Medical Marijuana

Maybe it's unfair and self-indulgent to take someone's policy argument and rebut it point by point, taking the last word for oneself. But a personal web site is all about self-indulgence, and the policy argument in question neatly encapsulates every fallacy on the "no medical pot" side of the argument. So here we go.

This is from the Seattle Times, 11 October 2002. It's by Gregory M. Gassett, assistant special agent in charge for the Seattle Field Division of the DEA.

Arguments for the legalization of "medical" marijuana do little to ensure that the facts concerning marijuana are openly discussed and only further confuse the issue for the American public. The truth is that marijuana is a highly addictive drug and has no medical value.

We'd love to see the source for this last statement, since pot isn't addictive and does indeed have medical value. Congress has declared by law that pot (as well as LSD and other recreational drugs) has no medical value, but then law-making bodies have declared all sorts of things, such as that a black slave is 3/5 of a person.

If pot had no medical value, there wouldn't be a federal pot farm that mails frozen joints out to a very small list of medical patients, beneficiaries of a now-closed federal program. If pot had no medical value, doctors wouldn't prescribe Marinol, a synthetic pot substitute.

Marijuana is one of the most abused drugs in this country.

Maybe part of the reason that it's so popular is that it's so benign. Plus, if a drug's being frequently abused is reason to make it illegal, then why isn't Garrett calling for the return of alcohol prohibition?

It is one of the first illegal drugs young people are exposed to and some experiment with.

Notice that Garrett carefully qualifies it as a first "illegal" drug, since nicotine, alcohol, and caffeine are the first drugs that young people are exposed to and that some experiment with. If the problem is that kids experiment with a drug so it's bad, then Garrett should call for criminalizing booze. Alternatively, pot would no longer be "one of the first illegal drugs" that kids try if we legalized it.

Using marijuana often lowers their inhibition against trying other, less-forgiving drugs such as Ecstasy, cocaine, methamphetamine and heroin.

Just like smoking cigarettes and alcohol does. Or not, as the Canadian government has found that pot is not a "gateway drug." Maybe that's only true in Canada. Maybe you'd expect that, on average, people would try a more common drug before they're try a less common one, so the fact that cokeheads might have smoked pot (or had a beer) before snorting coke has nothing to do with one drug leading to another. Or maybe making pot illegal makes pot-users more likely to ignore legal prohibitions against harder drugs. Maybe it puts them in contact with drug dealers and makes it more likely that they'll run across harder drugs.

The drug's effects cause memory loss, trouble with problem-solving, loss of motor skills and an increase in heart rate, panic attacks and anxiety.

Garrett fails to specify whether these are long-term effects or just what you experience while stoned. His goal is to let people conclude that these are long-term effects.

That said, pot is bad for you. If you want to be healthier, avoid it. Same with nicotine and alcohol. And Big Macs. Also, exercise for an hour a day. Something being bad for you is not sufficient reason to jail you for doing it.

Marijuana weakens the body's immune system, which further complicates any potential recovery from a serious medical condition.

Drugs have side-effects. Lots of drugs have worse ones than pot's. If "it has side effects" meant that a drug had no medical value, then there would be a lot fewer drugs on the market. Like maybe there'd be chicken soup.

Marijuana trafficked across the United States is up to 25 times more potent than it was in the 1960s, which makes it much more addictive.

Pot's not addictive. Like watching football, it's habit-forming.

Also, the reason that pot's more potent is that dealers are punished according to the mass of the weed, not the amount of THC. Drug laws are what's made it profitable for growers to develop super-pot.

Finally, what a good thing it is that today's pot is more powerful. Thirty years ago, you had to smoke a lot of the stuff to get high. That's a lot more junk in your lungs. Now users only have to smoke as little as 1/25 as much pot, so it's as much as 25 times healthier than it was.

Drug traffickers in Mexico and Canada flood this country with vast amounts of marijuana, and citizens of this country grow it with little regard for the damage they are causing.

Legalize it, and those traffickers are out of business.

Plus, citizens of this country grow tobacco with little regard for the damage they are causing. Citizens of this country brew and refine alcoholic beverages with little regard for the damage they are causing. We don't jail them.

The misleading message that young people receive concerning this drug contributes to their decision to use marijuana.

The misleading message that the government sends to young people concerning pot makes them dubious of the government's other claims. (Wait, maybe that's a good thing.)

If adults are misconstruing the facts surrounding marijuana use for their own benefit, how can a 10- or 11-year-old make a decision on the harmful effects of marijuana or other drugs?

