Lies About Marijuana

They say truth is the first casualty in war, and so it goes with marijuana.  The United States government has been waging a shooting war against pot for at least 42 years – that’s when the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) was launched.  Because we have several states and District of Columbia where this weed is not prohibited, you could be forgiven for thinking marijuana laws are seldom enforced or that violence doesn’t surround such enforcement.  But you would be incorrect.

Violence abounds in the enforcement of marijuana prohibition.  Whether it’s cops shooting up the public in their attempts at enforcing prohibition, or the public shooting up the cops as they prosecute the war, there is little question that war is the right word.  And this does not even count the violence involved in the daily incarceration of the fifty thousand or so of our fellow Americans for choosing to use pot where they weren’t allowed, and got caught.  

One of the reasons for all the energy behind marijuana prohibition concerns the scheduling of it for drug enforcement purposes – it’s one of the biggest lies that the government tells about marijuana.  Under the Controlled Substances Act, the DEA and FDA are in charge of classifying drugs in various groups. These are decisions made strictly by political appointees of the President.   Schedule 1, where marijuana has been classified since the act’s passage, is reserved for the worst of the worst.  Cocaine, for instance, did not even make the list – it is on Schedule 2.  In order to be placed on Schedule 1, a drug or other substance has to have high potential for abuse, have no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States and a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug or other substance under medical supervision.  If that sounds like marijuana to you, you must work at the DEA.  

When a drug is on Schedule 1, doctors cannot prescribe it for any purpose, no pharmacy can stock it, and researchers are all but prohibited from studying it.

Unfortunately for those who wish to keep it banned everywhere, marijuana is safe.  By safe, I mean that it is, unlike almost any other substance, exceedingly hard to damage or kill yourself from using it. It’s a drug called dangerous by the government, that has never had a single death attributed to its use.  According to a finding of fact by a federal judge examining the matter, “[a]smoker would theoretically have to consume nearly 1,500 pounds of pot within about fifteen minutes to induce a lethal response.”  That’s its LD-50 rating.  The LD-50 stands for “Lethal Dose, 50%” or median lethal dose. It is the amount of the substance required to kill 50% of the test population.  For water, it’s 6 liters.  For booze, 13 shots at once, and for coffee, it’s 118 cups.(Source)  Which substance is the most dangerous now?   

The problem with lying for the sake of expediency is that it damages the liar’s credibility.  Depending on the information, that has the potential for serious, even existential consequences.  In the case of marijuana for instance, there is a sound scientific basis to believe early and frequent pot use by young people through the early 20’s when brain development is still ongoing may be particularly harmful.  Surely that message is less likely to be believed by a public who understands how much this weed can help cancer patients, among others, but is told it has no medical value.

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This big lie may be over soon.  Headlines this week report “The DEA will decide whether to change course on marijuana by July”.  Well, maybe.  In December, 8 Democrat Senators wrote the DEA, HHS, and Office of National Drug Control Policy (Drug Czar’s office) asking about regulation of marijuana, and an update on petitions to reschedule the drug.  105 days later, they responded, telling members of Congress in a letter that the DEA “hopes to release its determination in the first half of 2016”.  What’s the LD-50 on believing statements made by Obama administration political appointees?  We’ll see.  Given that the Obama administration is by far the most aggressive anti-marijuana drug warrior administration in history, don’t hold your breath.

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