Plenty of doctors say cannabis is good medicine for a lot of what ails you, but not everyone has caught on yet. Fighting decades of myth, propaganda, and malicious disinformation is never easy. So here’s a little breakdown of the first five of 10 reasons NOT to not legalize medical cannabis. Stay tuned for Part 2 next week!
Claim 1: Smoked marijuana does not meet the standards of modern medicine
Marijuana is not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) so its use is unregulated. The FDA, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, and National Institute on Drug Abuse have found no sound scientific studies supporting medical use of crude marijuana.
That is specifical because cannabis is listed in Schedule I. It’s kind of hard to do a scientific study when it’s impossible to legally acquire anything to study or even to get those studies funded in the first place. Nevertheless, the U.S. government has known since 1974 that THC kills cancer cells. While that’s not exactly modern, it should count as medicine.
Never has smoking been an accepted method of administering any medicine.
The legions of medical physicians who recommend it every single day (as opposed to “never”) as medicine for patients across the country respectfully disagree. So does the U.S. government, which mails up to 300 pre-rolled cannabis cigarettes monthly to certain medical patients – —to smoke for medical conditions diagnosed by a medical doctor.
“I’m living proof that medical cannabis is real medicine. We need to get medicine in the hands of patients who really need it,” says Irvin Rosenfeld, a 56-year old stockbroker from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, who suffers from bone cancer. Rosenfeld has received over 115,000 messages from the U.S. government that smoked cannabis definitely does have accepted medical use in the United States – in direct contradiction of the DEA’s Schedule I classification.
Claim 2: Cannabis use would increase
It’s more likely that it wouldn’t. In the Netherlands, for example, where cannabis is so widely and openly available in coffeeshops that it may as well be legal, the percentage of teens and adults who have ever used the herb in their lives, or in the past year, is just over half that in the U.S.
In Portugal, the first country ever to decriminalize all drugs 14 years ago, the numbers are even more striking. The lifetime prevalence of cannabis use – ever doing it, even once – dropped 17 percent from 2007-2012. And the so-called “last month prevalence” – incidence of use within the month prior to the study – plunged 25 percent in the same period. Just 3 percent of Portuguese residents 15 and up said they had used cannabis in the previous month, compared to 7 percent in the Netherlands and 11 percent in the U.S.
That means that in Portugal, people are nearly four times LESS likely to smoke cannabis than here in the U.S. Even better, drug use has declined overall among the 15 to 24-year-old population, those most at risk of starting. Even with ALL drugs decriminalized. Clearly, it cannot be inferred from these facts that relaxing cannabis laws lead to increased use. In at least two “test-case scenarios”, the opposite is true.
Claim 3: Treatment and Addiction Rates Would Rise
According to the 2011 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), marijuana users account for the highest rate of past year dependence or abuse among all illicit drug use. Of the 6.5 million persons aged 12 or older classified with illicit drug dependence or abuse in 2011, marijuana accounted for 4.2 million (63.8%).
This actually is a good thing, given how benign the effects of cannabis are compared to other drugs! It means people are mostly choosing cannabis instead of hard drugs to enhance their life experience. Would it be better if the majority percentage were consuming, say, crystal meth or cocaine rather than cannabis?
Also, there is the question of how “addiction” and “abuse”, terms often used deliberately for their psychological shock value, are defined. Drug warriors often define “abuse” as “any use of any illegal substance”. If it’s illicit and you’re using it anyway, that’s drug abuse, period. See how easy that is? No thinking required. (But is four drinks alcohol “abuse”? Nope,it’s about five or six innings.)
The plainly observable fact is, physical withdrawal symptoms of “addiction to cannabis” are either nonexistent or so rare and so mild that even most daily consumers have never experienced them—and have never known anyone who has. This is one of the canards that turn young people off to dire warnings about “devil weed”, coming as they do from people who think nothing of knocking back a few belts of booze or bottles of beer after work, or at a party, or at a ball game, or…
Claim 4: Education Would be Adversely Affected
A recent study published in the British Journal of Medicine reports that adolescents who started using marijuana before the age of 18 when their brains were still developing and continued to use into adulthood, experienced as much as an 8-point decline in IQ scores.
That would be more convincing if not for the common experience of people knowing plenty of brilliant brainiacs who also happen to like cannabis – ones who haven’t pickled their brain cells in alcohol.
The study would also be more meaningful if not for the fact that I.Q. is B.S. “When we looked at the data, the bottom line is the whole concept of I.Q. is a myth,” Dr. Adrian Owen, the senior investigator in the largest online study of I.Q., told the Toronto Star. Dr. Owen is the Canada Excellence Research Chair in Cognitive Neuroscience and Imaging at Western University Brain and Mind Institute. He emphasized, “There is no such thing as a single measure of I.Q. or a measure of general intelligence.”
Anecdotally, by making everyday things seem more interesting in general and by stimulating conversation and thought flow, many college students find that cannabis can actually enhance the learning process for them in ways that four years of all-night keg parties rarely do.
Claim 5: Injuries and Deaths From Impaired Driving Would Increase
The 2015 Drug and Alcohol Crash Risk report, produced by the Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, found that while drunken driving dramatically increased the risk of getting into an accident, there was no evidence that using marijuana heightened that risk. After adjusting for age, gender, race and alcohol use, the report found that stoned drivers were no more likely to crash than drivers who were not intoxicated at all.
This is because cannabis does not interfere with functioning in the cerebellum, the brain’s balance and muscular activity coordination center, as alcohol and opioids do. For this reason, a driver who is not under the influence of such drugs and who can pass a standard field sobriety test is de facto not impaired. Accordingly, roadside tests for microscopic amounts of blood-borne “active” THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) are without legitimacy in gauging impaired driving. They should be abandoned as an unsupportable invasion of privacy, as well as a fraudulent waste of taxpayer dollars and law enforcement resources.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Garyn Angel is an inventor, entrepreneur, award-winning financial consultant, and CEO of MagicalButter.com, which manufactures the appliance he invented for converting cannabis to edible form. Angel is committed to cannabis law reform and was named to the CNBC NEXT List of global business leaders for his work on legal marijuana. He is also founder of the Cheers to Goodness Foundation, a charity that helps “medical refugees”—veterans and children who need cannabis therapy when traditional treatment options have failed. Angel’s charity helps families relocate to states where cannabis medicine is legally accessible.