My lengthy response to a brief debate on cannabis science, legalization

On the 20th of April, here in the beautiful state of California, many of you may have found yourselves at 420 day parties, rallies, or just walking down the street celebrating the near-legality of this amazing substance. I was not one of those people. Instead, I spent half that day at work, and the other half arguing about cannabis on the internet. I understand that, in years past, the issue of cannabis legalization was kept fairly quiet, and media attention of the subject was weak. These days, cannabis has exploded on the national and international scene, and those who oppose legalization are forced to confront the issue more often than they would like. As a result, there was perhaps a slight backlash felt on 4/20/2011 in the form of  ‘anti-pothead’ Facebook posts mocking stoner culture, and etc. Half those doing the mocking were probably drunk.

I can handle that. It means we are gaining ground. “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”

And so I found myself engaged in a discussion which amounted to me fighting back against misinformation published on the wall of a friend, and then resulted in a very intelligent young woman calling me out in a real debate which had little to do with the original discussion, aside from the primary topic. Well, more accurately, what she said was that she didnt want a debate, and that she wouldnt be responding if I wrote something back. To that, I say horseshit! You dont spend such effort writing something contentious if you dont desire a response. And here it is. ; )

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“It’s interesting; we just discussed this topic in my abnormal psychology class. And although I disagree with you on most of your points, I can at least can produce an argument and evidence to the contrary.”

Thank you. Its not every day that someone actually provides a well written, compelling argument versus any of the lengthy diatribes I post online. I appreciate your clear, concise writing and that you cited your sources. You made me work! Thanks. : )

“There are long term side affects to any drug (which marijuana is, by definition, I assumed we didn’t need to start there). If one wasn’t using cannabis, symptoms would be described as “Schizotypy” which is a general sense of dissociation all the way to schizophrenic tendencies. With prolonged and continued use, these symptoms can persist even when not using. Studies have been conducted to see if there was a relation between cannabis and schizophrenia, and although inconclusive, it hasn’t been ruled out. I will agree with you, though, that cannabis less addictive than even caffeine. Beyond that, most data for long term effects is at the very least inconclusive.”

Regarding schizophrenia, there is simply no link between this illness and cannabis use. One was suggested, but its findings are circumstantial, as you know. Over the past 50 years or so, the rates of schizophrenia in world populations have remained about the same at 1% of the total population. Despite a huge increase in cannabis use over this same period of time, the % of the population with schizophrenia remains the same, showing no causal link. Cannabidiol is actually an anti-psychotic which lacks the side effects of other pharmaceutical drugs. And keep in mind – many of the “long term side effects” of cannabis use are widely considered therapeutic. Most of us could benefit from a little extra calmness in our daily lives, and some of us genuinely *need* to be more calm.

“As for the short term symptoms, Dave is correct. Perception is affected, coordination is affected, as well as memory and cognitive functioning because neurons are unable to communicate with one another. The user’s heart rate does increase…to the point where they are in danger of arrhythmia and heart attack. And using cannabis to treat depression and anxiety? There are so many other lovely natural things, like bergamot oil and lavendar oil, that can calm depression and anxiety. It can actually have the reverse effect and cause depression and anxiety in heavy users (during the periods when they are not using).”

Yes. The short term effects of cannabis are widely known. Perception, coordination, and cognitive functioning are all affected, but depending on who you ask, the results are amazing, or frightening. You did not squarely say “affected negatively”, but the overall tone of your debate suggests this is so, and so my response is assumptive. The sedative effects of this drug are wonderful and have a purpose for medicinal and recreational users. Coordination and reflexes are affected, true, but studies also show no real difference in hand-eye coordination between sober test subjects and stoned test subjects. Sure, the hypothesis tells us that this shouldnt be, but the data generated in trials does not support the hypothesis. This data is not a valid basis for prohibition of cannabis.

Your statement about the user’s heart rate increasing during onset is true, but it is not generally true to the extent you claim. Your average user is not in danger of arrhythmia/attack, and it is something of a fear tactic to say so. Watch that. I request that you cite one example of someone having an actual heart attack due to cannabis use. If there is one case, I will be astounded. There are many factors that modify how a user will experience cannabis, one of which is tolerance. If a totally inexperienced cannabis user ingests a large amount of cannabis, there is a good chance he/she will experience rapid heart rate and even anxiety during the onset. This is another reason education is important. Luckily with cannabis, there is no such thing as overdose, and so even ridiculous quantities wont kill you. With alcohol, a mistake like that could be fatal. Its simple – be aware of how much is too much. Dont do it! This [heart rate/cognition/etc] is not a valid basis to maintain prohibition of this drug.

