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WEED! An Unbiased (as possible) look at that Marijuana stuff

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Updated: February 18, 2014

 

By RU Twisted

A quick disclosure: I don’t smoke weed (or take trips on LSD—thanks Merle). It’s not that I have anything against those who do; rather, it’s that I’m already mellow enough. More laid back and I would probably just melt into the couch.

I bring that up for the purpose of explaining that I have no reason on a personal level to advocate for the legalization of the substance known as marijuana. However, I do hold near and dear to my heart a strong attraction to two very important qualities that I try, as much as possible, to apply to every area of life: truth and logic.

It is in those two areas that the debate on marijuana has been greatly lacking. On the one side we have the Reefer Madness group who believe that one toke of a joint will lead you straight down the road to H. E. double hockey sticks. On the other, a swarming crew of unwashed, dreadlocked, Phish-heads that insist on cannabis being the greatest thing ever invented by Mother Gaia.

Let me be clear: I am in no way affiliated with either one of those groups, which is why I think it is important to weigh in on this topic. It does have direct implications for the Veteran community and for that reason alone I believe it is worth approaching in an honest fashion.

First let me state that most of what you’ve been told about marijuana is patently false. How can I so confidently make that assertion? Well, for starters, I’m not the one stating it with authority.

To put it another way, some of what you have been told could be right—but it would be by sheer accident. According to the Oxford Journal of Neurology, studying the effects of marijuana on human beings with any kind of scientific approach is just shy of impossible. The numerous variables involved ensure that a distinct lack of consistency exists in most clinical studies and, as a result, most of the research that has been conducted on cannabis falls short of being anywhere near conclusive.

Numerous other medical professionals have stated the same, reiterating how much we don’t know about marijuana far outweighs that which we do. The lack of information on its affects both long term and short term is quite astounding, to be honest. Even the Harvard Health Publications admit that the research supporting risks as well as benefits is still wanting for more serious study. Medical Marijuana

These and other claims leave us asking an important question: if the experts in the field of medical research are telling us they “don’t know” how harmful or helpful marijuana is, then how the name of Cheech & Chong is it that there are so many people out there running around telling us how bad it is or how great it is? And how in the bloody hell did it become illegal in 1937 if modern medicine in 2014 isn’t so sure either way as to its dangers or benefits?

The short answer is the pure idiocy of hyperbole and its ability to affect law much quicker than logical arguments ever could. The long answer most likely involves a very powerful tobacco lobby, the nationalization of drug policing (big surprise), and a whole host of very flawed research and a really stupid movie that linked marijuana to violent behavior (complete with racist undertones). In other words, the fact that it was illegal to begin with is based nothing resembling either truth or logic.

While it would be easy to continue on arguing why it shouldn’t be illegal, that is not the intent here. Rather, my goal is to be informative in the sense that marijuana could either help or harm the Veteran community based on how it could be used.

In light of that, consider a few facts about research that has been done:

1)     Out of 22 double-blind medical studies done on humans regarding marijuana between 1990 and 2012, 12 of them showed it to have positive effects, 3 showed it to be negative, and the remaining 7 were inconclusive.

2)     79 other studies conducted on humans that were not double blind resulted in 25 being positive, 30 being negative, and the remaining 24 being inconclusive.

3)     Of 4 animal studies conducted in that same time, all showed positive results.

So, at best, the accumulative results of over 100 medical studies are slightly ambiguous with a slight lean towards marijuana being, as a whole, beneficial for medical use. But what about some of the other negative aspects always associated with the drug?

There are two main areas that are always brought up to show the dangers of cannabis. Unfortunately for those who use these arguments, the facts are not on their side in any verifiable way.

The first argument is that “pot is a gateway drug.” Those who use this line of thinking claim that once a person uses marijuana they are more likely to move on to cocaine, heroin, or huffing paint in the garage. Their reasoning, however, leaves much to be desired.

Numerous studies—including those funded by your tax dollars—have attempted to show a direct link from marijuana to other drug use and have repeatedly failed miserably. If it were the case that cannabis use leads to cocaine or heroin, then the numbers would match up much closer than they do.

