Marijuana

From: Don W.
Sent on: Sunday, September 1, 2013 9:18 PM
The Editor of the Washington Area Secular Humanists' newsletter was kind enough to have my article on Marijuana as the lead article in the August issue. The text is included below. While I have advocated that others lobby their representatives on this issue, I have been delinquent in doing what I can to promote rationality on this issue. Given that I have done the research to know what is going on with this I really need to follow through and see how much of a difference we can make. This is not an issue where liberals are asking for money to be spent to promote social justice. This is an issue where we need to ask that government cease spending money to be insanely stupid.  Given that there is a huge majority supporting sanity on this issue, all that is really needed is to get government to be responsive to the democratic will.
 
Don
 
Text of WASHline article:
Let's Reconsider Marijuana Law
by Don Wharton
 
Washington DC is considering a law revision that would decriminalize having an ounce or less of marijuana. Given that Colorado and Washington states passed laws legalizing recreational marijuana use last year we now have proof that the public is willing to support changes in our approach to marijuana. A North Carolina group, Public Policy Polling, in a poll of DC residents this April determined that 63% somewhat supported or strongly supported the legalization these states accomplished in their respective referendums. The poll also asked DC residents about the more modest decriminalization advocated by the proposed law change. In this case DC residents reported 75% support and only 21% opposition.
 
In June the ACLU release a report titled The War on Marijuana in Black and White. The subtitle is Billions of Dollars Wasted on Racially Biased Arrests. It is a staggering indictment of DC policy. As you read this bear in mind that marijuana use rates are very similar across racial groups. Washington DC is spending at a higher rate to prosecute and incarcerate marijuana users than any American state. This “investment” has resulted in a record 846 people arrested per 100,000 population during 2010. The highest state rate was in New York with 535 per 100,000. It is also over three times the national rate of 256 per 100,000. Even worse, the arrest rates of 1,489 blacks and 185 whites (per 100,000) is a ratio greater than 8 to 1. This is higher than all other states with the exception of Iowa at 8.35. It is over double the 3.73 to 1 ratio for the nation as a whole. A huge 91% of marijuana arrests were of blacks. Thus Washington DC has the national record for arrest rate and spending on marijuana arrests and prosecution with almost a national record high rate for differentially targeting African-Americans. In 2011 DC graduated 2,868 people from high school and arrested 5,759 for marijuana possession. The high unemployment rate among blacks in DC is a problem. The extremely high rates at which DC gives “criminal records” to DC blacks for a “crime” largely ignored among whites explains a big part of how and why we have this problem. The legal structure of this system was laid down by Congressional Dixiecrats with a deep racial bias in a period from 1940 to 1973.
 
People should understand the medical implications for cannabis users (cannabis is the genus name for marijuana). A complex system of cannabinoid receptors are specifically designed to process cannabinoids such as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), one of the primary active components of marijuana. There are many functions for these receptors and the importance of them can be seen in the fact that many of the cannabinoids in marijuana are found in mother's milk. The well known tendency of THC to enhance enjoyment of sensation includes delight in taste, colloquially called “having the munchies.” The endocannabinoids of mother's milk specifically activate cannabinoid receptors to reinforce the critically important sucking response in infants. For people who are addicted to other drugs (such as heroin, cocaine, tobacco or alcohol) marijuana can ease the symptoms and provide an alternative which, for most people, will cause less harm to the body and mind. Cannabis has many categories of potential harm, some of them very significant. However, even with these negative effects it is one of the most benign recreational drugs in common usage. It has on average less negative effects than any other recreational or illicit drug with the possible exception of ecstasy. This can be seen by comparing marijuana with commonly used drugs on addictiveness, lethal dosage, deaths caused and association with crime.
 
Some people can say with justification that Internet use can be an addiction. Anything that is pleasurable can be addictive and create other problems in life. The most commonly cited number that I could find on Federal government web sites is that 9% will become addicted. These same agencies report much higher rates of addiction for alcohol, nicotine, cocaine or heroin. About half of addicted marijuana users will report some explicit withdrawal symptoms. The rest will be addicted because of the pleasurable experience. Based on the relative ease of dealing with withdrawal symptoms a number of researchers have rated caffeine as more addictive than marijuana. For other researchers the greater pleasure and intoxication effect from marijuana indicates to them it is more addictive than caffeine. This illustrates the subjective nature of addiction assessment.
 
In toxicology the lethal dose of a compound is usually designated with the term LD50 (lethal for 50% of organisms dosed). The level of THC that would be fatal to half of dosed people is literally 40,000 times greater than the amount required to saturate all cannabinoid receptors and cause maximum intoxication. For comparison, nicotine absorbed from 60 average cigarettes will be at the LD50 level for the majority of 60kg people. (60kg=132 pounds) A similar amount of cocaine will be fatal. Caffeine from 80 to 100 cups of coffee is understood to be lethal at the LD50 level. A small number of deaths from caffeine have been seen with the growing popularity of energy drinks. The LD50 level for alcohol is considered to be between 0.4% and 0.5% in the blood. There are fatalities recorded with blood alcohol levels less than this range. Eight ounces of pure alcohol absorbed in less than an hour will produce this level in most people weighing 160 pounds or less. Fifteen to 21 average drinks can easily provide this depending on what is being consumed. Heroin is not directly toxic. However, as with all opioids it is a potent respiratory depressant and deaths can occur from a dose of 75mg to 400 mg in an opiate naive user. The CDC reported the opioids Oxycontin and Vicodin were responsible for three fourths of the 38,329 drug overdose deaths reported in 2010 in U.S. Heroin deaths are about 3,500 per year. The CDC estimates 80,000 deaths from alcohol each year and about 1.2 million hospital admissions. The CDC estimates that 443,000 people die prematurely from smoking tobacco or exposure to secondhand smoke, and another 8.6 million live with a serious illness caused by smoking. Marijuana has none of these risks.
 
People typically do not get violent on marijuana as they do with alcohol. Three out of four reported cases of spousal abuse are associated with alcohol. One third of convicts in local jails self report that they had used alcohol at the time of offense and 37.7% of violent criminals say they had used alcohol. PCP and methamphetamine are other drugs known to engender violence. Roughly 12% of males arrested in DC tested positive for PCP in 2012. Methamphetamine is one of the most addictive drugs known.
 
There is ample documentation of the low to non-existent risks with cannabis on every relevant measure. Perhaps the most important issue with marijuana is the systemic use of prosecution to target African-Americans. There is no valid white interest in maintaining a black underclass. Society as a whole will be much more pleasant for everyone if there were greater equality and economic inclusion. The current marijuana policy is the single most significant engine creating our black underclass. Let's use these facts to reconsider our marijuana laws.

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