Cannabis Prohibition Is A Leading Cause Of Premature Death

Cannabis is one of the very few drugs that does not cause death. But can use of cannabis also prevent premature death? A study out of Indiana, Cannabis use is associated with a substantial reduction in premature deaths in the United States, shows just that!

In fact, cannabis prohibition turns out to be a leading cause of death in the USA.

The study’s author, Thomas M. Clark is Professor and Chair of Department of Biology at Indiana University South Bend, His meta-analysis found:

Cannabis use is associated with decreased rates of

obesity,

diabetes mellitus,

mortality from traumatic brain injury,

use of alcohol and prescription drugs,

driving fatalities, and

opioid overdose deaths.

Obesity threatens human well-being across the planet. Especially in the USA, but also now world wide, this plague of pounds drives degenerative diseases and health care costs. Obesity is a chronic low-grade inflammation, inflicting insidious damage daily. Fat cells displace organs and produce cellular toxins. Obesity kills at least one out of eight Americans.

Diabetes is the key metabolic disease killing Americans. Dr. Clark writes:

Evidence strongly supports reduced obesity and diabetes mellitus in people who use Cannabis. The most common finding of studies to date have shown lower BMI, waist circumference, or rates of obesity in Cannabis users.

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is an all-too-frequent cause of premature death, but a condition responsive to medical marijuana. Clark notes:

Cannabinoids have well known neuroprotective effects, reducing damage from excitotoxicity, Ca++  influx, free radical formation, and neuroinflammation following traumatic brain injury (TBI), ischemia, and neurotoxins.

Dr. Clark reports lowered rates of premature death for alcohol and opioid addiction and death in cannabis users, reduced rates of dangerous deaths, and lives saved from cancer.

Clark concludes,

Conclusions: Cannabis use prevents thousands of premature deaths each year, and Cannabis prohibition is revealed as a major cause of premature death in the U.S.

Premature death reduction is basic to harm reduction, the strategy smart governments are using to address drug problems. At the same time, the USA is now poised to renew its decade-long war on marijuana, a drug nearly harmless while hugely helpful at reducing premature death.

Prohibition of access to medical cannabis is a violation of human rights. Such prohibition is a moral evil, not only because it subjects people from arbitrary abuse from the state, but also because it denies them a crucially effective medication, leading to premature death.

Cannabis as the “exit gateway” drug.

Exit © ufotopixl10 - Fotolia.com

Exit © ufotopixl10 – Fotolia.com

Cannabis prohibitionist bureaucrats have always argued that marijuana is a gateway drug leading to abuse of hard drugs. This fiction should have been put to rest with the 1999 Institute of Medicine report, Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base. Now, with nearly 15 years more medical cannabis experience in the country, it turns out that cannabis may be an excellent exit gateway or reverse gateway drug, useful in helping people reduce and avoid use of dangerous drugs such as narcotics and alcohol.

Cannabis offers many advantages to people wishing to quit dangerous drugs. Foremost, cannabis is one of the safest drugs in existence, one of the very few that can not cause death. Aspirin can and does kill. Even drinking too much water can be fatal. There is no lethal dose of cannabis. As DEA administrative law judge Francis Young noted in 1988,

“In strict medical terms marijuana is far safer than many foods we commonly consume. For example, eating 10 raw potatoes can result in a toxic response. By comparison, it is physically impossible to eat enough marijuana to induce death. Marijuana in its natural form is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man. By any measure of rational analysis marijuana can be safely used within the supervised routine of medical care.” This is perhaps the last time any truth has come out of the DEA regarding cannabis. Judge Young also declared that to not reschedule cannabis down from Schedule I would be, “cruel, arbitrary and capricious,” the exact behavior of the DEA in the ensuing 25 years.

As a candidate for a safer substitute drug, cannabis excels also in the area of lack harms against others. Cannabis reduces violence, especially in contrast to alcohol.  The main area where cannabis use causes hardship to family and community is when the cannabis consumer run afoul of the war on drugs and is arrested and perhaps imprisoned. These harms are from the persecution of the drug consumer by the forces of prohibition, not from the mild effects of cannabis itself.  Cannabis has little additive potential with few withdrawal symptoms when unavailable. Unlike some addictive drugs, lack of cannabis does not cause compelling need.

The third reason cannabis serves well as a substitute for dangerous drugs is the positive effects of the mild euphoria cannabis use can provide. The “high” associated with cannabis is uplifting, not debilitating.  If a person is using drugs to escape a negative mental or emotional state, the feelings of well-being produced by cannabis use are therapeutically useful and appropriate.  As a matter of fact, the introduction of pharmaceutical drugs which had the opposite effect of the cannabis high (cannabinoid antagonists such as rimonabant) were blocked in 2006 by the negative and suicidal reactions to the psychological “low” the drug produced. Indeed, it may well be that many people predisposed to using dangerous drugs are cannabinoid deficient, either with minimal levels of natural cannabinoids such as anandamide, or suffering from insufficient cannabinoid receptors. In such cases, cannabis use would serve a homeostatic role, restoring this imbalance.

