Lies, Damn Lies and Prohibitionists
Debunking the Myths of Marijuana (Again)
In recent events, many government agencies have been in the spotlight for their comments on the medical use and recreational use of Marijuana. These agencies include the DEA as well as The Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP). The statements that have ben made in opposition to reclassification, legalization, and medical application of Marijuana have been without sound scientific evidence and is a throwback to the draconian statements made by the racist pioneer of Marijuana prohibition, Henry Anslinger. Persons such as Michael Botacelli, the Deputy Director of the ONDCP, and DEA Administrator, Michele M. Leonhart, are just some of the leaders regurgitating these decades old myths. In this article we review the often-used “stories” about marijuana it’s effect on users, society as well as the primary reasons why the administration and congress have refused to reclassify the schedule status of Marijuana. In short, the Federal position, marijuana kills, it is addictive, and is the cause of violence and crime.
Marijuana causes deaths
The most widely used false claim is that Marijuana causes overdoses and marijuana related deaths. By now everyone should know the truth is that no one has ever died from a marijuana overdose, it is physically impossible. According to the DEA reclassification matter, Judge Young’s statements on Medical Marijuana,
“Drugs used in medicine are routinely given what is called an LD-50. The LD-50 rating indicates at what dosage fifty percent of test animals receiving a drug will die as a result of drug induced toxicity. A number of researchers have attempted to determine marijuana’s LD-50 rating in test animals, without success. Simply stated, researchers have been unable to give animals enough marijuana to induce death. At present it is estimat
ed that marijuana’s LD-50 is around 1:20,000 or 1:40,000. In layman terms this means that in order to induce death a marijuana smoker would have to consume 20,000 to 40,000 times as much marijuana as is contained in one marijuana cigarette. NIDA-supplied marijuana cigarettes weigh approximately .9 grams. A smoker would theoretically have to consume nearly 1,500 pounds of marijuana within about fifteen minutes to induce a lethal response.”
With this information it is hard to see why anyone would use this myth to even attempt to scare the public into believing that marijuana would cause death.
When compared to deaths from “safe” products, Marijuana is safer than Asprin. More people die fronm hyponatremia, or drinking too much water. Realistically speaking, there is an accidental prescription overdose every 19 minutes in America. Tobacco kills 5 million people per year worldwide. Yet, in 5,000 years, no legitimate report of a marijuana overdose is known.
Marijuana is highly addictive
The very term addiction leaves much to be desired. As defined, it is the continued repetition of a behavior despite adverse consequences. That said, one could argue that a person could be addicted to marijuana, however, it is the journey, in this case, not the destination, that makes the claim problematic. As used by prohibitionists, the facts are distorted by profiting treatment centers and their statistics for enrollment in treatment. The typical client for marijuana treatment: young persons afraid of harsh drug penalties.
The addictive properties of Marijuana are similar to food addiction but are far less addictive than coffee, cigarettes, sex, and, of course, hard drugs. Michael Botacelli stated that over 314,000 persons are in substance abuse treatment for marijuana. This number may be accurate in itself but why are these people in treatment? We have seen the options given for marijuana offenses especially in felony cases. Once a young adult is given the choice of having a felony conviction on their record and possibly serving jail time with dangerous criminals or to go to outpatient/inpatient treatment, it is not hard to guess which option they will choose. This fact skews the numbers in a large way. Nearly six out of ten people admitted to drug treatment programs for marijuana are referred there by the criminal justice system, according to a report by the US Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Association (SAMHSA). Specifically, the reported noted that only 15 percent of marijuana treatment admissions were self-referred (a category that includes individual self-referrals, as well as referrals by friends and family). Most people that have entered into a treatment setting have happened to use marijuana in the past or present but their current issue is addiction to drugs such as Crack, Heroin, and Methamphetamine. And if you want to visit the “gateway drug” myth, please start with Maia’s article in Time Magazine, Marijuana as the Gateway Drug, the Myth That Wont Die.
Nevertheless, using half-truths, the Health and Safety committee have propped up statistics such as, “4.3 million people meet the diagnostic criteria for addiction of marijuana.” The fact is that one in nine people will develop a dependency on Marijuana according to Michael Botacelli. That number equates to about 11%. Compare that to tobacco use, where over 60% of daily smokers met strict diagnostic criteria for having become nicotine dependent. About 28% of American adults drink at levels that put them at risk for alcohol dependence and alcohol-related problems. These numbers are astonishing when you consider that individuals believe that Marijuana is highly addictive and will ruin lives of everyone who uses it. A person may become what is known as “addicted” to marijuana but likely reflect the personalities that have addiction to video games, food, sex, and diet coke.
