Information is Optional

June 26th, 2019 Posted by Susan's Musings 43 comments

The air in Brooklyn, New York, is rarely fresh and invigorating. Between the exhaust from vehicles and often-muggy weather, it is frequently malodorous. Nevertheless, when my friend Sharon and I stepped onto the local college campus, a slightly sweet and sickening odor that we had never previously met assaulted us.

We were high school seniors taking part in a program allowing us to attend classes at a local college. We quickly discovered that the smell of marijuana was as ubiquitous as blue jeans. We just as quickly discovered that we had been leading a blessedly sheltered life at our Jewish school.

Fast forward a few decades and the legalization of marijuana is spreading across the country. Many of the Democrats vying to be president include federal legalization as part of their platform. They cite data showing that states that have legalized marijuana have seen a reduced rate of deaths from opioid addiction.

That information intrigued me. A few minutes research revealed that states with legal medical marijuana did, indeed, see a substantial reduction in opioid use. Isn’t the next reasonable step making it legal on a federal level?

This is a great example of a broken political system catering to an ill-informed electorate. Over the past few years states have leap-frogged over the issue of medical marijuana to legalize the substance entirely, for any use at all. The negative consequences of legalizing medical marijuana that were noted in the same studies cited above were simply ignored. Extrapolating from medical marijuana to general legalization is treated as a minor, irrelevant detail.

How many articles have you read recently about the percentage of the population who develop psychosis from smoking marijuana, making them a threat to themselves and others? How many articles have you read about overwhelmed hospital emergency rooms dealing with repeat visits from people having bad reactions to marijuana use? How about studies exploring the damage to developing teenage brains or the increased potency of what’s available?

On so many issues, politicians present only the information that supports their own inclinations. The press has overwhelmingly opted out of the business of honest reporting. Voters only hear one side of a story. Nuance, honesty and reality are increasingly absent.

There are rational arguments for making marijuana legal on a federal level. At the same time, there are rational reasons for not doing so. Pretending that state legalization has been an unqualified success is foolish and foolhardy.

On the list of problems facing Americans, marijuana legalization is in the junior league. If we can’t have fact-based discussion and debate on an issue like this, if decent, well-intentioned people can’t admit that there are two sides that must be balanced, then we shouldn’t be surprised to find ourselves completely incapable of doing anything other than screaming at each other when it comes to more difficult and contentious topics. It should give us all pause that while marijuana is still widely found on college campuses, too often intellectual openness, debate, thinking skills and factual inquiry are not.

 

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43 comments

Joseph H Douglas says:

I enjoy your Musings and rarely do I take the time to comment. However, this one stimulates me to do so.
I’m a grown man (58) with a wife of 31 years, a grown (well 23 year old) daughter and a practicing Christian. That said, I find utter hypocrisy with the damning of weed while ignoring the malignant symptoms of alcohol. How many have suffered and died as a result of drunk driving versus stoned? None. More automotive injury occurs due to texting and driving.
I met a man from Amsterdam and we spoke of marijuana use there and the recent legalization here. His comment was that it was popular at first but then died down over time. The same will happen here.

Susan Lapin says:

Joseph, I’m glad you generally enjoy the Musings and glad you are chiming in. I don’t see the sense of an argument that says, “A” causes problems so let’s do “B” also. Our society got much more serious about drunk driving a few decades ago and rightly so. I hear the arguments for legalization of marijuana, but a decision can only be made when the negatives are also explored – and there are serious negatives. Personally, I find the alcohol argument to be a red herring.

Tom says:

There has been a tremendous increase in traffic accidents in states like Colorado where marijuana has been legalized.
No – you will not find this widely publicized

Susan Lapin says:

Tom, I do think that statistics that suggest problems are suppressed and even not collected.

Jean says:

Call me cynical, but the first time you’ll hear about the negative aspects of pot smoking (one of which is suppressed dopamine production, leading both to depression and early onset Parkinsons) is when companies like Phillip Morris begin manufacturing and distributing marijuana products (cigarettes, e-cig liquids, etc.) Suddenly, the same people who are pushing legalization will be demonizing Big Weed.

Susan Lapin says:

Jean, I, too, have seen the irony in condemning one type of smoking while applauding another.

Carl Schleg says:

Very Civilized article and well presented. Personally both my Neurosurgeon nor my Ditchdigger will not be stoned……

Susan Lapin says:

And how will you ensure that, Carl? I hope you need neither of those specialties and stay strong and healthy.

Ken says:

On the issue of increased potency and damage to teenage brains, legalization and the subsequent regulation may actually help address these problems, as the black market would shrink due to the more affordable legal market. Also, minors would not be permitted to purchase marijuana in the same way alcohol is regulated.

