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