HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html AKCLU, Experts Say Pot Less Harmful Than Alcohol Or Cigarettes
Pubdate: Sun, 03 Apr 2005
Source: Juneau Empire (AK)
Copyright: 2005 Southeastern Newspaper Corp
Contact:  http://www.juneauempire.com/
Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/549
Author: Andrew Petty
Bookmark: http://www.mapinc.org/states/ak/ (Alaska)
Bookmark: http://www.mapinc.org/decrim.htm (Decrim/Legalization)
Bookmark: http://www.mapinc.org/pot.htm (Cannabis)
Bookmark: http://www.mapinc.org/lester+grinspoon

AKCLU, EXPERTS SAY POT LESS HARMFUL THAN ALCOHOL OR CIGARETTES

Prof Who Is A 40-Year Student Of The Effects Of Marijuana Says Public
Has Been Brainwashed

A representative from the Alaska Civil Liberties Union joined a
handful of experts Friday to tell a Senate committee that marijuana is
less harmful than alcohol and even tobacco.

"There has not been a single case of lung cancer or emphysema
triggered by smoking marijuana found in medical literature," said Dr.
Lester Grinspoon, an associate professor emeritus at Harvard Medical
School who has studied the effects of pot for almost 40 years.

In his assessment, he said the public has been "brainwashed" on the
effects of marijuana. Senators reviewing a criminalization bill were
hesitant to agree.

The bill would make possession of an ounce of marijuana a misdemeanor.
Possession of 4 ounces would be a felony. Currently Alaska courts
grant privacy protection to those possessing up to 4 ounces.

Last week a White House drug adviser and others told the committee
that marijuana is dangerous and should be criminalized.

The Senate Health, Environment and Social Services Committee approved
the bill Friday, but committee chairman Fred Dyson, R-Eagle River,
said his vote did not mean he supports the proposal.

"Three of the committee members felt comfortable that it should
continue in the process. And I know Sen. (Donald) Olson and I both
plan on doing some research," Dyson said.

The bill moves to the Judiciary Committee next and then to the Finance
Committee before going to the floor for a vote. The House of
Representatives must also review the bill.

Gov. Frank Murkowski is pushing this law to criminalize marijuana and
get findings on the record in order to open and overturn a 2003 Court
of Appeals case that ruled Alaskans have the right to possess small
quantities of marijuana in their homes.

Among the 19 findings in the bill are statements saying that marijuana
is more addictive than heroin, it has a dramatically higher potency
than before, and it leads smokers to commit violent crimes.

On Friday the AkCLU led a team of opponents who said the bill is based
on a framework of evidence that is skewed to one view.

"The court will stand for a paper record of several hundred pages if
the result is contrary to the evidence submitted," said Michael
MacLeod-Ball, director of AkCLU.

The most debated finding throughout the afternoon was whether an
increase in marijuana's potency has led to more addictions and
associated problems.

"The marijuana of Cheech and Chong had a THC level of 1.5 percent,"
said John Bobo, adviser to the office of drug and alcohol policy U.S.
Department of Transportation. He claims THC levels of homegrown pot
today can be as high as 22 percent to 24 percent.

Mitch Earlewine, assistant professor of psychology at the University
of Southern California, said that those high percentages are rare and
the national average today is closer to 6 percent.

"When we give people cannabis that has 1 percent in the laboratory,
they get a headache and claim it is placebo and they find it inactive
and don't want to use it again," said Earlewine. "Obviously this
wasn't the case in the 1970s or people wouldn't want to try it again."

Muscular sclerosis sufferer Jim Welch of Eagle River said the potency
was a hidden "healthy" benefit: "That means I'm putting less smoke in
my lungs."

Kelly Drew, a University of Alaska Fairbanks chemistry professor,
phoned in to say that it is unlikely for marijuana to be addictive
since it stays in the body's fat cells for about 30 days. Therefore,
the body doesn't suffer withdrawal symptoms, she said.

Bobo also said that people under the influence of pot are more likely
to commit accidents on the highways. The senators wondered why they
haven't heard about marijuana being linked to such highway collisions.

"The media does not want to acknowledge there is a problem," said
Assistant Attorney General Dean Guaneli, the bill's sponsor.
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