Indeed. Pot should be legal, and we should talk straight about it the same way we do about beer. Where alcohol is sold, there are warnings about drinking while pregnant, about health damage from alcohol, etc. Furthermore, alcohol dealers refuse to sell to 10- and 11-year olds because doing so would jeopardize their profitable, legal business selling to adults.

If elected officials openly violate the law by distributing marijuana, as recently occurred in California, how can they possibly have the best interests of their community and its young people at heart?

Violating bad laws has a noble pedigree in this country. It's standard operating procedure. It's where we come from. It's how we got where we are today. It's what free people do.

The insinuation that smoking marijuana has widespread support and can assist people suffering from AIDS, Lou Gehrig's disease and many other terminal illnesses is misleading.

This is clever. It's like saying, "The insinuation that Jews secretly control the world and that special interests have too much power in US politics is misleading." Sure, the conjunction of two statements is misleading if the first statement is misleading (even if the second statement isn't).

While some people openly support the legalization of marijuana for medical purposes, it is from a misinformed position.

Subtext: "If you disagree with me, it's because you're ignorant, not because two people can look at the same data and honestly come to two different conclusions about the proper government policy relevant to those data."

It does not matter that they are elected political figures; a misguided decision is still a bad one, no matter who makes it.

I couldn't agree more. Just because Ashcroft was appointed by a nearly democratically elected president doesn't mean that his decision to persecute people supplying pot to the sick makes a lick of sense.

Legalizing marijuana through a political process bypasses the safeguards established by the Food and Drug Administration to safely test all drugs.

OK, this one comes close to making sense. Of course, the FDA has already approved Marinol, synthesized THC, as well as pot grown in that tiny federal program I mentioned above.

Others utilize the medical-marijuana claim as a ploy to legalize marijuana altogether, and then will work toward the legalization of other dangerous drugs as well.

There may be some portion of the voting citizenry that supports medical marijuana on its merits but opposes it out of concern that it's a foot in the door for those who'd like to see marijuana (or even other drugs) legalized. There may be some people who are willing to see the sick suffer in order to avoid the chance of seeing the country become a little bit more like Amsterdam. This message is legitimate to that small portion of the voting public.

Most of those who favor pot as medicine but not as recreation, however, understand that we can give morphine and other potentially recreational drugs to sick people without making those drugs legal to all.

They work to misinform, mislead and weaken your resolve.

Look, this is America. People can disagree with each other and they can state their opposing cases and hope that reason prevails (in their favor). Garrett provides no evidence that the people who disagree with him are intentionally misinforming anyone. Meanwhile Garrett is the guy who keeps talking about how addictive pot is.

Operators of "compassion marijuana distribution centers" have attempted to legitimize themselves in California, Oregon, Washington and elsewhere for too long.

Contentless rah-rah unworthy of rejoinder.

Misinformation causes confusion for the public seeking to make a rational decision on this issue.

Absolutely true.

Legalizers often cite a 1999 White House-commissioned study by the Institute of Medicine, which they say concluded that marijuana has medical benefits. This is not true. The study concluded that smoking marijuana is not good medicine. It went on to state that although marijuana delivers the active ingredient tetra hydrocannabinol (THC), smoking marijuana also delivers harmful substances, including most of those found in tobacco smoke. No medicine prescribed today is ever smoked. Marijuana contains over 400 chemicals, and when smoked it easily introduces cancer-causing chemicals to the body. Does this sound like good medicine? Marijuana contains numerous compounds and could never deliver the precise effect sought by a medical doctor assisting a patient.

People, especially sick people, shouldn't smoke pot. They should "vaporize" it, like you do with opium. THC needs to be heat-activated to work. Burning a pot leaf activates the THC, but it also creates carbon monoxide and all sorts of bad stuff, just like (legal) cigarettes do. But you can get a "vaporizer" that heats the pot up to sub-combustion temperatures, activates the THC, and lets one inhale the vapors. Especially for sick people, this seems like a good option. Vaporizers are in short supply, however, as criminalization of pot has hampered open discussions about them.

There's also eating brownies, but that has the same problems as Marinol (you can't pace yourself, and you might throw it up).

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) supports research into the study of all drugs, including THC. As a result of that research, Marinol was developed, and has been available to the public since 1985. The active ingredient in Marinol is synthetic THC, which battles the nausea and other discomforts associated with chemotherapy in cancer patients, and loss of appetite, often associated with AIDS patients. Marinol is an alternative drug approved by the medical community and the Food and Drug Administration.