Interestingly enough, many will argue that one of the reasons marijuana could lead to other drugs is because it is illegal, meaning that those who sell it are much more likely to traffic in other illegal drugs. Though this becomes somewhat of a chicken/egg argument, it is important to understand potential vs real causes.

The second common argument is that “pot makes you stupid.” Much like a great deal of the research on marijuana, this understanding stems from very flawed research. Some recent studies have indicated that evidence does not support long-term cognitive impairment of cannabis users and that its short-term use in young adults seems to have little or no permanent effect.

One of the biggest flaws in many of these arguments comes in a misunderstanding regarding the differences between correlation and causation. For example, if X number of individuals who committed a crime were found to have marijuana in their system, many believe that is reason to believe that it was a contributing factor. While it is crucial that we don’t discount it as a possibility, correlation is by no means causation.

To put that in perspective, imagine if there was a conclusive study showing that the majority of cars stopped for speeding were red in color; stating that the color of the car was a direct contributing factor would seem patently absurd.

Another important factor to consider is the alternative. After a fair amount of research, I can say that there is enough evidence to suggest that a healthy, drug-free person is better off not smoking marijuana on a regular basis. However, if that same person is suffering from a specific medical problem or psychological problem, are the drugs they are being prescribed healthier and/or more effective than marijuana? While we cannot say with 100% certainty either way, as this is an incredibly vast subject requiring tremendous amounts of research, to immediately claim that a synthetic drug manufactured in accordance with government bureaucracy is better than a naturally-growing plant containing similar substances already produced by the human brain itself seems more than slightly presumptuous.

In short, I suggest two things:

One, don’t go out and get high every day simply because there isn’t enough research stating that it is bad for you. While marijuana is clearly not as bad as it has been made out to be for several generations, we still don’t have any meaningful, scientific consensus on how bad it is or how beneficial.

Two, be leery of anyone on either side of this debate making absolute statements. Just a quick perusal through the medical journals on this topic will show that they probably haven’t done much study, as the professionals are by no means in agreement. Do your homework and use your head—preferably while clear.

 

*As a final note, I highly encourage a read through this link that I provided above for a more in-depth look at how difficult it is to know anything about marijuana from a scientifically-studied perspective. 

Comments

comments

31 Comments

  1. leftoftheboom

    February 18, 2014 at 7:47 am

    Did you know that cannabis was a chemical weapon for both the Russians and U.S. Army. It is listed as an incapacitating agent. Makes you mellow and not want to fight.

    • Ju Con

      February 18, 2014 at 11:10 am

      I used to work in that field and this is news to me; do you have a cite for that?

      • Cliff

        February 18, 2014 at 12:36 pm

        I have to agree with you on this. Granted, I went to Chem ANCOC in 87 so it has been awhile, but I remember references to BZ a hallucinogen the Army had for awhile, but nothing in our arsenal or that of the Warsaw Pact for weaponized cannabis.

        Probably just as well. Some of the stoners during the draft years would have probably started WWIII in Germany in hopes that the Soviets would use it.

      • leftoftheboom

        February 18, 2014 at 2:22 pm

        FM 3-9

    • Dustin

      February 18, 2014 at 12:05 pm

      Yes, that was a part of the governments propaganda during the Cold War. Our youth will smoke and the Russki’s will roll right over us. Before that it was that it makes you violent, a la reefer madness. You smoke and commit murders. During alcohol temperance in the late 1800’s, they did the same thing. Told schoolchildren that one drink and it’ll fry your brain and destroy your liver. Propaganda…

  2. CarRAMROD

    February 18, 2014 at 9:09 am

    Great article! You hit the nail on the head- there is so much hyperbole on both sides of the argument that it makes any intelligent conversation on the subject damn near impossible unless you agree with the other side 100%.

  3. D

    February 18, 2014 at 10:39 am

    I agree with this blog most people don’t know that the true affects of MJ. Another thing that needs to be taken into account is what level THC the MJ contains. There is weed that is pretty mild and there is also Hydro that will put someone on there ass, make them hallucinate, and act like Smokey in the chicken coop. People drinking to much, doing drugs or any other at risk behavior is nothing new. The question is does legalizing MJ make our country a better place. Short answer “no”. Where does it stop. Cocaine is usually considered just a party drug so should we legalize that? Now it gets kind of fuzzy. Legalizing MJ will not combat the cartel and drug related robberies will not stop if it is legalized. Did you see the prices that Colorado was charging for some weed. CRAZY!

