get married. The other reasons he gave were no more sensible. The hemp industry representatives who testified were uniformly surprised and mystified to hear that a dangerous drug could be made from this widespread and common crop. The American Medical Association testified that they knew of no evidence that marijuana was a dangerous drug. (2,3,4)

The US Government encouraged farmers to grow hemp during World War II, because it was vital to the country's war effort. There were no claims at the time that marijuana would lead to harder drugs.(2,3,10)

In 1944, the La Guardia Committee Report on Marihuana confirmed Mr. Anslinger's statement -- there was no connection at all between marijuana and heroin.(6)

In 1951, the story changed. Harry Anslinger was testifying for the Boggs Act about why he needed more money and men to enforce the marijuana laws. Just before he testified, the head of the Federal addiction research program testified that they knew for certain that all of the reasons that had been given for outlawing marijuana in 1937 were entirely bogus. They knew for certain that marijuana did not cause insanity, criminality and death. Anslinger was left with no reason for tougher laws so he made up -- on the spot, with not a shred of evidence -- the assertion that marijuana is the certain stepping stone to heroin addiction. He directly contradicted his own testimony from 1937. It has been the basis of US marijuana policy ever since. (2,3)

Since that time, the Federal drug enforcement officials have tried to support this myth with the idea that most heroin addicts started with marijuana, and statistics which seem to show that marijuana users are more likely to have used cocaine. The first assertion would get a failing grade in any freshman Logic class. The second can be explained by the fact that people who engage in one risk-taking behavior are likely to engage in other risk-taking behaviors. It, too, would earn a failing grade in freshman Logic.

In 1970, the Canadian Government did their largest study ever of the subject, and found no connection between marijuana and heroin.

In 1972, the US Government did their largest study ever of the subject, and found no connection between marijuana and heroin. This was also the conclusion of the largest study ever done by Consumers Union, published the same year.

Every major study of the marijuana laws in the last 100 years has concluded that the only connection between marijuana and heroin is that they are both prohibited and, therefore, sold in the same black market.

The most recent study of the subject was the report of the US Institute of Medicine on medical marijuana. They reported:

Instead it is the legal status of marijuana that makes it a gateway drug.

In other words, the people who support prohibition are using the bad effects of prohibition as justification for prohibition. The conclusion of all the research is that we have a "gateway drug policy". It is the laws that create the problem.

Links to the full text of the references can be found at: http://druglibrary.org/schaffer/Library/gateway_myth.htm

Also, read the criticism section of the Gateway Drug section on Wikipedia.


wm97ab
wm97ab

"• With easier access and lower prices, there will be an increase in usage."

There is simply no evidence that prohibition has any beneficial effect on drug problems. The best example is alcohol prohibition. see http://druglibrary.org/prohibitionresults.htm Alcohol consumption actually increased dramatically during alcohol prohibition.

The worst part of it was the huge teen drinking epidemic. Prohibition was passed with a campaign of "Save the Children from Alcohol." Within five years there were record numbers of teens in hospitals and courts for alcohol-related problems. The average age at which people started drinking dropped dramatically. Teenage girls began drinking for the first time. Schools had to cancel dances because so many kids showed up drunk. Kids went into the bootlegging trade and alcohol sales on school campuses were common. Early supporters of prohibition turned against it, because prohibition made it easier than ever for their kids to get booze.

Prohibition was repealed with a campaign of "Save the Children from Prohibition."

Historically speaking the biggest single cause of drug epidemics among US children is anti-drug campaigns. You can read about numerous examples in Licit and Illicit Drugs at http://druglibrary.org/schaffer/Library/studies/cu/cumenu.htm


wm97ab
wm97ab

"• There will be more auto accidents as the rate of impaired drivers increases."

There is simply no evidence for this. NONE. You can find numerous pieces of research on marijuana and driving at http://www.druglibrary.org/schaffer/MISC/driving/contents.htm

This argument was made up only after people stopped believing that marijuana would turn you into a bat.

Who made that argument? None other than the guy who served as US Official Expert on marijuana for 25 years. See http://druglibrary.org/schaffer/history/whiteb1.htm

Of course, this argument and all the other arguments never had anything to do with why marijuana was outlawed. It was outlawed for reasons such as:
-- All Mexicans are crazy and marijuana is what makes them crazy.
-- It has a terrible effect on the "degenerate" races.
-- Heroin use will lead to marijuana -- exactly the opposite of the modern "gateway" idea.
-- It makes young lovers go so crazy that they elope and get married.

Every argument for prohibition offered in this column is simply a hoax, made up only after people stopped believing the absolute Reefer Madness nonsense.

wm97ab
wm97ab

"• High costs to health care, criminal justice and the workplace in lost productivity will arise."

There is no evidence for this, either. The largest study of the health effects of marijuana was done by Kaiser Permanente. They studied the health records of 65,000 patients over a number of years. They found no significant differences in the health records of those who smoked marijuana versus those who didn't.

All the other medical evidence is consistent with this conclusion.

Besides, alcohol wins all the prizes for health problems. By some estimates, it accounts for up to forty percent all inpatient hospital costs. So claiming that marijuana prohibition is necessary to control health costs is just more hypocrisy.

wm97ab
wm97ab

"There is a mountain of seemingly valid and credible research supporting both sides of the legalization debate. "

Baloney. Every major government commission that has studied the marijuana laws in the last 100 years has said that marijuana prohibition does more harm than good. There is not a single one that supports prohibition.

You don't have to take my word for that. You can find the full text of all of them at http://druglibrary.org/schaffer under Major Studies of Drugs and Drug Policy. The collection includes the largest studies ever done by the governments of the US, the UK, Canada, and Australia, just to mention a few.

What is the real problem here? The problem is that you won't find anyone at the links you provided who has ever read any of them. This policy has always been built on ignorance, bigotry, and nonsense. Don't believe me. Read the numerous historical references at http://druglibrary.org/schaffer/History/history.htm

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