Pubdate: Wed, 01 Sep 2004
Source: Union Leader (NH)
Copyright: 2004 The Union Leader Corp.
Author: Kevin A. Sabet
Note: Autor recently stepped down as senior speechwriter to America 's drug
czar, John P. Walters.
Bookmark: (Cannabis)


The federal government recently announced that the growing potency of
America's most popular illegal drug, marijuana, and the number of kids
seeking help to get off the drug (one in five users) worried them so
much that they were soliciting new marijuana-research proposals and
urging local law enforcement to crack down on those who sell the drug.

The pro-marijuana lobby was furious and immediately charged the feds
with fear-mongering and clamoring to protect their (not so glamorous,
actually) jobs in Washington, D.C. Their cries rested on claims that
more potent marijuana is not tantamount to more dangerous marijuana
and that the rise in the number of treatment beds for marijuana users
is due to criminal justice referrals, not the drug's harmfulness.

But the evidence shows the government indeed might have it right. The
pro-drug movement, fueled with the motivation to legalize harmful
substances and angry at the attack on its values of "drug use for
all," is putting kids at risk by playing down the known dangers of

Although not as destructive as shooting heroin or smoking crack,
marijuana use is unquestionably damaging. Today's more powerful
marijuana probably leads to greater health consequences than the
marijuana of the 1960s: Astonishingly, pot admissions to emergency
rooms now exceed those of heroin. Visits to hospital emergency
departments because of marijuana use have risen steadily during the
1990s, from an estimated 16,251 in 1991 to more than 119,472 in 2002.
That has accompanied a rise in potency from 3.26 percent to 7.19
percent, according to the Potency Monitoring Project at the University
of Mississippi.

More potent marijuana is also seen as more lucrative on the market.
Customs reports claim that a dealer coming north with a pound of
cocaine can make an even trade with a dealer traveling south with a
pound of high-potency marijuana. It makes sense that people pay more
for stronger pot because the high is better.

A flurry of very recent research studies - concerning withdrawal,
schizophrenia and lung obstruction, for example - have also shown
marijuana' s unfortunate consequences. These conclusions were not
being reached in the '70s and '80s (legalizers often point to the
Nixon-commissioned Shafer report, which said nice things about the
drug, as evidence of marijuana's harmlessness), because marijuana from
that era was weaker and less dangerous than today's drug. The May 5
issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association reported that
the number of marijuana users over the past 10 years stayed the same
while the number dependent on the drug rose 20 percent - from 2.2
million to 3 million.

And although a majority of kids in treatment for marijuana are
referred there by the criminal justice system, it still remains only a
slight majority - about 54 percent. The rest is self, school or doctor

To paint the picture that the reason marijuana dependence looks higher
is because of the criminal justice system is disingenuous (especially
because most people who use only marijuana never interact with law
enforcement as a result of that use).

Some people still argue that it's wrong to arrest kids and force them
into treatment. It seems like the government can never win: If they
arrest and lock people up, legalizers kick and scream that we're not
giving users "alternatives to incarceration." If they arrest kids as a
way to get them help, and not as a punishment mechanism, all of a
sudden the government is giving in to George Orwell.

It's too bad that pot apologists don't see what most parents do see:
Marijuana is a harmful drug with serious consequences, and mechanisms
- - even a brush with the law to help a user realize that what he's
doing is harmful - to help stop the progression of use should be seen
as a good thing. That's not government propaganda. That's common sense.

And it may save a few lives.
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MAP posted-by: Larry Seguin