Search This Blog

Monday, September 7, 2009

Marijuana Manifesto: Why The United States Should Legalize Cannabis

Marijuana, its green, its sticky, and it can get you high. Sadly, that’s probably the full extent of most people’s understanding of the Cannabis plant. For this reason it has become the most controversial drug, rather, the most controversial plant on the planet. As of right now, it is strictly illegal in the United States, save the few states that allow the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes in spite of superseding federal laws. However, the cannabis plant’s expansive industrial and medicinal value and remarkably large margin of safety warrant it’s immediate legalization.


To begin, the cannabis plant has vast industrial and medicinal value. Most people probably don’t know this, but the cannabis plant is possibly the most valuable renewable resource on the planet. Almost everything that we produce today could be made with the cannabis plant. Just one acre of hemp is the equivalent to 4.5 acres of trees for paper production. It is extremely easy to cultivate, requires little to no pesticides, and returns most of its nutrients to the soil. An acre of hemp can be grown in one season, while an acre of trees may require ten to twenty. On top of that it can be used to make fuel for cars, clothing more durable and comfortable than cotton, and about 25,000[1] other commercial products, heck, we could build house made completely from hemp.


As a drug, there are a multitude of ailments that can be treated with cannabis. Some of the more common ailments include glaucoma, post-chemotherapy nausea, epilepsy, HIV/AIDS, migraines, multiple sclerosis, arthritis, spinal chord injury, and various other painful and debilitating conditions. However the list doesn’t end there and it is believed that cannabis may be useful for the treatment of many more conditions. In addition to that, not only is it possible to treat many conditions with cannabis, cannabis itself may even be safer than the treatments already in place.


That’s all well and good, but it’s still a drug isn’t it? Well, yes it is a drug, however according to the DEA’s Chief Administrative Law Judge, Francis L. Young, in a 1988 ruling, “Marijuana, in its natural form, is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man.”[2] Yet the federal government still list marijuana a Schedule I controlled substance, which means that it has no medical value, it is addictive, and it is not safe to use, even under medical supervision. The federal government places marijuana in the same category as drugs such as heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine, and ecstasy. Why does this matter? Because marijuana doesn’t belong on that schedule, unlike most schedule I drugs, marijuana cannot kill you.


The safety of a drug is determined by its therapeutic index. A therapeutic index is determined by dividing the dose that is lethal in 50% of test subjects by the dose that is effective in 50% of test subjects.[3] The therapeutic index for heroin is 6, meaning that it is lethal at a dose six times its therapeutic dose. For alcohol it is 10, for cocaine 15, aspirin 20. Marijuana’s therapeutic index is so high that it is probably impossible to quantify, although it is usually listed as "<" 1000. That means a smoker would need to consume about 1500 pounds in 15 minutes to cause a lethal reaction.[4]


As a medicinal and recreational drug, marijuana is extremely safe, safer than most substances that we consume regularly. In fact, in 5000 years of human experience with cannabis, there is not one credible record that indicates that anyone has ever died from consuming cannabis.[5] By comparison, tobacco causes 435,000 deaths per year, and alcohol causes 85,000 deaths per year, even over the counter pain medicines such as aspirin, acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil), and naproxen (Aleve) manage to pull down a couple thousand deaths a year.


Given that tobacco and alcohol are perfectly legal, and kill plenty of people every year, does cannabis use even matter at all? Yes and no. The amount of harm done by cannabis is virtually non-existent, with the exception of the artificial harm that has been fabricated by the Justice Department via arrest and conviction. However if cannabis were legal, the tax revenue from cannabis and all of its constituents would be massive, and its legalization could even save our ailing economy, while displacing many if not most harmful and high pollution industries. Now that matters.


So know you know, cannabis is remarkably safe, and incredibly useful. Of course, this isn’t new information; people have known this for centuries. It has only been the last century that cannabis has had any formal sanctions against its production and use. The question remains, how can we reverse a century of flawed policy? Education; educate yourself, and then educate others.


Next Time: Find out how cannabis’s legal status fosters an environment for organized crime to profit.



[1] Harris Sherline, The Case For Hemp.” Santa Ynez Valley Journal. 06 Aug 2009. http://mapinc.org/norml/v09/n774/a08.html

[2] Young, Pg. 58

[3] Daniel E. Becker, DDS. “Drug Therapy in Dental Practice: General Principles Part 2—Pharmacodynamic Considerations.” Anesthesia Progress. Spring 2007. Pgs 19-24. http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?tool=pmcentrez&artid=1821133

[4] Francis L. Young. Marijuana Rescheduling Petition Opinion and Recommended Ruling, Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law and Decision of Administrative Law Judge Francis L. Young. 06 December 1988.

http://www.druglibrary.org/schaffer/library/studies/young/young4.html. Pg 57.

[5] Young, Pg. 57

1 comment:

  1. wwwaphorismscom.blogspot.comSeptember 8, 2009 at 2:05 PM

    Agree 100%. Let's legalize it today.

    ReplyDelete

What say you?

P.S. I know that the word verification is annoying, but sometimes its for a good cause. You may be assisting in translating a book from typeface to digital. So save a tree and give it a go.