On the issue of psychosis, this likely occurs to only a small fraction of users. Correlation doesn’t equal causation. Many people start smoking marijuana as a result of psychological problems they had in the first place. Now let’s look at the benefits:

1) Drug cartels lose a main source of income

2) Less spending on the war on drugs

3) Proven to help treat anxiety, depression, loss of appetite for chemo patients, glaucoma and potentially Parkinson’s disease.

4) Would stimulate economy by creating a new, legal industry.

5) Decrease in the use of more serious drugs

6) No longer being schedule 1 would permit research in the U.S. of more potential benefits.

The list could go on. If you look at the big picture, the pros outweigh the cons on legalization.

Susan Lapin says:

All I’m asking, Ken, is for an honest listing of pros and cons. You have laid out a strong pro list.

Mark says:

Ken — I am also in favor of legalization because I am generally libertarian on such issues, although I quit smoking pot myself many years ago. That being said, a point you made in your first paragraph is not working out in California as you seem to expect. Cannabis is fully legal, but it is not bringing in as much in taxes as had been predicted, and the black market is not going away at all. In fact, it’s thriving. Why? Because the politicians were greedy. They piled on such high taxes for the legal weed that people are still buying a lot of black market pot because it’s significantly CHEAPER!

In a related development, although I don’t smoke pot, I like to smoke a pipe, i.e. tobacco. But the state and city have added such high taxes and restrictions and regulations on tobacco, even pipe tobacco, that I now buy it elsewhere. I used to help support a number of local tobacconists for many years. Now they don’t get one cent from me.

Susan Lapin says:

Ah, Mark. The bane of government, that things don’t work out quite as they are promised to work. Pesky people insist on not being directed.

Julie Taylor says:

I am new to you and your husband and do enjoy listening and have found many new very interesting facts about life and the Bible that I like and am trying to make part of my life. I am for legalization. Many years ago I would never have been for legalization and only came at it from the side of judgment. This year I will have been married for 25 years. My husband has used it off and on thru the years. When he does use it, it has a greatly positive affect on him. He is a more alert driver than without it. He works much harder with than without it. He treats me TREMENDOUSLY better with than without it. I have not seen any negative affects from it thus far in life besides the smell and the cost and the judgment that might come from others if they know about it. I do agree with the fact that when people contaminate the original product by adding their own substances or whatever they might do that that could be a dangerous thing. I have never been one to trust in statistics very much because they can be so tampered with untruth. I haven’t read articles on how marijuana is linked to damage to teens brains but when teens don’t even eat real food how can this information be trusted. All this said in respect to your opinion. Just wanted to share because I previously did share your opinon but experience has caused a change in mine over time.

Susan Lapin says:

Julie, stories like yours are why I noted that there are good reasons for people to support legalization. My point is that we do have to look at all the data. The worries I mentioned of psychosis, brain damage and bad reactions leading to ER visits are all real. At the moment, I don’t think we can know in advance who will get benefit and who will be hurt. I am asking for honest discussion, something that is increasingly rare in our society.

Ty Steward says:

Good Morning Susan,
Always enjoy reading and learning from you and your husband. I’m a bit conflicted as marijuana, unless abused like alcohol is a victimless crime (a generalization of course, but as Dennis Prager pointed out, “Without generalizations we can have no wisdom”). Should we adults have the freedom to be stupid? I tend to error on the the side of freedom and individual responsibility. That goes too for having children out of wedlock too. I’m of the opinion they should get zero tax-payer money, which in my never-to-be-humble opinion would greatly reduce the attractiveness of single parent motherhood. If a woman was married and negative extenuating circumstances occurred that would be a different story. Come to think of it, I would also end medical intervention for those who overdose on drugs and instead use the money for those who didn’t choose to destroy their lives.

Susan Lapin says:

Ty, I know some Libertarians are in favor of legalizing marijuana based on “people should do what people want to do.” However, we are not living in a Libertarian society. Our tax dollars are paying when there is a bad outcome.

Mary says:

I feel I must share my personal experiences with marijuana. I was 17, attending a concert at a football stadium when I began smelling something in the air.
Asking my brother-in-law what it was, he replied, “It’s marijuana, they’re smoking it over there,” pointing to the next section.
My next experience happened about 5 months later when i was a guest at a couple’s home. There were about six people present. They brought out a joint and passed it around. I declined, but stayed in the room for about 30 minutes, before retiring to the room they had given me. I felt nauseous and my sleep was disturbing.
Later, I found out you don’t have to smoke it to be affected by it.
This is why law enforcement always stand upwind when burning marijuana they have confiscated. Or at least they did 30 years ago when I worked in that field.
I shudder to think of my public library allowing marijuana smoking outside the building in the future.
The public is not being given all the facts. You can be affected more by second-hand marijuana smoke than regular cigarette smoke

Susan Lapin says:

Thanks for the input, Mary. I have also heard of people putting marijuana in baked goods and not warning people about it because “It’s no big deal.” For some people, it can be a very big deal.