    • Derek

      February 18, 2014 at 12:39 pm

      Weed makes you hallucinate? That’s news to me and I’ve been smoking on and off for years. One thing the article failed to touch on is how we jail people for pot. Seriously, do pot heads deserve to be incarcerated with murderers, pedophiles and thieves? I think not.

      • Mr. Twisted

        February 18, 2014 at 1:03 pm

        Derek,

        I didn’t “fail” to mention that; it wasn’t part of the scope of the article. The criminal aspect, though certainly worth discussing, is another subject beyond just whether or not cannabis is itself harmful or not.

        While I may agree with you completely that those possessing marijuana do not pose a threat to society worthy of being imprisoned, that is a policy question, not one of whether or not it is/is not healthy (hence why I did not go into any more detail regarding how it became illegal in the first place — a subject worthy of its own essay, to be sure).

        • Master Chuck

          February 27, 2014 at 10:26 am

          I’ve always thought that the illegality was the real gateway part. In other words, if you do something illegal, you are more likely to do other illegal things. But the idea that someone who enjoyed pot, then being more likely to try cocaine? We’re talking sedative to extreme stimulant here. Never made sense.

    • Cliff

      February 18, 2014 at 12:42 pm

      I am not so sure that legalization would not put a crimp on the cartels. During prohibition there was a lot of money made by bootleggers, once booze was legal again that all dried up.

    • Common Sense

      February 18, 2014 at 10:09 pm

      WOW! So you have no proof, and you don’t necessarily think it would make your country better- but you are happy to send people to jail for life for sucking in burning plant smoke? Or growing plants?

      To answer your question-YES, cocaine, marijuana, and everything else that is a felony substance should be legal. I don’t use any of them, however consenting adults should have no restriction on what they can do with their own body. NONE.

      Guess what the biggest gateway drug in history is….caffeine. It’s likely the first mood altering substance you will take in unrelated to illness, and then everything else just follows.

      Look at Portugal- legalization (normalisation), and free treatment programs, are much cheaper than BS law enforcement, and have lessened violent criminal activity as well as helping people stop that are out of control.

      Look at the “legal” drugs that are abused, prescription meds, alcohol, fast cars (adrenaline). Limiting anything for the “public good”, has created a huge mess, and overburdened prison and judicial systems throughout the Western world.

      The West has a massive obesity problem, should the government also handout your meals for you so you don’t get too fat?

      • D

        February 19, 2014 at 12:50 am

        Ok common sense or lack of..listen I’m not saying weed is as bad as coke. Yes we have a huge prescription pill problem. What I’m saying is we’re lowering are standards as Americans . If you live in a border town u see the shit by the truck loads and you see people get tied up shot for loads of the shit. Unless camel is going to mass produce it we have a problem..don’t know anyone who is locked up for life for a bag of weed..they were traffickers ..if people start breaking into my car and burglarizing my house for donuts then ya regulate the fat bastards…

        • Common Sense

          February 19, 2014 at 5:45 pm

          D,

          During the US prohibition of alcohol, people were killed for that by gangs as well. Legalize it, and there is no risk, and therefore no need to kill anyone for it. Crime will still happen, but nobody will get tied up and shot for it, anymore than any other commodity.

          I don’t care if they are traffickers, you shouldn’t spend ANY time in ANY custody for growing or selling a simple plant. Also, due to 3 strike laws, there are people that spend much of their life in jail for small crimes that “technically” fall as major felonies.

          “Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time” right? Wrong, it should not be a crime unless you are deliberately distributing to minors that cannot understand the risk. The same as alcohol.