Another reason cannabis is being used as a substitute for dangerous drugs is its ability to relieve pain. Pain relief is the main reason for most doctor’s visits. The opioids most available as pharmaceuticals come with a host of adverse effects including, “respiratory depression, sedation, sleep disturbance, cognitive and psychomotor impairment, delirium, hallucinations, seizures, hyperalgesia, constipation, nausea, and vomiting.”  Opioid drugs can kill by stopping breathing; cannabis can not.  For some types of pain, especially neuropathic pain, caused by damage to nerves from conditions such as diabetes, the opioid drugs provide little pain relief. Cannabis is very effective in reducing neuropathic pain. It also makes for an excellent adjunct pain therapy for use in conjunction with other pain drugs, allowing these dangerous substances to be used in lesser amounts.

The American federal government blocks nearly all research into the medicinal use of cannabis, but with more US states asserting medical exemptions, we can increasingly expect more Americans to substitute safer cannabis for dangerous drugs.

 

Publicizing rational ranking of drug harms to show relative safety of cannabis.

Patriots interested in ending the tyranny that is the war on drugs have been given a powerful new tool.  From Britain comes a novel ranking of the dangers of various drugs to their consumers and harms to families and society. In a finding that tears at the foundation of drug prohibition, ranked the legal drug alcohol the most dangerous of all drugs, legal or illegal. The Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs, headed by the esteemed Professor David Nutt found highly illegal marijuana, by contrast, was to be far safer.

Many were shocked that alcohol was declared the most dangerous drug. But others were less surprised, as alcohol is by far the most abused drug, causes the most addiction and promotes behaviors damaging to family and society. It also directly causes disease and death, especially through liver disease. Heroin came in as the second most harmful drug, mainly from it highly addictive nature, although it is not any where near a cause of violence as alcohol. Crack, the most volatile form of cocaine, was ranked as the next most destructive drug. Far down the harm list came marijuana and even lower other psychoactive drugs such as ecstasy and LSD.

The ranking looked at 9 categories of drug harm. Harm-to-self categories are:

  • Drug-specific mortality
  • Drug-related mortality
  • Drug-specific damage
  • Drug-related damage
  • Dependence
  • Drug-specific impairment of mental function
  • Drug-related impairment of mental functioning
  • Loss of tangibles
  • Loss of relationships
  • Injury

Harms-to-others categories include:

  • Crime
  • Environmental damage
  • Family conflict
  • International damage
  • Economic cost
  • Decline in community cohesion.

Numeric rankings were assigned to the Overall Harm Score, the higher the score, the more harmful the drug.

  • Alcohol – 72 – This is a huge number far out pacing the rest.
  • Heroin – 55
  • Crack –   54
  • Crystal meth – 33
  • Cocaine – 27
  • Tobacco – 26  – This number seems low considering the 5 million yearly world-wide cigarette deaths.  1,200 Americans die from cigarettes every day. Tobacco is also the most highly addictive drug and 3,000 American teenagers become addicted to cigarettes each day.
  • Amphetamine/speed – 23
  • Cannabis – 20 – This seems a little high, considering that zero medical deaths are associated with marijuana, and use of cannabis tends to reduce violence.
  • Benzodiazepines – Valium -15
  • Ecstacy – 9
  • Anabolic steroids – 9
  • LSD – 7 – Powerful potential as a psychiatric drug
  • Mushrooms – 5 – Yet psilocybin mushrooms, which grow from cattle dung and may be spiritually beneficial, are persecuted as Schedule I by the DEA

Headlines blared the new rankings:

This is not news, of course. Over a decade ago a similar ranking looking a addictive potential, impairment, danger to health and other indicators had cannabis competing with coffee as the least dangerous drug. The fresh rankings are news, though, in that they diverge from much of the public’s distorted view of drug dangers, fed by decades of federal drug war propaganda. And the new rankings of drug dangers are in nearly a directly opposite ranking of the legality of the drugs in the US federal government. The most dangerous drug, alcohol, is legal (as is the most addictive and lethal drug, cigarettes) while the far safer cannabis is legally ranked as Schedule I. This labels it as among the most dangerous drugs, without medical value, deserving of the harshest prosecution in criminal codes.

Ecstasy, MMDA, LSD and even psilocybin mushrooms are also legally scheduled as terribly dangerous, and of no medical use.  It turns out they inflict little harm and many may well have great value, especially in treating war caused disorders such as PTSD. If only the psychiatrists could use them, but they cannot, because congress and the DEA, in their self-serving wisdom, have declared them Schedule I. Politicians and bureaucrats have set the drug’s schedules, science be damned, and harms not considered. Knee jerk scheduling remains decades later, after legally scourging millions of American lives.

