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Mexico votes to decriminalize drugs.
June 22, 2009 11:10 AM   Subscribe

The Mexican legislature has voted quietly to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin and other drugs.
posted by flyinghamster (162 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
If the Republicans were still in power the USGOV would throw a rod over this, but we'll see how the Obama team is any different in this area.

ah, from the story:

"Three years ago, in May 2006, then-President Vicente Fox, from Calderón's conservative National Action Party (PAN), vetoed a similar bill that he initially had supported. Fox backed down only under pressure from Washington, D.C., where the Bush administration complained that decriminalization for even small amounts could increase drug use."
posted by @troy at 11:14 AM on June 22, 2009


"but some fear that letting off users caught with limited amounts of drugs will increase drug use and encourage 'drug tourists' from the U.S."
posted by HuronBob at 11:14 AM on June 22, 2009


"but some fear that letting off users caught with limited amounts of drugs will increase drug use and encourage 'drug tourists' from the U.S."

In the same way that Vegas encourages "gambling tourists" from the other states, yes. But where's the problem with that?
posted by Navelgazer at 11:17 AM on June 22, 2009 [7 favorites]


Umm, meetup in Tijuana?
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:20 AM on June 22, 2009 [30 favorites]


Well, folks might go down to Mexico to get all snookered up on PCP then come back to the states and jump out a window.
posted by Dr-Baa at 11:20 AM on June 22, 2009 [10 favorites]


In the same way that Vegas encourages "gambling tourists" from the other states, yes. But where's the problem with that?

I suppose a fraction of drug tourists will attempt to smuggle in their leftover drugs bought in Mexico, possibly distracting law enforcement from busting "real" smugglers.
I'm just playing devil's advocate.

posted by exogenous at 11:21 AM on June 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yeah, no one was going to Mexico for illicit adventures, but now forget it! I'll bet you'll have like a thousand people a day crossing the border to Mexico!
posted by Mister_A at 11:21 AM on June 22, 2009 [7 favorites]


Wow. The Houston Chronicle link really has a misleading window title. The headline on the piece is "Mexico will decriminalize some drug use" while the top of the browser window states " 'Drug Tourism' seen as Mexico legalizes some substances." Nothing like subtle asshole yellow journalism which completely misses the point.
posted by hippybear at 11:22 AM on June 22, 2009 [4 favorites]


YES NOW I CAN FINALLY BE A JUNKIE HA HA WHO IS WITH ME FELLOW GODLESS LIBERALS?
posted by Avenger at 11:23 AM on June 22, 2009 [28 favorites]


(and is it just me, or do most of those articles have identical text?)
posted by hippybear at 11:24 AM on June 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


@troy: "If the Republicans were still in power the USGOV would throw a rod over this, but we'll see how the Obama team is any different in this area.""

ahem...

In a May 22, 2009 interview on KUOW radio, [Obama's "Drug Czar" Gil Kerlikowske] said any drug 'legalization' would be "waving the white flag", "legalization is off the the charts when it comes to discussion, from my viewpoint" and that "legalization vocabulary doesn't exist for me and it was made clear that it doesn't exist in President Obama's vocabulary." Specifically about marijuana, he said, "It's a dangerous drug" and about the medical use of marijuana, he said, "we will wait for evidence on whether smoked marijuana has any medicinal benefits - those aren't in."
posted by Joe Beese at 11:24 AM on June 22, 2009 [7 favorites]


YOU ARE ALREADY ADDICTED TO ALLCAPS, AVENGER–IS IT NOT SO?
posted by Mister_A at 11:24 AM on June 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Well, folks might go down to Mexico to get all snookered up on PCP then come back to the states and jump out a window.

i hope they put more guardrails on those mountain roads
posted by pyramid termite at 11:25 AM on June 22, 2009


NO IT IS NOT SO I CAN QUIT WHENEVER I WISH
posted by Avenger at 11:25 AM on June 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


VERY WELL THEN CAN I OFFER YOU SOME QAT?
posted by Mister_A at 11:26 AM on June 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


I HAVE A QAT ALREADY HIS NAME IS WISKERS HA HA THAT IS FUNNY BECAUSE THE NAME OF A AMPHETAMINE-LIKE STIMULANT NATIVE TO EAST AFRICA IS PHONETICALLY SIMILAR TO THE ENGLISH WORD FOR A COMMON HOUSE FELINE.
posted by Avenger at 11:28 AM on June 22, 2009 [33 favorites]


A cheetah?
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:29 AM on June 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


Commercial casinos are casinos founded and run by private companies on non-Indian land. There are 19 states (and one US Territory) that allow commercial casinos in some form. That said, legalized gambling is localized, and in theory, controlled. Possession is not limited to location.

President Felipe Calderon himself proposed the decriminalization legislation. His reasoning: It makes sense to distinguish between small-time users and big-time dealers, while re-targeting major crime-fighting resources away from the former and toward the latter and their drug lord bosses.

Also, people who are allowed to have drugs would probably talk more openly about where they got their drugs, leading back to the sellers and possibly up the chain. That, or there'll be a proliferation of people who (try to) make the drugs they use.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:30 AM on June 22, 2009


YEAH I MEANT THE FELINE ACTUALLY.
posted by Mister_A at 11:30 AM on June 22, 2009


*takes Valium*

Hey guys sorry about the all-caps. Anybody here up for some Dave Matthews band?
posted by Avenger at 11:30 AM on June 22, 2009 [4 favorites]


I do wonder how this is going to affect the story arc for season 5 of Weeds.
posted by hippybear at 11:31 AM on June 22, 2009 [11 favorites]


"legalization is off the the charts when it comes to discussion"

as the article states, what the Mexicans are proposing is decriminalization, not legalization. If I'm reading the summaries right, you can have the stuff, you just can't keep it if caught with it.

This is kinda a half-way house to legalization, to see what happens over time.
posted by @troy at 11:34 AM on June 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Anybody here up for some Dave Matthews band?

Sure!
posted by kirkaracha at 11:36 AM on June 22, 2009


I suppose a fraction of drug tourists will attempt to smuggle in their leftover drugs bought in Mexico, possibly distracting law enforcement from busting "real" smugglers.

I doubt it. If they just wanted illegal drugs, they would buy illegal drugs in the U.S, and not risk going over the border. Of course, there are some stupid people out there (like the guy who tried to smoke a joint on a flight to Singapore) but I doubt it would be a real problem.

In a May 22, 2009 interview on KUOW radio, [Obama's "Drug Czar" Gil Kerlikowske] said any drug 'legalization' would be "waving the white flag"

How can you metaphorically "wave the white flag" when you aren't metaphorically fighting a war? Saying that you're against legalization doesn't mean you're also against decriminalization. We'll have to see what they do. Kerlikowske is much more moderate then most most mainstream politicians have been.
posted by delmoi at 11:36 AM on June 22, 2009



YOU ARE ALREADY ADDICTED TO ALLCAPS, AVENGER–IS IT NOT SO?


DON'T WE HAVE A SPECIAL DAY FOR THIS?