Im surprised aromatherapy, which is known to be another form of pseudoscience, was mentioned in this debate. Homeopathic remedies have similar track records. There is little basis for claims that bergamot oil or lavender oil have any actual effects on relaxation, aside from placebo effect.

“As far as being used to treat cancer, THC is actually listed by the government as a carcinogen. Equally, a study by Harvard found that cannabis acts as an immunosuppressant. Inhalants of any kind irritate the lungs because you are depriving your lungs of oxygen by inhaling something other than air (this includes exhaust from your car!); In the case of cannabis, (rather than tar in cigarettes) the user inhales resin, which coats the lungs and suffocates the user’s bronchii.”

Regarding the alleged carcinogenic properties of cannabis, the data does not show this. In fact, the study conducted by one of the world’s leading lung science professors, Donald Rishkin, found no link between lung cancer and cannabis use at all, regardless if the user was a heavy or light user. Dr Rishkin even found statistics which showed a possible protective effect upon the lungs by cannabis use, despite contrary expectations. As for Harvard finding cannabis to be an immunosuppressant, duh. When you light things on fire and inhale the result, sensitive tissue in the lungs and throat are damaged and compromised. Yes, lol, smoking clearly damages the immune system. Even if burning cannabis created just as many carcinogens as burning tobacco, this is *still* not a valid basis to maintain prohibition of this drug.

“Here are my sources; peruse them if you will, but I will not respond. I think between a pill popping society and an illegal drug underground, all we can do is only take what medicines are necessary, and take care of our bodies otherwise, as redundant as it sounds. Drugs are not meant to be self medicated. An addict doesn’t always look like who we think it does. People who are dependent on drugs rely on that drug to get them through the day. Anyone who takes a drug daily is likely dependent on it. Addicts are dependent on the drug, but cannot socially function. You asked what an addict would look like? A marijuana addict would spend their money on fast food and pot. Perhaps forget to set the alarm for work in the morning. Or make that meeting. Or pick their kid up from school. Or buy groceries. The focus is pot. That is an addict.”

I respect your opinion that you do not believe “medicines” should be self-administered, but your opinion is certainly your own. I  believe the most compelling reason to legalize cannabis, aside from the superseded science that the DEA and our Fed. Gov. stand behind, is the over-riding moral issue of legalization. It is MY choice, and the choice of many, to use this drug. There is NO conclusive data to support the idea that cannabis is a harmful, addictive drug. Further more, there is a pattern of deliberate misinformation seen on the subject by our government and by government sponsored scientific organizations. This is alarming, and should be one of the bedrock reasons to question established findings on cannabis, in addition to the other tenants of the pro side of this debate.

And again, ALCOHOL consumption is legal. CIGARETTE consumption is legal! We already acknowledge – OPENLY – that consuming substances which are KNOWN to cause suffering and death is ok. We even allow large corporations to profit from this! The reasons to maintain cannabis prohibition in the year 2011 are paltry, and carry little weight versus the myriad reasons to END the failed drug war!

My resources (Not only what I referenced for this entry, but a couple more):
http://www.druglibrary.org/schaffer/history/whiteb1.htm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Long_term_effects_of_alcohol
http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B6VM1-4VTWCHB-7C&_user=10&_coverDate=12%2F31%2F2009&_rdoc=1&_fmt=high&_orig=gateway&_origin=gateway&_sort=d&_docanchor=&view=c&_acct=C000050221&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=10&md5=b9732b83f91ab17d19834d4afdaeb7bc&searchtype=a
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/05/25/AR2006052501729.html
http://www.lung.med.ucla.edu/faculty/tashkin.htm
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/2538065.stm
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18404144
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aromatherapy

Her resources:
http://www.nida.nih.gov/infofacts/marijuana.html
http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/evidence99/marijuana/Health_1.html
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/06/080602160845.htm
http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/exchange/node/1808

Published by milkman76

Father and husband, idealist, activist, argumentalist, masterdebtor, and all around swell guy. Also- likes to aim spotlights at piles of ideological bullshit, and taking a magnifying glass to the material conditions that caused our current capitalist hellscape.

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