This new, rational ranking of drug harms can be used effectively for those arguing to end the damage of drug wars. This has already been done, e.g. in letter to the Pot Shots at the Criminalization of a Soft Drug. The writer, Alan Shanoff, state, “The Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs in England recently rated marijuana with a harm score of 20 compared with alcohol at 72.” This numerical rating can be a real eye-opener and winning argument for reducing the only real harms from cannabis, those that come from its prohibition.

Dispensary closures are bureaucratic anti-business blunders.

Medical Marijuana Dispensary

Medical Marijuana Dispensary

Los Angeles recently ordered closed all but 70 medical cannabis clinics. Upwards of 1,000 medical cannabis dispensaries had filled storefronts and opened in malls across the county, a flurry of business activity in these times of recession.

Although these clinics did not in any way contribute to crime and provided legal access to their medicine by state legal medical consumers, dispensaries ran afoul of the special interests of police, prosecutors and prisons. A cadre of tax-paid parasites has apparently succeeded in most of goal of getting dispensaries closed, and resuming the arrest-prosecute-imprison regimen that has so boosted their careers and pensions.

California is in recession and is totally broke, in desperate need of every job and tax dollar. And yet in this environment, tax-paid bureaucrats like city attorneys are making policy that severely restricts closes down storefronts, puts working people into unemployment lines and ends a lucrative sales tax revenue stream. Go figure.

Most dispensaries will close; the 70 or so remaining will be relegated to “industrial areas” and must be farm from schools and churches. While this may serve as an economic stimulus to the industrial areas, such restrictions present difficulties to medical users in getting their medicine. Such harassing zoning also creates additional car trips and increases carbon footprint. Does LA really need more cars on its roads? Why should medical cannabis consumers have to drive to a remote area instead of picking up their medicine by walking to the corner dispensary operated by their neighbor?

Whether LA needed nearly 1,000 dispensaries is unclear. As in normal competition, the number would probably sort itself out through the law of supply and demand, consumer choice and the management of the dispensaries. What is clear is the the proliferation of dispensaries hurt or injured no one and caused no increase in crime. Indeed, the crime rate in LA Country was at historic lows as the clinics grew. The only cost or injury was the giant crack in the wall of marijuana prohibition the clinics represent. The stakeholders in the present system of arrest-prosecute-imprison include police, prosecutors, prison guards, narcotics officers, and urine testers. Other winners in this harm-maximization prohibitionist policy include dug dealers, street gangs, Mexican cartels and various other criminals.

The clinic closures come just months after bureaucrats profiting from marijuana prohibition planned their demise. The group sponsoring the action to subvert the will of California voters was the California Narcotics Officer’s Association. Obviously the drug war has been very good for narcotics officers as law enforcement has become mainly drug enforcement. Consider the career of New York City narcotics officer Bernard Kerik. He rode from obscurity on his narcotic’s cop cred to appointment by Rudolph Giuliani as New York’s top cop.  He came just a few lies away from being appointed George W. Bush’s Chief of Homeland Security. That was shortly before being indicted and then convicted as a felon by the feds, and now serving 4 years in federal prison. The California Narcotics Officers seek to continue the hard line on marijuana prohibition that so expanded their own careers and pensions.

  • A good example of the benefit of harsh marijuana laws to law enforcement is CAMP, the Campaign Against Marijuana Planting. Astonishingly, CAMP’s own website brags: “With more than 110 agencies having participated, CAMP is the largest law enforcement task force in the United States.” It would seem that the largest law enforcement task force in the United States would have something better to do than persecute a harmless, medicinal plant. Perhaps this 110 agency task force should be investigating crimes of violence and crimes with victims rather than wasting their time and our money with military SWAT raids on hapless farmers. Any plants destroyed in this vast operation only serve as price stabilization for the cannabis crops they miss. As with all marijuana law enforcement, it is a waste of resources causing huge collateral damage without benefit to society, except to the job security of the enforcers.
  • The California prison guards union is one of the main groups sponsoring the continuation of repressive and draconian laws against cannabis. Union membership and benefits have grown explosively during the decades of the drug war. In 1980 the state imprisoned just 22,500 people and a prison guard’s salary was $14,400. Today the state imprisons 170,000 Californians, guarded by some of the best paid public employees in the state. Eligible to early retirements (at 75% of salary), the guards enjoy lush benefits and a bloated overtime system that pays many over $100,000 tax dollars per year. The union is one of the most powerful political groups in the state and effectively fights tooth and nail against any drug law reform that might result in fewer prisoners.