Scott Struckel says:

Our pastor brought up the paradoxical thinking of people when they seethe about the smoking of tobacco and make every attempt to stop its spread…but they praise the smoking of pot which has greater health issues as you have mentioned.

Susan Lapin says:

I actually don’t know if the perils of cigarettes, like lung cancer, are equivalent in marijuana, but I’m sure others do. So I don’t know if it’s greater health issues or just different ones, Scott. But, it does seem to make light of the crusade against smoking.

Glyn says:

I would, also, like to chime in. I am a 58 year old woman who smoked marijuana almost everyday in my Jr. and Sr. Year of high school. That was then, and I would never do it again. I saw myself and those who smoked it going no where fast-we looked and acted stupid, quite honestly. I do not mean to offend those who seem to support it on this forum, but I find I cannot and do not support the legalization even for medical purposes.

Susan Lapin says:

Glyn, I’m getting a lot of pleasure from reading everyone’s personal input. Thanks for sharing yours.

Peter Oster says:

Yes, there opioid deaths and they are played up by doctors and the media. Yes there are people in the psych ward for illicit drug use.
But let’s go to the other end of the emergency room and view the carnage of the “war on drugs” because it really is a real war. Death and mutilation by guns, rape of your enemies women, senseless deaths caused by “men” showing how “brave” and barbarous they can be.
Read the headlines, family of (add number from local headline) found dead from gunshot wounds. Suspected drug deal gone bad.
The quote “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”. ex. 18th Amendment

Susan Lapin says:

I take it you are for legalization of all drugs, Peter?

Joanie says:

The jury is still out on the research at the campus matter. There are side effects and other matters that may well influct for years to come.
Now, let’s consider the infants born. To mothers that use it. Ask a Colorado physician and any one may tell you they are overwhelmed by the infants who start life with a serious problem.
The highway accidents/fatalities increase overwhelming even the police.
Finally, why do we allow our politicians to have such influence in our lives to give our children more options to infect their brains?
Maybe it is time we turned off the media and tv and spent time giving our family some information that will heal and help them and throw the tv out in the garbage where it came from!
I thank you Susan. We need to get some real good change in our politicians, they all are like a den of snakes!

Susan Lapin says:

Joanie, babies born to mothers on drugs or who are alcoholics are a serious and sad problem.

David J says:

I have never used alcohol, tobacco, or any recreational drugs. I would be very upset if any of my children used any even once. That said, I have a libertarian attitude toward the issue (but not in the case of addictive drugs), though things like driving under the influence must not be allowed since it endangers innocents without their consent. What is the line over which liberty should be curtailed?

My main reservation about legalizing marijuana is that when something is legal, a good percentage of the population takes that to mean it is acceptable and moral. That is, many people view anything legal as being officially moral and acceptable. This will lead more people to use marijuana and use it in higher quantities than would if it stayed illegal, as they think, “It is legal, so it must be ok.” I believe there are many people that think this way. I think many pre-adults think this way also. Even though it likely will never be legal for pre-adults to use marijuana, I am sure many pre-adults think, “It is ok for adults, so it is ok for me”, and more will use MJ as many pre-adults use tobacco, alcohol, and recreational drugs. Plus, as has been already noted, MJ negatively affects the development of the brain.

After all is said, my preference is for MJ to remain illegal, but I won’t be terribly upset if it is made legal.

Susan Lapin says:

David, thanks for making an excellent point.

Carmine Pescatore says:

Let me use a term from my youth. “Null and void”. That describes drug users and alcoholics. Not people who function in society and pull their own weight. It is easy to self medicate a little too much and ruin your life and the lives of others. For medical uses, why can’t people use CBD oil or compounds instead of smoking marijuana which contains THC?

Susan Lapin says:

Carmine, from what I’ve read and even from what I’m seeing in comments, I think that only a (small?) percentage of marijuana users become what you call “null and void.” Those pro-legalization would argue that it is similar to alcohol in that it can be used responsibly.

Judi says:

Cannabis should not be smoked by people under the age of about 25. Their brains are still developing and cannabis can cause serious damage. However, people in their “golden years” can benefit tremendously by the use of cannabis.

