A recent survey by the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment found that cannabis use among high-school students decreased in 2013 from 2011. What happened in the interim to cause this drop?
Who knows? But one might safely conclude that legalization of marijuana did not turn Colorado youths into a bunch of pot-crazed hooligans.
Reefer Madness Continues
Despite the undeniable science behind the health benefits of cannabis, the DEA continues to classify marijuana as a Schedule I drug (defined as drugs with high risk of abuse and no medical use) right alongside meth and heroin.
Recent reports indicate that DWI deaths in Colorado are down to historic lows since legalization of recreational marijuana. Yet, the chorus continues of those who predict carnage on the highways associated with marijuana use.
Opponents of marijuana legalization continue to talk of it as a gateway drug. Gateway to what? Opiates, heroin? No such relationship has ever been established. Contrast this to legal opiates such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, oxycontin, fentanyl… all of which have clearly established relationships to addiction to opiates, including heroin.
Opponents continue to suggest that marijuana will lead to drug overdoses. They fail to define their use of the term “overdose” but suggest it is life-threatening. In fact, there has never in the history of marijuana use been a documented death from a marijuana overdose. Perhaps, one might have an unpleasant experience after eating a plate full of brownies as has been well chronicled. The word is out now so it is likely that such episodes will occur much more infrequently. In any event, a panic attack is a far cry from the thousands of deaths each year from overdoses on legal pharmaceuticals. We will get back to this one.
Logic Behind Continued Reefer Madness
There is no logic behind the continued war on marijuana unless money is logic. Corporations are people these days so why not—money may as well be logic.
Getting back to the issue of drug overdoses, over 22,000 Americans died of drug overdoses in 2011 from legal pharmaceuticals. Among these, the CDC reports that “16,917 (74%) involved opioid analgesics (also called opioid pain relievers or prescription painkillers) and 6,872 (30%) involved benzodiazepines”.
There has been no governmental assault on the pharmaceutical industry. And while deaths related to legal pharmaceuticals has reached crisis levels, the pharmaceutical industry continues to push its traditional pain killers while coming up with new and ever-more potent pain killers each year. At the same time, the same industry leads the way in opposition to legalized marijuana.
Follow the Money
Money talks and this language is really all that many, if not most, politicians can understand or even hear. Think corrections industry and pharmaceutical industry.
The prison industry is too obvious (arrests down, prison beds empty) but what about pharmaceuticals?
What happens when anxiety, PTSD, chronic pain (incidentally treated by the aforementioned pharmaceutical opiates and benzodiazepines) are treated by cannabis? It is clear that cannabis is beneficial for these health issues and many more. But lets just focus on these.
Annual sales of pharmaceutical opiates and benzodiazepines are in the billions. Interestingly, Forbes reported that in 2009, 128.2 million prescriptions were written for hydrocodone alone. Another 44.4 million prescriptions were written for alprazolam (a benzodiazepine). Interestingly, there are countless variations on these anti-anxiety and pain killer medications.
More interesting still, there is a current National Institute of Health study for the use of cannabis to address opioid addiction. That would sure sting the pharmaceutical industry—a medication, easily grown, could be used to treat both anxiety and pain and worse yet wean patients from opiate addiction. Ouch!
Wait, that’s not all. There are patents held by the United States Department of Health for the use of cannabis in the treatment of neurological disorders, specifically Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. In fact there are many patents with the United States Patent Office for the medical use of cannabis, one such patent for the treatment of chronic pain dating back to the 80’s and numerous ongoing studies with the National Institute of Health.
Oh yes, then there is the report that came out on Monday from JAMA Internal Medicine (as reported by the Huffington Post) that suggests that 1) overdose deaths from legal opiates is on the rise nationally, but 2) deaths have fallen by 25% in those states that have legalized marijuana. This presumably is related to the fact that many patients opt to use marijuana over opiates where it is available.
Health and Safety Not the Issue
This is simply a smattering of the most remarkable fictions surrounding marijuana prohibition.