The California Narcotic’s Officers event was entitled “The Eradication of Medical Marijuana Dispensaries in the City of Los Angeles and Los Angeles County.” As reported by Americans for Safe Access, both LA city attorney and Los Angeles District Attorney were in attendance at the event and soon afterward both began claiming dispensaries were illegal and working for their closure. Regrettably, they have succeeded in closing most of the dispensaries.

If city bureaucrats and the DA really wanted to improve the health of their city and its citizens by imposing business restrictions, they would clamp down on the sale of alcohol and cigarettes. Cannabis is far SAFER; unlike alcohol, it cannot cause death and does not cause violence or domestic abuse.

Most of the dwindling number of Americans who support more drug war are, paradoxically, supporters of private enterprise and supposedly abhor big government. Hopefully they will come to see that the drug war is a perversion of market-oriented free enterprise, a war against the law of supply and demand, destined to fail. The war on drugs is itself a bloated and parasitic expansion of big government run amuck. The specter of city attorneys and district attorneys interfering with the personal health care decisions of Los Angelenos is almost Stalinistic.

Marijuana is SAFER – Important new book.

Drug policy reformers and others interested in personal freedom are encouraged to order today from Amazon.com a copy of the important new book, Marijuana is SAFER: So why are we driving people to drink? I just ordered 2 more copies for local libraries.

The SAFER concept is incredibly powerful for drug policy reform, showing how marijuana is far safer for personal health and public safety than the national drug of alcohol. The low lethal dose of alcohol, which results in many binge drinking deaths, is contrasted with lack of any lethal dose of cannabis. The horrific violence toll of alcohol is painted in contrast to the lack of violence by those choosing marijuana.

These and many other differences that make cannabis a far safer recreational choice provide the basis for an aggressive, pro-active approach to cannabis law reform. The authors, Steve Fox, Paul Armentano and Mason Tvert summarize on page 127:

  • in sum, the fact that alcohol causes so many problems in our society is not a reason to keep pot illegal; rather, it is the reason we must make it legal. Unless our opponents are going to argue for a return to alcohol prohibition, they will be forced to explain why they wish to compel adults to use the more harmful recreational intoxicant.

Today, August 20, a “book bomb” is underway to raise the sales ranking at Amazon. Order a copy for yourself and one for your local library today!

Hundred Years’ War on Drugs

February 10, 1909 began like most days across the 46 states of the USA.  However, in one way that day a century ago would have terrible consequences in future decades. The day before Congress had voted its first drug law, and with it, the roots of the counterproductive, destructive and continuing Hundreds Years’ War on Drugs.

In our current age, when drug prohibition, enforcement and related imprisonment are among the main functions of the federal government, it is sobering to remember that up until 100 years ago there were no federal drug laws. No drugs were illegal, except in some anti-Chinese city laws. Most drugs were freely available to all 76 million Americans as medical tinctures, including opium, coca and cannabis. Along with no drug laws, there was no drug problem.  Now, after a long century of ever-tightening laws and prohibitions serving an ever-growing drug war bureaucracy, we have a monstrous drug war problem and a failed attempt to solve a non-problem.

The sad ebbing of American freedom and triumph of bureaucratic authoritarians since that first drug law passed is skillfully documented by author and California NORML Director Dale Gieringer writing in COUNTERPUNCH. Gieringer notes  the insidious worldwide drug war control of indigenous plants such as cannabis in UN Treaties, while entirely ignoring nicotine cigarettes and alcohol as drugs. See Marking 100 Years of Failed Drug Prohibition: The Opium Exclusion Act of 1909.

Michael Phelps and Use of Cannabis

Any human being who can achieve the goal of competing in the Olympics is, in at least some ways and by definition, extraordinary. Beyond that, an athlete who can totally dominate his event and set world’s records for gold medals is all that much more remarkable. That is exactly what swimmer Michael Phelps did in capturing 8 gold medals in last summer’s Beijing Olympics 2008. Now this athletic hero is being castigated and attacked from some sides for using cannabis, after a photo of him surfaced toking on a pot-fueled bong.

Since there is not much wrong with Olympian Michael Phelps, maybe there is something wrong with the prohibitions he broke. Obviously, recreational use of cannabis is not incompatible with great, even epic achievement. Michael Phelps is a poster-boy for ambitious, high-achieving cannabis users. The federal propaganda claiming marijuana causes an “amotivational syndrome” are belied, quite tangibly, by 8 shining gold medals.

More seriously, Phelps is reported to have used a far more dangerous drug at the same party. Unlike cannabis, beer is associated with violence and antisocial activity. Although cannabis does not have a lethal dose, the lethal dose of alcohol is just a few times that of recreational dose, and fatal alcohol overdoses are common. Strangely, the advertisers who would not raise an eyebrow at Michael Phelps’ use of alcohol may abandon him for a picture of him sampling a SAFER alternative, cannabis.