          • D

            February 21, 2014 at 10:41 am

            HaHa I’m going to beat a dead horse because I just woke up and I’m bored. C.S there has been close to one hundred thousand murders in Mexico related to the drug trade. Weed is the easiest one to argue to legalize do to the fact that it has the least amount side affects and there has been some proven medical benifits to using it. The same borders that weed comes through Meth, Heroin, and cocaine come through. I agree that most pot smokers are not generally causing crimes such as burglaries, robberies,theft, car theft, etc, etc.. The people who use meth crack and heroin are committing these crimes. Its very irresponsible for you to say we should be able to put what ever we want into are bodies if those substances will lead to others pain and suffering. The cartel puts alot of work and money into growing and transporting MJ. If they stop making money on it then then this will free up more room for the harder stuff. Spend sometime in a crack house or with some tweekers and you might change your mind,,rant,,rant. O yea marijuana is the only drug that is a hallucinogen ,stimulant, and depressant..So who ever said that they smoke it and don’t hallucinate needs to buy some better stuff and some funonions man..

  4. Michael

    February 18, 2014 at 12:10 pm

    100% of all criminal rapists and serial killers have Dihydrogen Monoxide in their system. Its is all cancers and found in sewage. Sounds bad right? Thats how to fool people. Dihydrogen Monoxide is WATER. . . H2O

    Stop believing everything before you think. Marijuana is nothing compared to alcohol and tobacco and those are legal.

  5. Whitey

    February 18, 2014 at 1:04 pm

    I’ve never smoked pot in my life, but I know a few who have. Smoking anything is bad for your lungs. There may be other beneficial tradeoffs involved, but you won’t be doing your respiratory system any favors. That said, I don’t care to be around smoke from joints, cigarettes, or cigars. I don’t mind if somebody smokes any of the above, just don’t contaminate the air I’m trying to breathe is all I ask.

    One thing that always struck me as hypocritical, and God knows there’s plenty of hypocrisy on both sides of this debate, is how most people I’ve encountered who want to legalize weed want to ban tobacco.

    I know, I know, tobacco is addictive, causes cancer, etc…sometimes. We’ve all run into some stoners who start having withdrawals if they go 45 minutes without making out with their bong, just like some smokers burn up 4 packs a day. And some people light a joint once in a blue moon, like some smoke a cigarette or stogie every once in a while. And everybody in between. Some people get cancer despite a perfect health-nut lifestyle, and some chain-smokers will outlive us all.

    Bottom line, if you want one banned, it’s hard to justify wanting the other legalized.

    Just my 2 cents.

    • Mr. Twisted

      February 18, 2014 at 1:08 pm

      “We’ve all run into some stoners who start having withdrawals if they go 45 minutes without making out with their bong…”

      Best line of the comment section this week. Brilliant.

      • Whitey

        February 18, 2014 at 1:40 pm

        Thank you, I’ll be here all week! Be sure to tip the waitress.

        • captain caveman

          February 18, 2014 at 4:51 pm

          I’ll tip the waitress when she brings me my damn brownies!!!!!

        • captain caveman

          February 18, 2014 at 4:53 pm

          I’ll tip the waitress when she brings me my damn brownies!!!!!!

        • Mike

          February 19, 2014 at 12:01 am

          I’ll agree with the statement the smoking anything is bad. Repeated cellular insult to your respiratory system can lead to a whole host of respiratory problems, such as COPD and cancer.

  6. Antonio Aguilar

    February 18, 2014 at 1:21 pm

    I’ve never met a washed up crack-head who didn’t first start with marijuana. Secondly, I’ve met many a person who isn’t a hard drug user but still continues to have a variety of misdemeanor run ins with law enforcement. These people are many times marijuana users as well. I’ve seen the direct correlation between marijuana and hard drugs as well as a variety of other social problems in real life, not a sterile clinic setting. I’ve also studied some hard data with years of real world research behind it. I’ve had the opportunity to see this in a controlled environment and the data is true; marijuana does have some negative medical side affects. I’m not saying it can’t have positive affects too, that it can’t be used for medicinal purposes, but most drugs out there, legal and illegal, have good and bad to them and it takes more than your street corner “pharmacist” to tell you if you should be taking them or not.

