The Dope Debate

pot1Not surprisingly, in Wednesday’s GOP presidential debate, Senator Rand Paul affirmed his pro-legalization stand on marijuana. He just can’t help himself. It’s his inner libertarian. But I wish the good doctor would analyze the provocative issue less like a politician and more like the physician that he is.
 
Suppose we diagnose the situation before we prescribe a solution…
 
Super Weed
First of all, today’s marijuana is not your daddy’s pot. According to the Marijuana Potency Project, the average amount of THC (the primary psychoactive ingredient in the drug) in today’s marijuana is 9.6 to 13%. That’s more than double the potency of pot in the 70’s and early 80’s.
 
Why do you think they call it “dope?”
Numerous studies have shown that the negative effects of marijuana on the developing adolescent brain can be significant. Not just higher addictive potential and a possibly heightened risk of developing psychosis, but Cannabis Use in Teens Linked to Irreparable Drop in IQ. Scary stuff.
 
Marijuana is a “gateway” drug
While not everyone who smokes pot moves on to harder drugs, almost everyone who does escalate, started with weed.
Just last night I was listening to Dr. Michael Brown interview Pastor Dimas Salaberrios, a former drug kingpin (fascinating life story, have to get his book), who’s now a Christian. When Brown asked his opinion about legalization Salaberrios didn’t hesitate; “It’s a terrible, terrible plan! … Everyone knows that marijuana is the gateway to harder drugs… I’m totally praying that we’re not that dumb.”
 
Another substance-abuse problem?
Both alcohol and tobacco have demonstrable adverse effects on, not only individual health, but for society in general; healthcare costs, loss of productivity, negative impact on relationships, etc.. (We’ve been demonizing tobacco for decades, but smoking weed is OK?) Do we really need to legalize another substance with the potential for at least as many problems?
 

Rocky Mountain High is a bummer
Earlier this year, Colorado’s Gov. Hickenlooper (a Democrat, incidentally) admitted “legalizing marijuana was a ‘bad idea.’” Numerous stories from his state confirm that assessment:
Colorado’s ‘Pot Pregnancies’ Birthing New Generation of Crack Babies
Colorado’s legal pot is THREE TIMES stronger than it was a generation ago and is contaminated with fungus, heavy metals and pesticides, chemical analysis finds
Marijuana Edibles Blamed For Keystone, CO Death
Teen: Colorado voters were duped into legalizing recreational marijuana ~ Confirming the higher addiction potential among youth.
 
Wherever it’s been legalized (CO, WA, AK, OR), marijuana use increases, and user age decreases. (It’s hardly surprising that “Big Marijuana” would actively seek to grow its customer base.) Is that really something America needs right now?
 
And finally, Obama’s all for it
pot3(You’d think Rand Paul would oppose it on this basis alone!)
The president ignores the position of his own Office of National Drug Policy on marijuana legalization ~

Confusing messages being presented by popular culture, media, proponents of “medical” marijuana, and political campaigns to legalize all marijuana use perpetuate the false notion that marijuana is harmless. This significantly diminishes efforts tkeep our young people drug free and hampers the struggle of those recovering from addiction.

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From all the evidence I’ve seen (including reading the extensively researched and documented “Going to Pot” by William J. Bennett & Robert A. White), the only pro-legalization argument with any validity is the point Sen. Paul brought up about medical applications. But – thus far – proven benefits have been very, very limited. And there are actually some possible alternatives already legally available: Marinol (synthetic marijuana) and Sativex (spray version of cannabis extract).
 
If there were a reliable way to regulate and control legitimate medical marijuana use (pain relief for terminally-ill patients for instance) we could probably make an exception on a very limited basis. But broad-based legalization? Just because people want to get buzzed? Seriously ill-advised.
 

Senator Rand Paul may be tempted by his libertarian leanings, but I would hope Doctor Rand Paul would know better.
 
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Related:
7 Reasons Why Smoking Marijuana May Be Hazardous to Your Health
Democrat Governor: Legalizing Pot Was ‘Reckless.’ A New Study Proves Him Right
The Teenage Pot Trap

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