But... I thought... THC... you said... no medical value...

Seriously, Marinol isn't as useful as pot. When you're inhaling smoke or vapors, the THC hits you fast. That means you can stop when you've had enough, not too much, not too little. With pills (Marinol), the drug enters your system so slowly you can't self-regulate. You might take too little and suffer while you wait for the effects to kick in, then take a second dose and wait even longer for that to work. Or you might take too much and wonk yourself out. And it's harder to get a precise dose because each pill has more synthetic THC than a puff. A patient with a bong can get a more accurate dose of THC than a doctor with Marinol can prescribe. Not "accurate" in terms of milligrams, but accurate in terms of how much you need at the time.

Finally, what bastard thought it would be a good idea for an anti-nausea drug to be in pill form? I'm mean, that's just screwing with sick people's heads.

We have all witnessed the horrific consequences of drug abuse in our country over many years, and it is appalling.

Agreed. Chief among abused drugs is alcohol. The horrific consequences of pot use are mostly due to the laws against it. Getting sent to prison, for example, is a pretty horrific consequence. Kids being able to buy the stuff because the dealers are unregulated is another pretty horrific consequence.

The DEA, and other law-enforcement agencies, take the legal measures necessary to combat drug traffickers, including those who grow and distribute marijuana, and who often hide behind "medical marijuana" claims that have misinformed and confused the public.

Now just a doggone minute. This sentence makes it sound like the pot growers who sell their goods to recreational users pretend to be providing medical marijuana. But the medical pot growers that Ashcroft and his minions have been harassing are giving their pot to sick people. You could accuse them of providing sick people with pot because they mistakenly believe that it's a good idea, but no one's "hiding" behind medical marijuana claims.

Accepting the notion that marijuana is harmless leads young people to experiment with it, and allows legalizers the path they seek to undermine the successful drug-prevention programs that law enforcement, community leaders and schools have engaged in.

Granted. Let's not tell anyone that pot's harmless. Like nicotine, alcohol, and medical drugs, it is bad for you. The medical marijuana proponents don't say that sick people should be able to use pot because it's harmless but because its benefits outweigh its side effects.

Hey, wait a minute. Did Garrett say, "successful drug-prevention programs"? He says pot is bad because 10- and 11-year olds use it, but then he says that drug laws are "successful"? We can't even keep drugs out of prisons, let alone successfully prevent their use among the populace at large.

You can make a difference. Speak out against the false claims of legalizers and put this issue to rest. Enough is enough, America, and it's time that you stood your ground and said so.

Agreed almost word for word, but substitute "criminalizers" for "legalizers."

Remember, drug laws are not a victimless crime.

November, December 2002


experimenting with the original Chainmail combat matrix

for more pics from VCon 2002, click here

Pot in the News

May 2006: Pot and Lung Cancer
A current study from UCLA surprised the scientists conducting it by revealing no correlation between smoking pot and lung cancer.

November 2005: Denver Legalisation
Denver voters passed an initiative making it legal to posses small amounts of marijuana. Mayor John Hickenlooper says that the police will keep arresting people for marijuana because possession is still against state law.

October 2005: Medical Pot User Died in Jail
The mother of Jonathan Magbie is suing Washington, DC, officials over the death last September of her son, a quadriplegic. He’d used marijuana medicinally, got caught with a joint, and was sentenced to 10 days in a jail that didn’t have the equipment to keep him alive. So he died. Superior Court Judge Judith E. Retchin could have given Magbie probation, but she had him jailed because he said he was going to keep smoking pot. The citizens of D.C. had tried to prevent just such a miscarriage of justice with a medical marijuana initiative in 1998, but Congress overruled it.

June 05: Supreme Court Rules Against Medical Marijuana
The Supreme
Court ruled that the federal government could enforce its laws against marijuana thanks to the commerce clause of the Constitution. True, the commerce clause only gives the federal government the power to regulate commerce "among the several states," but in in Wickard v. Filburn (1942) the Supreme Court ruled that this really meant any and all commerce, even if it's not actually commerce. (Where are the strict constructionists when you need them?) To be clear, the challenge to the Controlled Substances Act arose from plaintiffs using medical marijuana, but the constitutional issue questioned the authority of the law in general. If the federal government were really restricted to regulating interstate commerce, the feds wouldn't be able to prosecute people for intrastate marijuana, recreational or medicinal.