    • Common Sense

      February 18, 2014 at 10:20 pm

      Antonio,

      You’ve probably never met a crackhead that didn’t start with coffee, or kids tylenol even before the marijuana. You are also seeing people that have a criminal record, however their decision to commit crime displays a lack of desire to follow the law. That lack of desire to follow the law can also include marijuana use. I know some very productive people who smoke marijuana regularly, with no ill effects (long term smokers). I also know someone who was stuck on over the counter diet pills that have made them very sick and caused long term damage, but would NEVER touch something “illegal”. It’s all about perception.

      It’s less accepted by society to smoke marijuana than to drink alcohol, so if someone is content to commit other criminal acts they are less likely to worry about the criminal act of smoking marijuana. That does not mean that marijuana caused them to do anything. In fact, I’ve never heard of anyone smoking a joint and beating their wife, or hitting a bong and then beating their kids. That commonly happens with alcohol- however the underlying issue is a desire to alter their mood, not the specific drug used.

      The other issue is that the “marijuana will get you” misinformation scare is proven false the first time someone smokes pot. If they decide to smoke pot, they will then realize that they don’t go insane, and now they no longer trust what they have been told about any other drugs.

      • D

        February 21, 2014 at 10:59 am

        Again C.S you need to stop the spin. According the US Department of Justice as of 2002 29% of convicted inmates stated that they were on drugs during the time of the offense which wasn’t a drug offense. Marijuana was the most common drug at 14%. That was just convicted inmates who were doing prison time.

        • Common Sense

          February 22, 2014 at 5:25 pm

          So 29%, what about the rest?
          So those 29%, did the drugs CAUSE them to commit a crime? Did they sit around following the law until someone forced them to smoke crack- then they just randomly decided to kill someone? No.

          The spin is on you, not me. Using your logic, we should outlaw any substance that could cause an effect on our brain chemistry, including alcohol. and only allow people to take prescription drugs in a controlled rubber room.

          Legislating what people can do with their own bodies has created this “war on drugs” BS. Leave everyone alone. If they influence or provide to children, different story. Healthy adults, no problem.

          As for your earlier comments about legalizing marijuana allowing for cartels to push “harder stuff”, yep, so what? If it’s not illegal, you don’t get gang wars over it. Have you seen lots of shoot outs between honda and ford employees over market share? NO. Because it’s legal, and nobody has to hide. Making something “illegal” pushes those who are willing to do “illegal” acts towards that thing. The “war on drugs” has created these organisations, and the culture that goes with them. If it was legal then it wouldn’t be as lucrative.

          Honestly, do you really think the only thing keeping everyone from living in a crack house is the law? It’s not. It’s a choice, just like not being drunk everyday is a choice. Some people can’t handle it, some people will also die if they come into contact with peanuts, should we make them completely illegal? No.

  7. Mr. Twisted

    February 18, 2014 at 2:25 pm

    Antonio,

    Two things:

    1) You wrote that you have “studied some hard data with years of real world research behind it.” I would love to see it. Seriously, I tried to approach this from an objective point of view (hence the links provided and where they came from). If you have sources that contradict those, I would honestly like to read them.

    2) At the beginning of several of your sentences (6 by my count) is the personal pronoun relating to yourself. Please understand, what one person sees, regardless of their profession, should never, ever be extrapolated to a whole truth. The plural of anecdote does not represent data, as the saying goes. One person recounting “direct correlation” is not how studies are done for a reason, and a “sterile clinic setting” is not necessarily a bad thing. After all, most of the products you use in your daily life stem from that very setting.

  8. Derek Wakkure

    February 18, 2014 at 9:24 pm

    Does it really bother the reader/writer if someone chooses what they want to do? If they want to make a choice to smoke pot then who are we to question the freedom of choice? What ill effects to your person will it have? Is there a control issue with people? Try looking at it from an ethical moral standpoint, in how it affects us.

    • Mr. Twisted

      February 18, 2014 at 10:34 pm

      I’ll be honest, I’m not really sure who this comment is directed towards. The article’s author (me)? If that’s the case, I believe you are reading far too much into what I wrote…

  9. Logan F Crooks

    February 19, 2014 at 8:32 pm

    Take it from the Libertarian viewpoint too, it doesn’t matter if it does hurt the person, that’s their right. The government has no right to legislate morality. http://www.leap.cc/

  10. chuck

    February 22, 2014 at 4:16 pm

    Damn pot heads…..

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