Pubdate: Mon, 12 Jul 2010
Source: San Jose Mercury News (CA)
Copyright: 2010 San Jose Mercury News
Author: Louis R. (Skip) Miller
Note: Louis R. Miller is chairman of D.A.R.E. America, the top drug
abuse prevention and education program in the United States, and a
partner in the Los Angeles law firm Miller Barondess, LLP. He wrote
this article for this newspaper.
Cited: Proposition 19
Bookmark: (Opinion)


Do we really want to make it easier to get stoned?

Cut through the smoke and that's really what California voters will be
deciding in November with Proposition 19, which would make this the
only state to fully legalize marijuana -- a drug with proven negative
health consequences.

Forget what they say about pot smokers being mellow. As the chairman
of DARE America, the nation's top drug abuse prevention/education
program, I get strident e-mail from people who want the rest of us to
bless their drug habits by making marijuana legal and easier to get.

I read every e-mail, but I have yet to see one that overcomes the body
of scientific research demonstrating that smoking marijuana is harmful
and does just one thing well: It gets people high. And that high comes
with short- and long-term health risks that proponents of legal weed
don't like to acknowledge.

The concern with marijuana is not based on my personal disapproval or
bias but upon what science tells us about the drug's effects. The
science is clear: Marijuana is associated with physical and mental
illness, poor motor performance and cognitive impairment.

# Marijuana smoke is loaded with toxic compounds such as ammonia and
hydrogen cyanide; it contains seven times more tar and carbon monoxide
than cigarette smoke.

# Pot smokers have higher rates of respiratory disease and an
increased incidence of mouth cavity, tongue, throat and lung cancers.

# Marijuana use narrows arteries in the brain in ways similar to
patients with high blood pressure and dementia. Over time, speed of
thinking and other cognitive abilities deteriorate.

# Smoking dope has been shown to cause an immediate rise in the
heartbeat by 20 to 30 beats per minute along with an increase in blood
pressure, increasing the workload of the heart.

# Marijuana use is linked to higher rates of depression and can
trigger schizophrenia in people already vulnerable to the mental illness.

# A study from the Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services
found that 34.7 percent of vehicular trauma patients treated at a
Baltimore emergency room tested positive for marijuana use -- an even
higher percentage than those who tested positive for alcohol.

I do not take issue with medically prescribed usage; however, a
landmark Institute of Medicine study that identified some medicinal
potential in marijuana discounted the effectiveness of smoked
marijuana. Smoking marijuana gets you high, damages your lungs and
mushes up your brain. Some medicine.

Indeed, one of the most pernicious effects of marijuana is that it
lowers inhibitions, making users engage in risky behavior -- including
excessive alcohol consumption and use of harder drugs.

California has a tradition of laws protecting public health. It is
illegal to ride a motorcycle without a helmet or ride in a car without
a seat belt. California was the first state to ban the use of
artery-clogging trans fats in food. We do this in part to keep
individuals safe and in part to reduce the burden on society.

Yet, with marijuana, some Californians want to go the other way and
expand availability of this drug. Taxes on pot would not come anywhere
close to covering the inevitable societal costs -- as we have seen
from tobacco and alcohol taxes that barely make a dent in the health
and safety costs caused by cigarettes and alcohol.

Pot smokers can roll their campaign in whatever clever slogans they
want. Smart voters should see through the haze and realize that
efforts to legalize pot are not driven by fiscal responsibility or
good health. They're about making it easier to get stoned.