The rest of the year we plan vacations to Mexico.
posted by louche mustachio at 11:36 AM on June 22, 2009


Kidding aside, this seems like a reasonable idea. Law-enforcement budgets are finite things, and I'd rather see them spent on the machine-gun-toting kidnapper type of drug criminal than the "likes to get high after work" sort.
posted by Mister_A at 11:37 AM on June 22, 2009



I doubt it. If they just wanted illegal drugs, they would buy illegal drugs in the U.S, and not risk going over the border.


You far underestimate the foolishness of casual drug tourists.
posted by louche mustachio at 11:39 AM on June 22, 2009


kirkaracha: Thank you for linking to actual DMB, and not that horrid travesty they have become with their new album.
posted by hippybear at 11:39 AM on June 22, 2009


delmoi: "Kerlikowske is much more moderate then most most mainstream politicians have been."

He said marijuana is "a dangerous drug". The credibility-shattering, creationist-level ludicrousness of the claim aside, what could that be that moderating from? Saying that it's the work of Satan?
posted by Joe Beese at 11:42 AM on June 22, 2009 [15 favorites]


There is little relationship between what one "can" do, and what one "should" do.
posted by discountfortunecookie at 11:47 AM on June 22, 2009


Marijuana is a dangerous drug to some. So are cigarettes and alcohol.

Not try to defend or parse the statement, and I am in favor of the legalization of marijuana. I do not see any argument succeeding in that forum that does not at least admit the possibility of marijuana being dangerous to people who choose not to practice moderation, as it is with any other mind altering substance.
posted by lazaruslong at 11:48 AM on June 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


So they are using drugs to remedy the problems caused by the flu.
posted by Elmore at 11:55 AM on June 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


If they just wanted illegal drugs, they would buy illegal drugs in the U.S, and not risk going over the border.

You'd be amazed. While travelling I met a guy who smuggled hash into THAILAND, up his butt, because he was worried he couldn't find any drugs there.

I politely declined his offer to share.
posted by msalt at 11:59 AM on June 22, 2009


lazaruslong: "I do not see any argument succeeding in that forum that does not at least admit the possibility of marijuana being dangerous to people who choose not to practice moderation, as it is with any other mind altering substance."

Given that - to the best of my knowledge - there has never been a single recorded fatality from THC, I'll need to ask you to define "dangerous".
posted by Joe Beese at 12:01 PM on June 22, 2009 [14 favorites]


Marijuana is a dangerous drug to some.

For really sissyfied values of "dangerous," maybe.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 12:03 PM on June 22, 2009 [4 favorites]


This is okay by me. Had it been in effect 15 years ago, I would not have had to have the freaking heart attack at the hotel in Bustamante, when about 6 hours after crossing over the border with a van-load of "friends" in tow (and vouching for them with the Mexican border guards, BTW) when one of them asked me "Hey, you wanna spark one up?"

Fortunately for them, I wanted to be in a Mexican jail for murder even less than I wanted to be in a Mexican jail for smuggling pot.
posted by Devils Rancher at 12:04 PM on June 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


Gangsta!
posted by yeloson at 12:08 PM on June 22, 2009


(Sung to "Mexican Radio" by Wall of Voodoo)

I feel a hunger in my bloodstream
And a want for escape that is extreme
I call my friends and take their orders
Then I drive just south of the border
Let's party like there's no mañana
It's pharmaceutical Nirvana
Meth and cocaine, marijuana
Bienvenidos Tijuana!
I'm in a Mexican Rexall
I'm in a Mexican--whoa-oh--Rexall
posted by mattdidthat at 12:10 PM on June 22, 2009 [4 favorites]


Given that - to the best of my knowledge - there has never been a single recorded fatality from THC, I'll need to ask you to define "dangerous".
posted by Joe Beese at 3:01 PM on June 22 [1 favorite +] [!]



I think you hit it right on the head that it boils down to what one defines as dangerous.

It's true, I've never heard or read of someone dying from over-consumption of THC alone, whereas plenty have died from over-consumption of alcohol in an immediate sense, and over-consumption of cigarettes in the long-term sense of cancer. One of the strongest things that the pot movement has in its camp w/r/t the medical aspects is that not only does it not possess the carcinogens and liver destroying properties of the aforementioned legal drugs, but in many cases has beneficial medical properties.

That said, there is also the question of indirect fatalities as a result of THC, which tend to occur in the population I mentioned previously that do not choose moderation. I mean, in high school alone I had 2 friends die as a result of being really baked and driving too fast and wrecking their Mustangs. I would consider that a THC related death, but the onus of responsibility is fairly demonstrably on the consumer in that case and not the drug.

However, as said before, many people do not choose moderation, or make bad decisions regarding what behavior they engage in under the effects of marijuana. And while I believe that to be a personal responsibility question, and therefore irrelevant to the question of legalization itself, it is a real danger. I worry that ignoring or denying it in a national debate will only continue to bolster the pot-is-devilish false dichotomy instead of making the debate about what it should be: Personal responsibility and a reduction in unnecessary governmental spending and regulation.
posted by lazaruslong at 12:11 PM on June 22, 2009 [5 favorites]


nowi can finaly do drugs :0
posted by Stonestock Relentless at 12:15 PM on June 22, 2009


I'll need to ask you to define "dangerous".

Well, once when were in college, my wife and I--erm, that is, another couple who were friends of ours--got so high they zoned out watching TV, completely forgetting they had left a couple of grilled cheese sandwiches cooking in the toaster oven.

Then, inexplicably and jarringly, the fire alarm went off, and the apartment was filled with smoke.

The scorched remains of that toaster oven, if it could participate in this discussion from whatever landfill in which it currently resides, would probably argue that pot most certainly can be dangerous under certain circumstances... Though long-term pot-smokers, I'm told, eventually learn those kinds of lessons pretty well.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:16 PM on June 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


My boyfriend and I thought this had happened back in 2006...when it passed and got vetoed apparently... and when we visited his mom and stepfather in Arizona a couple months ago, I asked them about it and if had affected things for them (they run a drug counseling agency) and they looked at me -- and my bf when he tried to defend me as being "right" on this issue -- like I was on drugs.

Thanks, MeFi -- and @troy for his pulled quote from the article -- for making me feel a little less like the dope has fried ALL my brain cells.

I kid, I kid
posted by MCMikeNamara at 12:26 PM on June 22, 2009


Marijuana is definitely a dangerous drug because profits from its sale bolster drug traffickers who kill people. Of course, the moment it's legalized that danger would start to disappear.
posted by twoleftfeet at 12:29 PM on June 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


posted by lazaruslong One of the strongest things that the pot movement has in its camp w/r/t the medical aspects is that not only does it not possess the carcinogens and liver destroying properties of the aforementioned legal drugs, but in many cases has beneficial medical properties.

While I agree with most of what you said, California has just added marijuana smoke to its official list of known carcinogens.
posted by mattdidthat at 12:29 PM on June 22, 2009


"legalization is off the the charts when it comes to discussion, from my viewpoint"
"legalization vocabulary doesn't exist for me and it was made clear that it doesn't exist in President Obama's vocabulary."
he said, "we will wait for evidence on whether smoked marijuana has any medicinal benefits - those aren't in."


As far as people like him are concerned, the evidence will never be "in".
This guy reminds me of the parents in high school who said that any illicit consumption of pot or alcohol was 'drug abuse'.

