Pubdate: Thu, 24 Sep 2009
Source: Journal, The (Webster University, St. Louis, MO, Edu)
Copyright: 2009 The Journal
Author: Vincenza Previte
Bookmark: (Marijuana - Medicinal)
Bookmark: (Drug Testing)


A study conducted at the University of California-San Diego discovered
that marijuana is not only safer than alcohol, but also protects the
brain from damages caused by excessive drinking.

Patrick Stack, director of counseling at Webster University, said any
individual has the risk of misusing these types of substances.

"The problem of any type of drug usage originates when a person abuses
a drug," Stack said. "As a result of this abuse, the drug has more
influence on the person than the person has over him-or herself."

Bruce Mirken, director of communications of the Marijuana Policy
Project (MPP), said he encourages the legalization of marijuana. MPP
is an organization founded in 1995 that advocates regulated use of
marijuana in the U.S.

Mirken said marijuana is a less addictive, less toxic and less
threatening drug than alcohol.

"According to the Institute of Medicine, 15 percent of people who
drink (it) become dependent on alcohol," Mirken said. "For marijuana,
the figure is 9 percent."

Furthermore, Mirken said marijuana doesn't have the typical effects
alcohol has on people.

"Unlike alcohol, marijuana doesn't make people reckless, aggressive
and violent," Mirken said.

Not only did Mirken say he believes marijuana is safer than alcohol,
he said he also believes it presents great medical value to patients
with AIDS, cancer and Multiple Sclerosis.

Nadia Battle, a senior broadcast journalism major, said she prefers to
drink alcohol because it's legal, unlike marijuana.

"If I had to choose between one or the other, I'd choose alcohol," she
said. "I wouldn't do marijuana because it's illegal."

If marijuana is legalized, there will be regulations that will be
implemented to protect society, Mirken said. Marijuana will be treated
with the same regulations as alcohol and tobacco. The production and
distribution of marijuana would be done by businesses that pay taxes
instead of criminals and gangs, therefore reducing social cost.

Despite her preference of drinking, Battle said she is a bit confused
about why marijuana is illegal.

"I didn't know that marijuana is better than alcohol," Battle said.
"But it makes sense since marijuana is a plant and alcohol is a chemical."

Stack said he agrees marijuana, in its purest form, is a great
antiemetic, a medicine that prevents patients from vomiting.

Street marijuana and marijuana in its purest form, or "processed pot,"
are very different, Stack said.

"In its purest form, marijuana is processed to eliminate insecticides
and chemicals, so these aren't ingested into the body," Stack said.
"Street marijuana is not processed and is highly carcinogenic because
of all the chemicals in it."

Steve Fox, co-author of "Marijuana is Safer" and MPP director of state
campaigns, said he doesn't believe there are two types of marijuana,
referring to street marijuana and marijuana used for medical purposes.
He said there are many strains of marijuana as well as different
strains of alcohol.

"It depends where the marijuana is found," Fox said. "A less effective
marijuana might be sold at the dispensary to a patient. This type of
marijuana won't be as effective as another strain. It's known that
some strains of marijuana are better for people with certain

In regards to whether marijuana is safer than alcohol, Stack said both
drugs can be harmful if abused.

"In the area of substance abuse, there are no hard or soft drugs,"
Stack said. "A drug is a drug. This is an apple/orange situation;
marijuana can be potentially more harmful than alcohol, yet alcohol
can be as potentially harmful."

Fox, however, said even though marijuana and alcohol have various
similarities, he thinks marijuana is still less harmful than alcohol.

"Marijuana is less likely to cause health problems and violent
behaviors," Fox said. "Teaching people about this message is really
the way to change policies and opinions."

In his book, Fox says the punishments society have given to people who
use marijuana are much more severe than those who consume alcohol. As
a result, more people are encouraged by society to use alcohol and, in
some cases, abuse it.

"People can be fined or arrested for using marijuana," Fox said.
"There's drug testing and collateral sanctions such as losing your job
or professional license. The punishments associated with the use of
alcohol are fewer. Therefore, society is only giving people one option."

Fox believes the use of marijuana has been monstrasized over the

"It's been demonized for more than 70 years at this point," Fox said.
"It's a habit politicians have a hard time breaking out of. Several
ads had been placed in the U.S. against marijuana. The MPP tried to
put ads in New York, showing patients talking of how marijuana helped
them, just to get a medical bill passed. Many networks prohibited
these ads." 
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