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.
of WASHline article:
Reconsider Marijuana Law
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.