Practicing criminal defense, we have seen first hand that some “treatment agencies” are income generating profiteers using old science and unproven methods to diagnose some as “dependent.” We have seen people who smoke pot once a month and have two drinks in the same month deemed “dependent” and ordered to an expensive, intensive, outpatient setting with financial hurdles impeding their progress.
Marijuana causes violence and crime
The ONDCP released an article that states: “Research shows that kids who use marijuana weekly are nearly four times more likely than nonusers to report they engage in violent behavior.” This in inherently incorrect, the prohibition on marijuana has led to these fallacies. The illegal nature of this plant causes some to come in contact with a criminal element that are often violent criminal gangs that can account for most of the anti-social statistics.
Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak stated that violence is to blame by criminal gangs on citizens who consume marijuana. He went further to state, “When you pay for Marijuana, you are paying for the bullet that goes into the head of someone on the streets.” The truth is that the prohibition, and politicians that promote it, are the reason for violence. Since Marijuana is illegal, criminals profit from it through cartels. While gangs do make a lot of money on the sale of marijuana and some of those that traffic marijuana are violent, this is not a direct correlation that people who use marijuana are more likely to be violent. According to the Marijuana Policy Project,
“By keeping marijuana illegal and confined to the black market, our wildly ineffective marijuana laws — and any elected official who supports them — are to blame for handing criminals a virtual monopoly on the lucrative marijuana trade. (Many people may be surprised to learn that marijuana is estimated to be America’s largest cash crop, a $36 billion-a-year industry larger than corn and wheat combined.)”
This is similar to the, often compared, rise in crime during alcohol prohibition. Once alcohol became illegal criminals cornered the “black market.” Rival groups had specific areas that they wanted to expand to make more profits and this led to violence in the streets. The prohibition on Marijuana will continue to fuel the drug cartels until sensible laws are passed and therefore violence will continue as well. It is worth pointing out that at least one study found crime rates go down when dispensaries open and another found traffic fatalities decrease in states with medical cannabis.
DEA Administrator Michele M. Leonhart recently made comments about president Obama’s interview where he deemed Marijuana is safer than Alcohol. Ms. Leonhart went on to say it is a “ big slap in the face to cops who have lost their lives keeping drugs off the street.” She further went on explain that her lowest point in her 33-year career was when a Hemp flag was flown over the capital on July 4th. So it was a hemp flag? Not the botched DEA sting that allowed millions of dollars of drugs to come over the border to only lose track of the cartel members and, consequently, their drugs? Not the cooperation with a known and influential drug cartel that the DEA has allowed to conduct business openly in the US, providing an essential monopoly for the cartel? Not this kid? No, it was the actions of the unofficial White House Softball team to play a game with a pro-legalization group and a hemp flag. Ms. Leonhart also said President Obama’s description of marijuana as safer than alcohol as “unscientific.” Compare that to the DEA’s refusal to reclassify Marijuana from schedule 1 in the face of numerous medical documents from the National Cancer Institute, The MS Foundation, and vast amount of research spanning the medical community. The irony is not lost on us. In 2012 Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colorado) asked Ms. Leonhart if marijuana was more or less dangerous than crack, heroin, and methamphetamine. To this question she responded, “all illegal drugs are bad.” She refused to directly answer the question before an oversight committee. Even today, the agency attempts to ban everything related to Marijuana included Hemp foods, such as those you can buy at Costco and Whole Foods with no merit. On the upside, the DEA does admit that, for hiring purposes, marijuana is less dangerous than other schedule 1 drugs.
Perhaps a refresher in American history could be instructive. Many of the Founding Fathers, including George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, grew hemp, and some of the first American flags, by Betsy Ross, were made of hemp. Initial drafts of the U.S. Constitution were written on Hemp. During WW1 the Federal Government had a campaign named “Hemp For Victory.” Many of the ships that brought over what were to be early Americans had hemp sails and ropes. The simple fact is Hemp is as American as Apple Pie. And marijuana…is safer than alcohol. Period.