By Russ Belville
With hysterical propaganda to once again terrorize voters about cannabis. We intended to scour multiple sources to compile the five most common scare tactics they use, but Joseph Summerill, director of the Summerill Group LLC, a Washington, D.C.- based law enforcement think tank and general counsel for the Major County Sheriffs’ Association, made our job easy by using all five in one op-ed piece published today in the Washington Examiner entitled, “Facts on medical marijuana are stubborn things, too“.
Lie #1) Marijuana’s not really medical. The government says so!
[M]arijuana is a Schedule I drug… a high potential for abuse or dependency… no accepted medical value… unsafe to use, even under medical supervision. [M]arijuana has not passed the rigid scrutiny of medicine proposed by the FDA.
- National Institutes of Drug Abuse (NIDA) puts the lifetime dependence rate on cannabis at 9%, same as caffeine. Alcohol has a 15% rate of abuse and Tobacco’s is 32%.
- One third of federal jurisdictions (16 states and DC) accept the medical value of cannabis.
- The federal government is supplying four Americans with this “unsafe” medicine with no medical supervision.
- Cannabis has been used medically for 5,000 years without a single human death — a far greater safety standard than an FDA that approved phen-fen and Vioxx.
Lie #2) Doctors and scientists don’t approve of smoked medicine; they do approve of Marinol.
Institute of Medicine and the American Medical Association acknowledged the lack of data to support the use of smoked marijuana for medicinal purposes.
What is scientifically approved by the FDA and accepted by the medical community is a medicine called Marinol, a legal, widely prescribed drug currently in pill form containing synthetic THC, a main constituent in marijuana.
- The American Medical Association said, “smoked cannabis reduces neuropathic pain, improves appetite and caloric intake especially in patients with reduced muscle mass, and may relieve spasticity and pain in patients with multiple sclerosis.”
- Marinol is 100% synthetic THC (the psychoactive component) suspended in a sesame oil capsule.Cannabis flowers are around 5%-30% natural THC combined with CBD (a component that moderates psychoactivity) and other beneficial compounds.
- Inhaling cannabis is a superior delivery mechanism for it allows the patient to self-titrate (adjust dose) and get immediate relief. It’s especially helpful to inhale cannabis rather than swallow a Marinol pill when one is vomiting. We recognize many inhaled medications (think: steroid inhalers for asthma patients) and when vaporized, any harms from smoking cannabis are eliminated.
Lie #3) Marijuana smoke is much worse than cigarette smoke!
[S]moked marijuana contains more than 400 chemicals, many of which are identical to the most harmful chemicals and carcinogens found in cigarette smoke. The fact is that a marijuana cigarette contains four times as much tar as a tobacco cigarette.
- My pencil contains five components, two of which are identical to the graphite found in golf clubs and the wood found in golf tees. This does not make my pencil a golf club or a tee. Water contains hydrogen and oxygen. This does not make water flammable or breathable. Many recipes call for the same ingredients; it’s how you put them together that matters. Joints aren’t cigarettes, they’re far safer than that.
- Dr. Donald Tashkin went looking for that “marijuana causes cancer” connection and found quite the opposite, that cannabis smokers had lower incidence of head, neck, and lung cancer. We even have compelling evidence that cannabinoids may be instrumental in unlocking the cure for cancer.
- Very few tokers smoke 20 to 40 joints a day, but even if they did, where are these marijuana smokers with the tar-ravaged lungs filling up our hospitals? Again, we have zero recorded deaths from cannabis smoking and over 400,000 annual deaths from tobacco use. Joints aren’t cigarettes.
Lie #4) Marijuana is the gateway drug to cocaine, meth, and heroin!
[L]egalizing marijuana leads to the use of more dangerous and harmful drugs, such as cocaine and methamphetamine…. [T]eens who smoke marijuana were found to be 85 times more likely to use cocaine than those teens who do not smoke marijuana.
- Teens who ride bicycles were found to be 85 times more likely to join an outlaw biker gang than teens who don’t ride bicycles*. So we should outlaw bicycles? Sure, most cocaine users may have started first with pot, but they also probably started with alcohol before that and milk before that.
- That same Institute of Medicine report Mr. Summerill referenced in Lie #2 said, “There is no conclusive evidence that the drug effects of marijuana are causally linked to the subsequent abuse of other illicit drugs.”
- According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, over 100 million American adults have tried cannabis. There are currently about 1.5 million monthly cocaine users, 430 thousand monthly meth users, and 192 thousand monthly heroin users. So for every 46 people who’ve ever tried pot, only one went on to become a monthly hard drug user. A gateway that only affects 2.1% of the people isn’t much of a gateway.
* OK, that one we just made up.
Lie #5) Marijuana legalization leads to carnage on the highways!
[M]arijuana use, including its use for medicinal purposes, is directly related to motor vehicle accidents and reckless driving, as cannabis affects psychomotor functioning.
In a study of fatally injured drivers in Washington state, a state with legalized medical marijuana, about one every eight tested positive for marijuana.
- The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has said of marijuana testing of drivers, “It is inadvisable to try and predict effects based on blood THC concentrations alone, and currently impossible to predict specific effects based on THC-COOH concentrations” because “[d]etection time is well past the window of intoxication and impairment.” Finding pot in some drivers’ systems following a crash just tells you some people smoke pot.
- From 2008-2009, fatal crashes in the states that had medical marijuana declined overall 9.34%. Only one medical marijuana state, Rhode Island, had an increase greater than 3%, which resulted in 18 more deaths. Four other states had 1%-3% increases, leading to 9 additional deaths. Of the remaining eight states that saw declines, half saw double-digit declines, including the laxest medical marijuana state, California, which had 353 fewer traffic fatalities.
- Legalizing marijuana does not legalize DUI. People who smoke pot and drive now are busted in all fifty states and legalization doesn’t change that.
When it comes to medical information and the safety record of cannabis, we’ll trust real doctors and 5,000 years of historical use. Not the ramblings of a law enforcement think tank director desperately trying to save asset forfeiture proceeds, federal grant money, and overtime hours for state and local cops and job security for prison guards.