Specifically about marijuana, he said, "It's a dangerous drug"
More like extremely awesome.
posted by dunkadunc at 12:31 PM on June 22, 2009


What is the lethal dose of marijuana? According to which US Government authority you want to believe, the lethal dose of marijuana is either about one-third your body weight, or about 1,500 pounds, consumed all at once.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:31 PM on June 22, 2009


I'd really like to see studies done on marijuana (and alcohol, and cigarettes, for that matter) in its role (or lack of a role) as a gateway drug.

Millions of people get to marijuana and stop there, sure. But anecdotally, I don't know a single person that didn't visit Marijuana Station on their way to Meth Beach and Cocaine Alley.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 12:32 PM on June 22, 2009


Marijuana does not act as a gateway drug.
posted by twoleftfeet at 12:37 PM on June 22, 2009


According to which US Government authority you want to believe, the lethal dose of marijuana is either about one-third your body weight, or about 1,500 pounds, consumed all at once.

As little as 50 pounds of marijuana can be lethal if it is dropped on your head.
posted by marxchivist at 12:38 PM on June 22, 2009 [8 favorites]


I bet most of them spun around a little too much on the playground, too
posted by jtron at 12:38 PM on June 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Eh. I don't know a single person that didn't visit Chocolate station on their way to Meth beach, but that doesn't mean chocolate is a gateway drug for methamphetamine.

That said, hi, nice to meet you. I've never smoked a join in my life but have tried, um, other things.
posted by Justinian at 12:41 PM on June 22, 2009


I'll need to ask you to define "dangerous".

Legalized THC is dangerous to GDP
posted by @troy at 12:44 PM on June 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


What the gateway theory presents as a causal explanation is a statistic association between common and uncommon drugs, an association that changes over time as different drugs increase and decrease in prevalence. Marijuana is the most popular illegal drug in the United States today. Therefore, people who have used less popular drugs such as heroin, cocaine, and LSD, are likely to have also used marijuana. Most marijuana users never use any other illegal drug. Indeed, for the large majority of people, marijuana is a terminus rather than a gateway drug.
posted by gingerbeer at 12:48 PM on June 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


That grinding sound you hear would be the CoronaTM, MargaritavilleTM, and Cabo WaboTM marketing folks furiously pulling the handbrake on their 2010 ad campaigns.
posted by bhance at 12:55 PM on June 22, 2009


Decriminalized marijuana is actually a reverse gateway drug: users of other (criminalized) drugs tend to reduce/stop their use of criminalized drugs, and move to marijuana instead.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:56 PM on June 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


Yeah, there's no 'dying from over-consumption of THC alone'. Condensed version of a long story - a Kiwi buddy of mine was taking 500 grams of black from Pakistan back to the UK. Basically, the method he used for this was to swallow 150 or so wrapped 3 gram pellets. He downed about 4/5ths of them the night before and then got up early to swallow the rest. By the time he got to the airport in Islamabad at 10 am, he was fucked. Since he was totally skint and they wouldn't give him a refund on his one-way ticket, he actually decided to take the flight. The Pakistanis spent about an hour questioning and searching him, but since they don't have x-ray machines at the airport, they let him board the plane. Don't ask me why they didn't hold him and wait for it to come out the other end.

He told me he couldn't speak for the entire duration of the 10 hour flight, but upon landing he was actually okay to walk again - perhaps the altitude? A couple days later, I get an email he sent out to his family and friends describing the trip as uneventful. I also received another email addressed only to me with the real story. Dude only ended up with just over 400 of the 500 grams he swallowed.
posted by gman at 1:02 PM on June 22, 2009 [5 favorites]


This is a disaster waiting to happen. Marijuana can be fatal when taken in combination with munchie-induced large doses of Mexican food.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 1:03 PM on June 22, 2009


no dying from over-consumption of THC alone.

Sure, but death is not the only kind of danger. I'm sure LSD has a similar figure, but massive dosing didn't do much for Syd Barrett.

Not to say weed is comparable to LSD, just that the LD50 is only one measure of risk.
posted by msalt at 1:11 PM on June 22, 2009


Non-Medical Ways Marijuana Can KILL You:

1. Nodding out while munching, airway obstructed by cheese puff.

2. Swallow poison with plan to administer antidote later, then forget.

3. Infuriate roommate with pseudo-profound observations about Pink Floyd lyrics to the point where they murder you.

4. Mowed down by gunfire during botched drug raid by militarized police force.
posted by Joe Beese at 1:27 PM on June 22, 2009 [17 favorites]


Joe, I took the time to respond to your request to define dangerous, including a rather personal anectdote of friend's of mine personally dying in non-medical manners.

To drop out and instead post sarcastic jibes seems poor form. We were having a conversation. It's not all a joke. You can die from the effects of marijuana.
posted by lazaruslong at 1:33 PM on June 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Ah screw it, I'm going to go smoke a bowl instead.
posted by lazaruslong at 1:34 PM on June 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


As I understand it, most forms of smoke are carcinogenic to some degree. Combustion creates a large assortment of aromatic hydrocarbons, and some of these are toxic or carcinogenic. Exactly what compounds get produced, and to what degree, depends in part on the composition of the fuel, so the smoke from some plants will be more carcinogenic than others.

I've heard mixed results concerning the relative dangers of marijuana smoke. I recall one study (which I cannot seem to find) that showed a lower incidence of lung cancer in marijuana smokers than in tobacco smokers, even after controlling for levels of consumption. Both groups, however, had higher lung cancer rates than nonsmokers.

Note that neither nicotine nor THC has ever been linked to cancer. In other words, carcinogenicity is purely a consequence of other chemicals, either already present in the plant, or created through combustion.
posted by dephlogisticated at 1:36 PM on June 22, 2009


Specifically about marijuana, he said, "It's a dangerous drug"

He is, of course, referring to his lifelong commitment to protecting the sanctity of snack food life. We see the average pot-smoker as just a laid-back, chemically-altered person, but from the perspective of a slice of pizza or bag of chips? That stoner is Death himself.

How many more Slim Jims are going to die because of this relaxation in the laws? How many more cheese sticks must suffer?

This is madness.
posted by quin at 1:37 PM on June 22, 2009


"While I agree with most of what you said, California has just added marijuana smoke to its official list of known carcinogens."

As a data point the copper fittings for my new water service in my shop also have this warning on the bag. Kinda freaky.
posted by Mitheral at 1:40 PM on June 22, 2009


The weed doctor* here told my roommate he should only vaporize or eat (when properly prepared) pot. I imagine those two would cut down significantly on the combustion+carcinogen problem.

*in California we have a cottage industry of doctors who only prescribe marijuana due to its strange legal status.
posted by basicchannel at 1:44 PM on June 22, 2009


Will it ever be possible to have a conversation about drug laws without it devolving into constant munchies jokes?
posted by kaspen at 1:44 PM on June 22, 2009 [3 favorites]


This is a disaster waiting to happen. Marijuana can be fatal when taken in combination with munchie-induced large doses of Mexican food.

Which brings to mind the single most stoned commercial ever made.
posted by hippybear at 1:52 PM on June 22, 2009


Will it ever be possible to have a conversation about drug laws without it devolving into constant munchies jokes?

Sure thing, kaspen. What did you have to contribute?
posted by hippybear at 1:53 PM on June 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


Millions of people get to marijuana and stop there, sure. But anecdotally, I don't know a single person that didn't visit Marijuana Station on their way to Meth Beach and Cocaine Alley.

I grew up around a lot of chronically (heh!) bored small town kids who ended up moving on to other, more problematic drugs not because they felt compelled to seek out more thrilling experiences, but simply because pot wasn't obtainable at the time, and the other, harder stuff was. So anecdotally, at least, that seems to run counter to the pot as gateway drug argument.
posted by saulgoodman at 2:00 PM on June 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


lazaruslong: "Joe, I took the time to respond to your request to define dangerous, including a rather personal anectdote of friend's of mine personally dying in non-medical manners.

To drop out and instead post sarcastic jibes seems poor form. We were having a conversation. It's not all a joke. You can die from the effects of marijuana.
"

I meant no disrespect to the memory of your friends - so I apologize if that's how it came across. However, what they died from was the effects of driving unsafely.

That has literally nothing to do with establishing that marijuana is "dangerous". I maintain that it is a risible claim and I mock it as such.
posted by Joe Beese at 2:01 PM on June 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


While I agree with most of what you said, California has just added marijuana smoke to its official list of known carcinogens.

An authoritative paper has been published recently, showing that incense smoke is carcinogenic. They actually tested the effects of the incense smoke on human beings, rather than look at ingredients and just based on that made their declaration.

So, if they did the research and showed how marijuana smoke actually causes documented cancer in humans, then they'd have the same credibility as claiming that incense smoke is carcinogenic. So far, that is not the case. The case for incense smoke being carcinogenic is much more scientifically supported than the case for marijuana smoke.

And incense is still legal in California.
posted by VikingSword at 2:02 PM on June 22, 2009


Dude, you're harshing my burrito.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:04 PM on June 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Joe, if you actually read my comment, I agree with you.

That said, there is also the question of indirect fatalities as a result of THC, which tend to occur in the population I mentioned previously that do not choose moderation. I mean, in high school alone I had 2 friends die as a result of being really baked and driving too fast and wrecking their Mustangs. I would consider that a THC related death, but the onus of responsibility is fairly demonstrably on the consumer in that case and not the drug.

If you aren't going to keep up with the flow of discourse then what is the point of posing questions?
posted by lazaruslong at 2:06 PM on June 22, 2009


Isn't calling marijuana a gateway to meth like calling France the "Gateway to Luxembourg"?

Also, everything psychoactive is dangerous, although not in the way that bleach is dangerous. I don't think dangerous/not dangerous is the right question.

In general, in public health terms, are there any drugs which would be rendered more dangerous by being legalised? It seems to me that the injection of the criminal element would outweigh most other factors.

When I read any story about £Xm shipments of drugs being seized, I calculate the taxes that could have been levied on them, I think about the salaries of the police and customs officials involved, about the narcobarons ruining people's lives to obtain the product, about the innocent people caught in the gunfire between the narcobarons and the police. I think about how addiction is a social and a chemical problem, and about how much worse social problems get when you drive them underground.

I also think about experiments with decriminalisation, and how they don't seem to have killed off large numbers of people.

The one question that bothers me... who profits from the current situation and why do they have enough influence to keep things that way?
posted by Wrinkled Stumpskin at 2:08 PM on June 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


California has just added marijuana smoke to its official list of known carcinogens.

Guess we'll have to start putting up Prop 65 warning signs in every single concert venue in the state.

By the way, I heard you can drown on a teaspoon of bong water.
posted by jabberjaw at 2:08 PM on June 22, 2009


To restate the point of the anectdote in the first place, I think that the debatable dangers of the recreational use of marijuana are not without merit, but relate specifically to the choices of those who use it and not the drug itself.

To mock the claim that it is dangerous alone just gives the anti-marijuana crowd room to continue pointing fingers or making ridiculous statements, whereas actually engaging on the issue and attempting to redefine the parameters of the debate could actually, you know, help. Instead of just more mockery and lack of actual progression on the subject.
posted by lazaruslong at 2:09 PM on June 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


"Dangerous" is not equivalent to "fatal." It means there are risks, and I agree with lazaruslong. I'm always bothered that so many advocates for legalization deny that there are any risks to marijuana.

I'm 100% for legalization, don't get me wrong. I believe in the freedom to choose, and I believe that the "drug war" probably causes far more damage than actual drug use.

With that, there will be people who will be hurt when (if?) pot is legalized. I would assume that we all know people whose smoking is out of control, who can't make a decision without toking up, who failed out of school because they were too high to study, or whose lives are in the toilet because they smoke all frakkin' day. I have a surfing buddy who hasn't spoken a coherent sentence in years; he just kind of mumbles nonsense statements that he thinks are profound.

Gil Kerlikowske's statements are irrational. Let's fight them with rationality.

(Signing off to go book my next holiday)
posted by kanewai at 2:10 PM on June 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


posted by VikingSword incense is still legal in California.

So are cigarettes.
posted by mattdidthat at 2:11 PM on June 22, 2009


lazaruslong,

Sure, people high on weed can do stupid, Darwin-award types of things. But the thing is...high people generally don't. That's purely anecdotal, but so is your "evidence" that pot is dangerous. Medically it's not, and there are differing reports on the carcinogen factor. So do you have any other data to support your claim?

I mean, in high school alone I had 2 friends die as a result of being really baked and driving too fast and wrecking their Mustangs.

In high school, we had a Jolt Cola party once. Got really goofed up on caffeine and later went driving around. I didn't die, but I was driving way too fast. Is Jolt Cola dangerous?
posted by zardoz at 2:14 PM on June 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


lazaruslong: "If you aren't going to keep up with the flow of discourse then what is the point of posing questions?"

What not keeping up? You said:

I had 2 friends die as a result of being really baked and driving too fast and wrecking their Mustangs. I would consider that a THC related death


And I flatly disagree with you.

studies have always indicated that marijuana (cannabis) has only a neglible effect on drivers who are experienced with its effects. The reason seems to be that, while there is a minor reduction in reaction times similar to being a few years older than the driver's current age, there is a sense of "paranoia" that leads to slower and more cautious driving. - Family Council on Drug Awareness

If that disagreement means that we have nothing else to say to each other, that happens sometimes.
posted by Joe Beese at 2:15 PM on June 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Kanewai, exactly. If pro-pot advocates continue to claim marijuana is the benevolent saint of mind altering substances with little to no risk involved, the anti-marijuana movement can continue to make it a wedge issue by propping up the outlying incidents without actually having to have a debate on the merits of personal choice and individual freedoms.

And in the world of American politics, being able to crowbar an issue into those two disparate and vitriolic frames means no consensus can be built, and no progress made.
posted by lazaruslong at 2:16 PM on June 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Joe, don't cut the quotes to fit what you are painting my position to be. Typical. I can see you are not interested in a conversation but rather simply scoring points. Carry on.
posted by lazaruslong at 2:17 PM on June 22, 2009


In high school, we had a Jolt Cola party once. Got really goofed up on caffeine and later went driving around. I didn't die, but I was driving way too fast. Is Jolt Cola dangerous?
posted by zardoz at 5:14 PM on June 22 [+] [!]



It most certainly is dangerous. So is coffee, or nitrous oxide, or anything else that can influence one's ability to make smart decisions.

If you had died, one could certainly say that your death was related to the massive intake in caffeine prior to operating a car. Certainly we would not say your death was cause by Jolt Cola. But the circumstances that led up to it would certainly bear some relation to the intake beforehand.

That does not mean it should be illegal, and neither should marijuana. Nor should we place blame on the product alone, but rather on the personal choice failings of the individual consuming it.

That's the whole point.
posted by lazaruslong at 2:22 PM on June 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


With that, there will be people who will be hurt when (if?) pot is legalized. I would assume that we all know people whose smoking is out of control, who can't make a decision without toking up, who failed out of school because they were too high to study, or whose lives are in the toilet because they smoke all frakkin' day. I have a surfing buddy who hasn't spoken a coherent sentence in years; he just kind of mumbles nonsense statements that he thinks are profound.

Is pot the operative here, though? Or is it possible that with certain people, they'll use whatever's around to reach the deplorable states you describe, because that's how they operate - they have a giant hunger/need that has to be fed. So it isn't something unique about pot, but about those particular users. The only way to keep such people safe, would be to surround them with a team of muscular nurses 24/7 for their entire lives. I'm not sure where pot fits in here. An odd argument to make in the context of legalization as you do when you start off your statement with "there will be people who will be hurt when (if?) pot is legalized". I'd think this has nothing, but nothing to do with legalization.
posted by VikingSword at 2:33 PM on June 22, 2009


lazaruslong: what you're missing is that in the current prohibitionist environment, saying a drug is "dangerous" has a clear connotation far beyond what you are using it to me. Surely you can't be unaware of that. When drug warriors call pot dangerous they don't mean it's dangerous like caffeine is dangerous and you should know that.

These discussions don't take place in a vacuum. Conceding that pot (or other drugs) are a blanket "dangerous" is playing right into the oppositions hands, because they have framed the discussion such that a dangerous drug is one that is inherently dangerous and not indirectly dangerous in the same way that almost any other substance can be indirectly dangerous.
posted by Justinian at 2:37 PM on June 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


Nor should we place blame on the product alone, but rather on the personal choice failings of the individual consuming it.

This only ever seems to happen when the product is illegal for some reason.

Crash into something while drunk driving? Bad decision.

Crash into something while high on cocaine? Evil drug.

I have no idea why this is, but it's interesting that the debate has been framed in this manner. I wonder if the liquor industry ever got litigious over the way drunk driving accidents were being reported, or if it's some sort of other cultural mechanism at work.
posted by quin at 2:40 PM on June 22, 2009 [3 favorites]


Also, research on giving marijuana to drivers on a controlled course shows that the typical driver *slows down* rather than speeds under the influence-- so your friends who died speeding after smoking (let me guess, they also drank?) are not representative of the most common reaction to driving while smoking.

Btw, most common cause of teen driving deaths? Inexperience. The majority of teen drivers who are killed aren't under the influence of any substance. They tend to be male and speed.

Basically, using a cell phone while driving is more dangerous-- and that *is* dangerous.
posted by Maias at 2:48 PM on June 22, 2009 [5 favorites]


Weed clearly does cause a lot of schizophrenia, particularly amongst teens. It's not a reason to keep it illegal IMO, but the ignorance of some people to its dangers does annoy and certainly doesn't help to end prohibition.
posted by Onanist at 2:50 PM on June 22, 2009


Whether or not marijuana is dangerous to you depends on how important your personality, and especially your personal volition and productivity is to you. You can certainly live a long and happy life as a heavy pot smoker, but heavy use of it tends to change your personality, making you "dull", remove a lot of your capacity to innovate, to exercise self-discipline, to motivate yourself, to deal with any problems in your life, and so on. It also exacerbates schizophrenia. This, while you are still capable of making decisions, is absolutely your decision to make. It's a reasonable-enough alternative to suicide, and as life choices go, is probably much better for you than taking up a volition-destroying religion, working a volition-destroying job, or staying in a volition-destroying relationship, not to imply that those are alternatives; and if your personality is sufficiently anxiety-riddled, brittle, fractious, manic and/or depressive, you may live a much happier, and possibly longer, life as a dull and unmotivated heavy pot smoker. There is no rule that says that everyone gets a fair deal in life, especially when it comes to psychological problems.

On the other hand casual and occasional use of marijuana is clearly not dangerous, especially if it is not smoked, it has more pro-social and less anti-social effects and so is better as a socialization enhancer than alcohol, and it can be very beneficial for anxiety and for pain.

That it is illegal in the US and US-influenced nations is an absurd spandrel in the law, a relic of decades-past commercial conflict between cotton and hemp producers, exacerbated by racism, and a culture of disrespect for those who make the personal choice to not actively and enthusiastically participate in the shared myth of desperate, anxious commercialism.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 2:57 PM on June 22, 2009 [5 favorites]


Weed clearly does cause a lot of schizophrenia, particularly amongst teens.

Citation?
posted by hippybear at 2:57 PM on June 22, 2009


If pot is dangerous, then orange juice is dangerous...and wine coolers are downright deadly. If dangerous is going to have any sort of meaning then it's not really fair to say that pot is dangerous. Riding bikes is more dangerous and taking tylenol is more dangerous.

When people make BS statements like "pot is dangerous," they usually back it up with the ol' "'cause all drugs are dangerous." This is true if you take it to its logical extreme and include caffeine and such, but the only real use of this statement is to mislead. Pot is basically the most incredibly not dangerous drug in the whole world and anyone who says otherwise has no idea what they are talking about and can only back up their position with anecdotes, fallacies and outright lies.

Let's try not to be totally ignorant and confused about this, okay?
posted by snofoam at 2:58 PM on June 22, 2009 [3 favorites]


It's not a reason to keep it illegal IMO, but the ignorance of some people to its dangers does annoy and certainly doesn't help to end prohibition.

And the ignorance of some people about basic human psychology can also be annoying and certainly doesn't help to end prohibition.

Some studies have suggested pot is a potential trigger for psychotic breaks among those already genetically disposed toward schizophrenia (i.e., people with family history's of mental illness). But there is no credible clinical basis, to my knowledge, for the claim that pot actually causes schizophrenia. The current consensus is that schizophrenia is heritable but also subject to environmental triggers, such as trauma or substance abuse. In fact, alcohol is just as likely to trigger schizophrenia as pot is.
posted by saulgoodman at 3:00 PM on June 22, 2009 [3 favorites]


lazaruslong It most certainly is dangerous. So is coffee, or nitrous oxide, or anything else that can influence one's ability to make smart decisions.

If that's the definition, the most dangerous drug for its availability is testosterone. There's nothing like that stuff for making decisions dumber.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 3:00 PM on June 22, 2009 [3 favorites]


Weed clearly does cause a lot of schizophrenia, particularly amongst teens.

No, it doesn't. This is exactly what I am talking about. People who have no idea what they are talking about saying stuff that is totally not true. Do you also believe that masturbation causes blindness?
posted by snofoam at 3:01 PM on June 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Weed clearly does cause a lot of schizophrenia, particularly amongst teens.

Can you give a cite on this, with a PMID #? Thanks.

There's been a lot of speculation, and articles (the latest caused a row in Britain) which show that there's more pot use among schizophrenics than general population, but I have never heard of a study showing pot specifically causing schizophrenia. You say "clearly causes" - that's a very strong statement, and it means very specific things, medically (rather than "is associated with" which is much weaker and subject to a boatload of confounders). I am eager to learn of this medical breakthrough showing "clearly" how pot causes schizophrenia, given that there are no studies even showing that pot triggers latent schizophrenia, let alone "causes" it where it would not have occurred had it not been for pot use. Very interesting! So?
posted by VikingSword at 3:03 PM on June 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


Weed clearly does cause a lot of schizophrenia, particularly amongst teens.

Been watching the ol' Reefer Madness videos again?

Probably want to investigate this claim instead of taking propaganda at face value.
posted by Justinian at 3:05 PM on June 22, 2009


I thought the scientific term for what marijuana was is "an evil drug", to be contrasted with merely harmful but not actually evil drugs like tobacco and alcohol.
posted by acb at 3:10 PM on June 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


CANNABINOL CRYSTALLINE DEA SCHEDULE I

TOXICITY DATA
Oral
Mouse
13500 mg/kg
LD50
Remarks: Behavioral:Rigidity (includes catalepsy).
[PDF link]
posted by benzenedream at 3:11 PM on June 22, 2009


People, please don't snark! The Onanist would not have made such a strong claim, if he didn't have the studies on hand - and as this is an exciting finding completely unknown to us, aren't you grateful to learn of such amazing results? I for one am - I want to learn something new every day, and learning that medical science has proven that pot causes schizophrenia (especially among the young... ooooh, exciting!), definitely qualifies as a breakthrough. The alternative would be that the Onanist is taking from his ass, and I just cannot take such an awful view of a metafilter poster. So I await, eagerly, and full of hope!
posted by VikingSword at 3:12 PM on June 22, 2009


Weed clearly does cause a lot of schizophrenia, particularly amongst teens.

No cite, no love.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:16 PM on June 22, 2009


No love, no blow.
posted by gman at 3:19 PM on June 22, 2009


$20... same as in town.

Am I doing that right?
posted by Joe Beese at 3:24 PM on June 22, 2009


You got good connections, my friend.
posted by gman at 3:25 PM on June 22, 2009


No love, no blow.

First you get the money, then you get the PubMed ID.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:28 PM on June 22, 2009


but the onus of responsibility is fairly demonstrably on the consumer in that case and not the drug

Once you say this, though, it seems disingenuous to still maintain that "marijuana is dangerous." Saying that it's dangerous implies that it's at fault for the accidents. If you admit that the fault is on the part of the unsafe driver, then the substance isn't really "dangerous" in any meaningful way. It has psychoactive effects which are well-known, and if you try to drive while under them, you'll probably be a hazard to yourself and others. But that's a far cry from something that's inherently dangerous, like say arsenic, the consumption of which will actually hurt you.

You might as well say that blindfolds are dangerous, because if you drive with a blindfold on, you'll probably be a really shitty driver. Nobody is going to dispute the latter part of that statement, but it's not the blindfold that's dangerous, it's the user's behavior.
posted by Kadin2048 at 3:39 PM on June 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


Obviously the framing of these debates is slanted heavily toward the foregone conclusion that, because of its ostensible DANGER, marijuana should remain ilegal. I think lazaruslong is right in that he seems to be trying to speak about the issue in a way that breaks the frame.

Rather than just accepting an extreme dichotomy of "fatally, medically dangerous drug per se vs. "completely harmless sustance with no ill effects whatsoever", he's urging (and I agree with him, that we intriduce some subtlety into the debate by allowing that there is a spectrum of danger to these things. And that, in view of such a spectrum, there is also a spectrum of when and to what degree there needs to be government interdiction and personal responsibility.

Marijuana, like caffeine, alcohol, heroin, etc. can all be described as dangerous. But the dangers they pose are not the same. By ignoring the distinctions and instead choosing to have only a binary frame, it allows opponents of marijuana legalization to argue "well, it obviously doesn't fit into the 'completely safe' category, therefore it must fall into the 'completely dangerous' box."

Recognizing that marijuana can cause slower reaction times, etc. is a kind of danger. Admitting that allows us to then address with moral authority the kinds of dangers it does NOT pose. Sadly, so many folks are deeply entrenched into the binary mode of thinking that subtlety is often not appreciated in the debate and demagogues can abuse the issue for their own ends. But that seems to be the chronic problem with politics, in general, and my greatest frustration with political discourse.
posted by darkstar at 3:47 PM on June 22, 2009 [3 favorites]


(insert close quotes and parens as needed)
posted by darkstar at 3:49 PM on June 22, 2009


First off, as a teen, I personally saw 3 cases of schizophrenia that were obviously brought on, precipitated, whatever you want to call it, by abuse of cannabis. This has an impact on my perspective obviously. Anyway, aside from my anecdotes, there was a well-received meta-analysis published in the Lancet a couple of years ago that supports what I'm saying. I could not find a direct link but this site has a good summary if you would like to read about that. There are quite a few studies cited here. There's actually a lot of research out there now on the topic and I ain't no expert so I'll leave it up to those who're interested to investigate further. I just think if people really care about ending prohibition then they should care about the truth as we currently best understand it, because in the long-run that is going to be the only successful strategy.
posted by Onanist at 3:58 PM on June 22, 2009


Marijuana and schizophrenia.

You can search on Google Scholar for more yourselves. The summary is that any causative relationship is uncertain; schizophrenics may for entirely understandable reasons seek out marijuana to self-medicate; MRI-based studies are still inconclusive but definitely do not rule out cannabis contributing to the formation of structures in the brain associated with schizophrenia; the biochemical mechanism by which this could occur is as yet unknown and may not exist.

I'll stand by my assertion that heavy marijuana use exacerbates schizophrenia, even if only in the same way that heavy use of analgesics exacerbates muscle injury. It certainly does nothing to help the underlying issue, and by masking the symptoms, lets it get worse before it gets so bad that the treatment ceases to work.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 3:59 PM on June 22, 2009


I submit that there is no useful definition of the word "harmless" that marijuana would not meet. You are vastly likelier to die consuming aspirin, eating at McDonald's, or driving to work to make your contribution to the GDP than you are from smoking pot every day of your life.

So I reject the idea that LL is "introducing subtlety" into the argument. What he is doing is using a tragic personal anecdote to bolster an extremely silly claim of guilt-by-association.
posted by Joe Beese at 4:04 PM on June 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


Marijuana, like caffeine, alcohol, heroin, etc. can all be described as dangerous.

You left out water. And you are right, there are different degrees of danger. For example, you can overdose on water very, very quickly, resulting in death. There have been many documented deaths from drinking too much water at once. As such, water is much more dangerous from this point of view than marijuana, where there are no documented deaths from overdose. There are also more long term dangers. For example, drinking too much water on a long term basis, even if not in amounts large enough to cause an acute crisis, can be very dangerous to your health via hyponatremia. There may be long term dangers to marijuana, though they are not as well described at present, as they are for hyponatremia. Bottom line, unquestionably, water is more dangerous than marijuana.

The problem with lumping in marijuana and heroin, and cocaine, and such drugs is not that we then get to qualify that there are different levels of danger, but rather through association. Because if we lump in marijuana, then why not water? And if water, why not twinkies (sugar spikes, insulin response, both acute and long term), and if twinkies why not mars bars, and if mars bars, why not cobblers, and if cobblers why not fruit-cake, and

and it really doesn't make sense to lump in marijuana with heroin, even if we then append "but the dangers are not the same".
posted by VikingSword at 4:05 PM on June 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Marijuana is a dangerous drug to some.

Dangerous? Maybe just disagreeable. There are many people with whom marijuana just does not agree. I, for one, am seriously sick of people talking about it as though it were the Spice Melange.
posted by walrus hunter at 4:06 PM on June 22, 2009


I'm with darkster. It's just as ridiculous to argue that marijuana is 100% safe and healthful as it is to say that it's always a dangerously evil gateway to hard drugs. I totally support legalization, but just as with any legal drug, I think it'd be nice for people to support moderation. Bottom line: THC messes with your brain (which is why it's so delightful!), and I'm not convinced that there are no long term effects, specifically on memory function. No, I don't have any cites, and yes, my basis for this belief is purely anecdotal. I like my brain quite a lot the way it is, however, and I choose to be cautious.
posted by Go Banana at 4:16 PM on June 22, 2009


The summary is that any causative relationship is uncertain; schizophrenics may for entirely understandable reasons seek out marijuana to self-medicate; MRI-based studies are still inconclusive but definitely do not rule out cannabis contributing to the formation of structures in the brain associated with schizophrenia; the biochemical mechanism by which this could occur is as yet unknown and may not exist.

Good enough. No proof. Next!

What was asserted is that marijuana clearly causes schizophrenia. Nothing cited so far shows that, for the values of either "clearly" or "causes".

And Onanist, I asked for PMID # to the studies. Throwing a random link, is not good enough. You made a very specific assertion. I'd like to see it proven. "Epidemiological perspectives" have nothing whatsoever to do with proof, subject as they are to massive confounders. You said "clearly causes" - and if the links you provided are the entirety of the proof of your statement you can provide, then I proclaim you statement full of shit. Again - give me a study, that is a well-designed clinical study, and not hand-waving epidemiological pleading, that proves that marijuana clearly causes schizophrenia, or retract your claim.
posted by VikingSword at 4:19 PM on June 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


Actually, this could be a good move for the drug war. Drug tourism. Long history of privileged spaces and sin eater systems. And it might cut down on the violence in Mexico. As well as slowing the flow of illegal firearms.
...really I'm not seeing a down side. Granted I'm looking at it from a U.S. perspective.
Still - the main objective is (and should be) to fight the cartels which have been wrenching power from the government. Given they don't screw the pooch in execution, this should aid that.
posted by Smedleyman at 4:31 PM on June 22, 2009


Obviously the framing of these debates is slanted heavily toward the foregone conclusion that, because of its ostensible DANGER, marijuana should remain ilegal. I think lazaruslong is right in that he seems to be trying to speak about the issue in a way that breaks the frame.

Rather than just accepting an extreme dichotomy of "fatally, medically dangerous drug per se vs. "completely harmless sustance with no ill effects whatsoever", he's urging (and I agree with him, that we intriduce some subtlety into the debate by allowing that there is a spectrum of danger to these things. And that, in view of such a spectrum, there is also a spectrum of when and to what degree there needs to be government interdiction and personal responsibility.

Marijuana, like caffeine, alcohol, heroin, etc. can all be described as dangerous. But the dangers they pose are not the same. By ignoring the distinctions and instead choosing to have only a binary frame, it allows opponents of marijuana legalization to argue "well, it obviously doesn't fit into the 'completely safe' category, therefore it must fall into the 'completely dangerous' box."

Recognizing that marijuana can cause slower reaction times, etc. is a kind of danger. Admitting that allows us to then address with moral authority the kinds of dangers it does NOT pose. Sadly, so many folks are deeply entrenched into the binary mode of thinking that subtlety is often not appreciated in the debate and demagogues can abuse the issue for their own ends. But that seems to be the chronic problem with politics, in general, and my greatest frustration with political discourse.
posted by darkstar at 6:47 PM on June 22 [2 favorites -] Favorite added! [!]




This.
posted by lazaruslong at 4:33 PM on June 22, 2009


I submit that there is no useful definition of the word "harmless" that marijuana would not meet.

That's an interesting argument for why the word "harmless" could/should be applied to marijuana. Of course, that depends entirely on how you define "useful" and what the definition is supposed to be used for. A marijuana-legalization opponent could easily make the same argument-by-assertion to suggest that there is no useful definition of the word "dangerous" that marijuana would not meet. So I'm not sure the semantic argument gets us anywhere.

I don't think it's inappropriate to acknowledge in an honest debate that marijuana can lead to impairment of judgment, diminished reflexes and (if smoked), inhalation of combustion product carcinogens. These constitute putative dangers to a degree that water and aspirin do not.

What is gained by glossing over these obvious, factual symptoms of marijuana use? Opponents of marijuana legalization, I submit, see the attempt to completely dismiss any such possible harmful side effects as being disingenuous in the debate, or possibly being so out of touch that the legalization proponents can be simply dismissed out of hand.

Again, if you're seriously trying to make the argument that marijuana is no more "dangerous" to you than water, then the frame you're using is perhaps not going to be very effective at convincing the fence-sitters that may see that kind of assertion as outlandish. It's no more helpful than the folks who suggest marijuana is as dangerous as heroin. Neither of these positions seem reflective of reality, to me.

But that's just my perspective, of course.
posted by darkstar at 5:07 PM on June 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


I don't think it's inappropriate to acknowledge in an honest debate that marijuana can lead to impairment of judgment, diminished reflexes and (if smoked), inhalation of combustion product carcinogens. These constitute putative dangers to a degree that water and aspirin do not.

Not true as far as water is concerned. Hyponatremia can cause "mental confusion, impaired judgment, diminished reflexes", and water, if consumed boiling hot (as in teas) is associated with greater rates of esophageal cancer.

And of course, as pointed out before, water can be actually much more dangerous than marijuana - in fact, lethal when consumed in excess. In many ways, water is much more dangerous than marijuana. Again, we are going strictly by medical evidence.

Any honest lumping of marijuana and heroin based on danger, should not omit water. As for dishonest lumping, well, anything goes.
posted by VikingSword at 5:20 PM on June 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


I defy any of you to dig up a quality study that shows marijuana use is dangerous.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:27 PM on June 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


As an aside, it's very likely that marijuana has co-evolved with humanity; quite possibly, it's one of the plants that "taught" early man how to cultivate. Its seeds are enormously healthy, its fiber is superb for all sorts of tool-making, and its psychoactive effect encourages creative thinking. Left to its own devices, the plant reverts back to a less psychoactive form; apparently selective breeding has played a large role in its domestication as a useful drug.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:34 PM on June 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


"I defy any of you to dig up a quality study that shows marijuana use is dangerous."

Here's what's comical. There is more authoritative evidence of one form of consumption of water (in high temperature teas) leading to cancer, than there is an association of cancer and smoking marijuana. I'm not saying smoking pot can't cause cancer - we simply don't have proof one way or another - but it's funny to keep hearing "danger" when it applies more to water consumption (certain forms, just as with pot).
posted by VikingSword at 5:36 PM on June 22, 2009


Its seeds are enormously healthy, its fiber is superb for all sorts of tool-making, and its psychoactive effect encourages creative thinking.

I agree with the first two points, but the latter would not have mattered to early man who had not yet discovered King Crimson.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 5:37 PM on June 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


The legitimacy of the law is dependent on the rationality of its claims and the proportionality of its impact. Cannabis is officially seen as a medically useless and dangerous drug and is subject to the strictest federal criminal controls.

The "it's dangerous" group may be right that ignoring potential and speculative harm caused by cannabis may not serve the public relations cause of legalization but this is a political argument about style and not in support of the existing criminal justice framework.

Besides, most of the "dangerous" argument is exactly why these sorts of issues should be treated as health and human services problems and not criminal justice problems.
posted by effwerd at 5:46 PM on June 22, 2009


I'm talking about the use of marijuana as it is commonly used, vs. the use of water as it is commonly used. A glass of water does not cause hyponatremia. People don't drown in their tea. But a single joint can cause the kind of symptoms I described.

I'd like anyone to point me to three people that were convinced to support legalization of marijuana by the argument that "it's as safe, or safer, than water!" I suspect they're few and far between - if they exist at all - because the premise that a mind altering drug is just as safe (however you define it) as water seems absurd on its face.

But eh, whatever.
posted by darkstar at 6:01 PM on June 22, 2009


posted by five fresh fish I defy any of you to dig up a quality study that shows marijuana use is dangerous.

I defy you to refute the State of California's claim that marijuana smoke is a carcinogen.
posted by mattdidthat at 6:17 PM on June 22, 2009


five fresh fish: here you go.
posted by mattdidthat at 6:29 PM on June 22, 2009


I'm talking about the use of marijuana as it is commonly used, vs. the use of water as it is commonly used. A glass of water does not cause hyponatremia. People don't drown in their tea. But a single joint can cause the kind of symptoms I described.

As is commonly used? Let's see...

People don't drown in their tea - do people get cancer from one joint? Prolonged hot tea consumption has been associated with cancer of the esophagus; prolonged use of smoking of marijuana may cause cancer of some kind (speculative - no studies have show this so far, unlike with hot tea and esophageal cancer).

One glass of water does not cause hypontremia. Excess drinking of water over a period of time can cause anything from death to less severe consequences (such as muscle spasms, kidney problems etc. etc. etc.). Massive consumption of marijuana can cause some adverse medical effect (pending research).

But a single joint can cause the kind of symptoms I described.

Like what? You described: "impairment of judgment, diminished reflexes and (if smoked), inhalation of combustion product carcinogens."

To start with the carcinogens - rubbish. Insofar as the harm from the carcinogens in one joint can be quantified - good luck - what grounds are there for claiming that this is more than the harm from one dose of hot tea which directly damages tissue?

Impaired judgment, diminished reflexes [to the degree that it can represent danger - I'd like to see exact proof of this, since as we've seen with driving, that particular example was invalid] - isn't this dependent on the dose (size and quality of joint), and the user's condition (levels of already built up THC etc.)? If so, depending on dose and user's condition, can't that also obtain for water?

If we are going to honestly discuss danger of marijuana as it is commonly used which is the cry of the proponents of the view that "marijuana = some danger", then I submit, you will have a very hard time showing danger. Nobody smokes a joint (or uses pot as it is ordinarily used) and then does "dangerous things", which results in harm to himself or others. As it is ordinarily used, the danger of pot is equal to water - not really present under ordinary circumstances. In fact, the fundamental dishonesty of this dialogue is that we must purposefully invent outlandish scenarios where massive doses of pot might do something bad and dangerous. A standard we do not hold water to. All the dangers are somehow theoretical. Isn't that very telling? That no "common" behavior can be cited? Unlike, f.ex. with drinking and driving? Because, see, smoking pot and then driving doesn't bear out the "danger" hypothesis. So what else you got, please specific behavior scenarios. Here's a hint. If there are no statistics for dangerous accidents or effects as a result of marijuana intoxication, then maybe it's not really an issue for the "ordinary user"? Unlike with drinking alcohol - where there are plenty of such statistics. So how about we stop theorizing about all sorts of outlandish potential dangers, and actually, you know, look at the supposed real dangers.
posted by VikingSword at 6:37 PM on June 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


Mattdidthat: the cancer thing was a political statement by California, not based on data showing actual cancer caused by marijuana smoking. What they did was say that there are known carcinogens in marijuana smoke, ergo, it causes cancer.

While that may appear to be logically consistent, when you look at the actual doses consumed by most marijuana smokers (ie, they tend not to smoke every day, even those who smoke daily don't tend to smoke multiple joints, most people only do it for parts of their life-- not 20 a day for 40 years like cigarettes) and the data on marijuana smoking and lung cancer, you don't find that it plays out in real life as an actual risk factor for cancer. In other words, the dose makes the poison-- and/or there are anti-cancer compounds in cannabis that might counteract the cancer-causing ones.

Regarding schizophrenia: there seems to be no doubt that in vulnerable people, marijuana can exacerbate psychosis. But there is also no doubt that in a time in which marijuana smoking went from being done by less than 5% of the population to being tried by 60% of young adults, schizophrenia rates did not rise.

With lung cancer and cigarette smoking, there's a clear linear relationship. With marijuana and schizophrenia, there's none at all. So if you saw your friends become schizophrenic after smoking pot, you can probably be reassured that if they hadn't smoked pot, they would have become schizophrenic after another minor life stress-- so by avoiding pot, they wouldn't have avoided the illness.

In other words, marijuana can't be an important cause of schizophrenia because otherwise, schizophrenia rates should rise when marijuana use rises, and it doesn't.
posted by Maias at 6:44 PM on June 22, 2009 [4 favorites]


Impaired judgment, diminished reflexes [to the degree that it can represent danger - I'd like to see exact proof of this, since as we've seen with driving, that particular example was invalid] - isn't this dependent on the dose (size and quality of joint), and the user's condition (levels of already built up THC etc.)? If so, depending on dose and user's condition, can't that also obtain for water?

???

You seriously need to see clinical proof of the statement that spliffing up causes you to have impaired judgment and diminished reflexes?

You seriously suggest that a glass of water and a joint are equally harmful/safe?

I guess you do. Well, everyone is entitled to their opinions, I'm sure.
posted by darkstar at 6:45 PM on June 22, 2009


posted by Maias the cancer thing was a political statement by California, not based on data showing actual cancer caused by marijuana smoking. What they did was say that there are known carcinogens in marijuana smoke, ergo, it causes cancer.

"Marijuana smoke was considered by the Carcinogen Identification Committee (CIC) of the OEHHA Science Advisory Board at a public meeting held on May 29, 2009. The CIC determined that marijuana smoke was clearly shown, through scientifically valid testing according to generally accepted principles, to cause cancer."
posted by mattdidthat at 6:57 PM on June 22, 2009


You seriously need to see clinical proof of the statement that spliffing up causes you to have impaired judgment and diminished reflexes?

No. I clearly need to see proof that marijuana consumption increases danger of any kind. