Saturday, July 25, 2009

A Rather Convenient Truth

Imagine if a plant existed that could single-handedly reduce our carbon footprint on the Earth. Imagine if it could be made into paper and fabrics with fibers more absorbent, longer and stronger than cotton and be pulped using fewer chemicals than with wood. What if it could produce three to eight tons of fiber per acre, four times what an average forest can yield? What if its oil was a major health food, the richest source of polyunsaturated essential fatty acids? Best of all, what if it was the only biomass resource capable of making America energy dependent with its fuel capabilities?

You’d probably think it was some kind of miracle plant, right?

Well, it does exist. This miracle plant is called hemp. Since 1937, hemp has been illegal in the United States because of its low THC content. Industrial hemp has a THC content of between .05% and 1%. Marijuana’s THC content is between 3% and 20%. If a person attempted to ingest enough hemp to get high, it would be like taking several doses of a high fiber laxative.

Clearly, the government thinks Americans would be pretty desperate to get a buzz from hemp. They’re so fixated on preventing us from being stoned (and apparently quite regular) they refuse to look at the facts and admit that hemp would be an extremely useful crop, especially in present times. They also feel that Americans shouldn’t be allowed to smoke marijuana for medical or recreational purposes.

It’s nice to know our government is so concerned with our health. Or are they?

Turns out, numerous studies of marijuana show that the plant may not be as harmful as once thought. Modern research suggests cannabis is a valuable aid in pain relief. Marijuana provides pain relief, relief from insomnia, glaucoma, dementia, anxiety, and is a powerful appetite stimulant for those who have lost their appetites due to disease. Even newer research suggests that marijuana’s medicinal properties may even protect the body against some types of malignant tumors.

So, why is it illegal? How did these plants that can do so many wonderful things become criminal in our country? Why is pot considered a class B drug, punishable by hefty fines and five years in prison?

Throughout recorded history, marijuana was used safely and legally. It was legal in the United States in the 1800s and early 1900s. There was even a “must grow” law ordering farmers to grow hemp, which was used to make clothing, rope, etc. In 1850, there were about 8,327 hemp plantations growing cannabis hemp for cloth.

In the early 1900s, tension rose when Mexicans began migrating to America in increased numbers. Small farmers resented the large farms that used cheap Mexican labor. Many Mexicans smoked marijuana they brought from Mexico. People soon deduced that Mexicans were crazy and that marijuana was what made them that way. I am not creative enough to make this up. Google it. Go to the library. Seriously.

Here’s a quote from a Texas senator from 1927: “All Mexicans are crazy, and this stuff [marijuana] is what makes them crazy.” What a logical assumption! Note the sarcasm. States quickly began banning marijuana use and distribution.

It gets better. While the Mexicans were “acting crazy” on the West Coast, the East Coast had a different problem: African Americans, or specifically, black jazz musicians. Marijuana became an indispensible part of the music scene, even inspiring some catchy jazz tunes (like “That Funny Reefer Man” by Cab Calloway).

Again, enter the racism factor. Here’s a quote from a 1934 newspaper article: “Marihuana influences Negroes to look at white people in the eye, step on white men’s shadows and look at a white woman twice.”

Here’s a quote from racist Harry J. Anslinger, the first Drug Czar: "There are 100,000 total marijuana smokers in the US, and most are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos, and entertainers. Their Satanic music, jazz, and swing, result from marijuana use. This marijuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers, and any others."

"...the primary reason to outlaw marijuana is its effect on the degenerate races."

Hear that, Obama? Degenerate races. How does that make you feel?

Check out this clip from the infamous 1936 film Reefer Madness, a “scare tactic” film funded by a church group and intended to be shown to parents as a warning against the “evils” of “marihuana:”

The only thing more ridiculous than that fuckery is that Congress actually fell for it without bothering to research it. In 1937, the Marijuana Tax Act was passed, criminalizing the drug and restricting it to individuals who paid a hefty tax for certain medicinal and industrial uses.

In 1944, the New York Academy of Medicine issued an extensively detailed report declaring that, contrary to popular belief, marijuana did not induce violence, insanity or sex crimes, nor did it lead to other drug use. Congress did nothing. In fact, in the 1950s, stricter laws were passed and marijuana possession was punished more severely.

Marijuana really got dragged through the mud during the 1980s, when Nancy Reagan rode in on her high horse and started a new round of propaganda. In 1986, President Reagan signed the Anti- Drug Abuse Act which, among other things, raised penalties for marijuana use. In fact, under this act, possession of 100 marijuana plants received the same penalty as 100 grams of heroin. Heroin.

Finally, in 1996, medical use of marijuana was legalized in California for patients with AIDS, cancer and other serious diseases. Several other states have since followed suit, including Washington, Oregon and Colorado. Still, these laws clash with federal laws, and patients live in fear of arrest and punishment for simply using their medicine.

With all the truth and lies out there, learning marijuana facts can be confusing. Facts have been twisted to fit either argument on whether or not marijuana is safe. When researching this piece, which took me several weeks, I did notice one thing: the anti-marijuana websites online simply state sobering, terrifying “facts” about cannabis use. Sites which encourage the legalization of marijuana or unbiased sites always seems to have studies, links and sources to back up their claims. It appears that, once again, scientific facts and our wonderful government have clashed.

Here are some marijuana myths and facts (the ones actually backed up with studies):

Myth: Marijuana causes permanent mental illness.
Fact: There is no convincing scientific evidence that marijuana causes psychological damage or mental illness in either teenagers or adults. Some marijuana users experience psychological distress following marijuana ingestion, which may include feelings of panic, anxiety, and paranoia. Such experiences can be frightening, but the effects are temporary. With very large doses, marijuana can cause temporary toxic psychosis. This occurs rarely, and almost always when marijuana is eaten rather than smoked. Marijuana does not cause profound changes in people's behavior.

Myth: Marijuana is more damaging to the lungs than tobacco.
Fact: Moderate smoking of marijuana appears to pose minimal danger to the lungs. Like tobacco smoke, marijuana smoke contains a number of irritants and carcinogens. But marijuana users typically smoke much less often than tobacco smokers, and over time, inhale much less smoke. As a result, the risk of serious lung damage should be lower in marijuana smokers. In a large study presented to the American Thoracic Society in 2006, even heavy users of smoked marijuana were found not to have any increased risk of lung cancer. Unlike heavy tobacco smokers, heavy marijuana smokers exhibit no obstruction of the lung's small airway. That indicates that people will not develop emphysema from smoking marijuana.
People who currently smoke marijuana for medicinal purposes are encouraged to use a vaporizer, which is the safest way to inhale it.

Myth: Marijuana is a gateway drug.
Fact: Marijuana does not cause people to use hard drugs. Marijuana is the most popular illegal drug in the United States today. Therefore, people who have used less popular drugs such as heroin, cocaine, and LSD, are likely to have also used marijuana. Most marijuana users never use any other illegal drug.

Myth: Marijuana’s harms have been proven scientifically.
Fact: In 1972, after reviewing the scientific evidence, the National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse concluded that while marijuana was not entirely safe, its dangers had been grossly overstated. Since then, researchers have conducted thousands of studies of humans, animals, and cell cultures. None reveal any findings dramatically different from those described by the National Commission in 1972. In 1995, based on thirty years of scientific research editors of the British medical journal Lancet concluded that "the smoking of cannabis, even long term, is not harmful to health."

Of course smoking marijuana isn’t entirely harmless. What is harmless these days? However, here is a short list of things more harmful to the human body and mind than cannabis, all of which are legal:
1. Alcohol
2. Nicotine
3. Tobacco
4. Prescription painkillers like Vicodin
5. Pesticides found on nonorganic produce
6. Food additives and fake sugar like aspertame
7. Ann Coulter… OK, this hasn’t been proven, but she’s definitely harmful to MY health!

Myth: Marijuana Policy in the Netherlands is a Failure.
Fact: For more than twenty years, Dutch citizens over age eighteen have been allowed to buy and use cannabis in government-regulated coffee shops. This policy has not resulted in dramatically escalating cannabis use. For most age groups, rates of marijuana use in the Netherlands are similar to those in the United States. However, for young adolescents, rates of marijuana use are lower in the Netherlands than in the United States. The Dutch people overwhelmingly approve of current cannabis policy which seeks to normalize rather than dramatize cannabis use. The Dutch government occasionally revises existing policy, but it remains committed to decriminalization.

Myth: Marijuana Kills Brain Cells. Used over time, marijuana permanently alters brain structure and function, causing memory loss, cognitive impairment, personality deterioration, and reduced productivity.
Fact: None of the medical tests currently used to detect brain damage in humans have found harm from marijuana, even from long term high-dose use. An early study reported brain damage in rhesus monkeys after six months exposure to high concentrations of marijuana smoke. In a recent, more carefully conducted study, researchers found no evidence of brain abnormality in monkeys that were forced to inhale the equivalent of four to five marijuana cigarettes every day for a year. The claim that marijuana kills brain cells is based on a speculative report dating back a quarter of a century that has never been supported by any scientific study.

I am not trying to glorify marijuana use. While I firmly believe it is far less dangerous than alcohol or cigarettes, nothing is harmless. It does cause short-term memory loss, increases your heart rate, and can make you eat things that will make you fat. Heavy use can cause anxiety and paranoia. And, of course, it’s not for kids. However, I strongly feel that problem is easy to solve- if you’re worried about it, buy a test and make your kids take it. THC shows up in the urine for up to 30 days.

That being said- why in God’s name aren’t more Americans upset about this? In the 1930s, a large group of racist Americans, bitter over the Depression, immigration and the fact that black people made better music than them decided this plant was to blame for their troubles. Study after study has been done proving that, while not harmless, marijuana is safer than chemicals that are already legal. I’ve only scratched the surface on the medicinal benefits. For some terminally ill patients, marijuana is the only thing that helps their pain.

I’ll go on the record as saying that I’d rather hang out with a stoned person than a drunk person. I’ve had plenty of people act irrationally and violent around me when they’re drunk. The worst thing I’ve ever seen a stoned person do is fall asleep on a couch.

A personal annoyance of mine is when some idiot, holding a beer with a cigarette dangling out of his mouth, goes on a tirade about the evils of drugs and how bad they are for you. Meanwhile, his liver, heart, lungs, mouth, brain and throat are being drowned in dangerous chemicals. Sadly, this is an all too common occurrence.

Recently, senators in the state of California considered decriminalizing marijuana for both medicinal and personal use and taxing it. California, which is nearly bankrupt, would be out of their financial mess in a few years. Yet, much like the passing of Proposition 8, they have decided to let the voices of a few ignorant souls decide things for them. They listen to what they want to hear, not what would be better for them as a state or society in general.

The facts are on the table. The scientific studies have been done and are continuing. Yet, society in general is still afraid of this little plant and all its wonders. My question is, why? We have a God-given plant available to us that can single-handedly help get us out of the mess we are in. If you believe the propaganda, you’re feeding into racism, ignorance, and twisting of facts.

How does that make you feel?

“The Emperor Wears No Clothes: The Authoritative Historical Record of Cannabis and the Conspiracy Against Marijuana” by Jack Herer


Sarah Elizabeth said...

I didn't know all that! That sounds like an amazing plant for all that it does.

I'm not surprised our government managed to screw up another potentially beneficial addition to our country. Then again, look at the USDA and how they operate.

You know what I'm talking about.

Anonymous said...

Well-researched. Great piece.

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