There’s an excellent series called “The Sacred Plant” that was done by a husband and wife. They explored the use of cannabis for her father when he was dying of cancer. He survived because he was able to get CBD oil (with a small amount of THC – not like most of what’s being sold, with no THC whatsoever). In order for it to be truly effective, one has to have SOME THC in the CBD oil. The THC and the cannabinoids (CBD) work together.

The problem is that over the years, cannabis has been cultivated with more and more THC in it. It, obviously, gives a greater “high”, but people don’t need that amount of THC for health benefits.

I wish our country would emulate Israel. They’ve done a lot of studies on cannabis, and have even cultivated a variety of cannabis that’s being prescribed for all kinds of medical problems.

I never smoked it when I was growing up in the ’60s. I would smoke it today if I could get my hands on it, though (or use a CBD oil with THC in it), because I think it would benefit me (and be a lot “safer”) more than the hydrocodone I have to take every day to help take the edge off my pain. I’m never pain-free, though, when I take the hydrocodone. (Only a few times, when I was going through alternative treatment for my stage 4 DLBC lymphoma, and I was given mega amounts of Decadron, a corticosteroid, along with the Rituxin, have I been completely pain-free – for almost 24 hours – and it felt like a small piece of Heaven.)

I’m all for legalizing cannabis – but only for those who are 25 and older. And if the Feds were to get involved, they could force growers to grow only strains that are low in THC. Cannabis should never have been classified as a class 1 “drug” to begin with. I’m sure Big Pharma will fight its being legalized, because they’ll lose billions of dollars from loss of drug sales. People won’t need all those expensive prescription drugs.

Susan Lapin says:

Judi, I just read yesterday about the work being done in Israel. I don’t understand why we can’t separate medical uses from general use.

Judi says:

We could, Susan, but (again) look to Big Pharma for the reason why there’s such an “outcry” over legalizing cannabis. When you have billion-dollar companies with ties to the FDA (and USDA), who have a vested interest in keeping cannabis out of the public’s hands, it’ll take an act of Congress (literally) to change things.

Susan Lapin says:

I’m suspect that you are right, Judi, that money, power and ideology come before people when it comes to some pharmaceutical companies, politicians and government appointees.

Tony says:

Dear Susan,
All drug dealers should be executed. Ask any addicts parents?

Susan Lapin says:

This sounds like some personal pain, Tony. My sympathies if that is so.

Brian F. Tucker says:

Dear Susan,
My comment is in rebuttal to Joe.
Yes there have been acidents by drunk drivers and when caught they should be prosecuted under the law. I make no excuse for them. But. Perhaps has happened, but I personally have never heard of drunkard robbing someone at gun or knife point to get money for booze.
Respectfully submitted,
Brian

Karen Jones says:

Sore subject for me ….having watched several relatives over time who have smoked marijuana for decades , My THREE nephews had pot smoking habits first before their opiod/heroin addictions , and they have not given up smoking pot and this has not kept 2 of them ( that I know of) from overdosing and having to have the narcon ( or whatever ) administered to bring them back from death .. …This is also true of the 2 other people I know of who did NOT live through their overdoses…so NOT impressed with the ” marijuana has cut opiod deaths” report. Also the constant refrain of ” marijuana the wonder drug” , people that smoke it for decades should be the picture of health if this was true , but I see paranoia , depression and no focus in life . and their kids follow the habit . . I Hate the stuff…I realize there may be legitimate medical applications for it . But I still hate it .

Susan Lapin says:

With good reason, Karen. I’m so sorry you had to watch this in your family.

Karen Jones says:

I also have something else to say , as far as Christians smoking it , the bible says to NOT get drunk , have a little wine is fine , but NOT drunk ,,and yet the point of smoking pot is the effect . It is impossible to smoke a little pot and not feel it , although as a non drinker I can have a drink and not feel it. They self report that they are not high , that there lives are not adversely affected , etc , however people who use pot or alcohol more than occasionally may not be reporting accurately . I admit I cannot be objective about this subject of recreational substance use .

Susan Lapin says:

From the comments I’m reading, Karen, it sounds like many people cannot be objective about this.

Brian F. Tucker says:

Dear Susan,
I am writing this in response to Joseph. While I agree that both drugs and alcohol can be dangerous to both the individual and society as a whole when used in excess, and while it may have happened. I personally have never heard of any instance of an alchaholic robbing someone at gun point to get money to feed his habit.
Respectfully submitted,
Brian

Al Hoffman says:

Dear Mrs. Lapin,
Maybe a repeat, yet, the need for clarity found in chem is nill. As alcohol is described in proverbs, even more so with hemp. This plant with THC makes for suggestable state, making for foolish decisions. Drink of wine not for king and forget The Law of God, then why chemicals, even if not extracted? As seen earlier in life wgere some went berserk, doing severe ill.

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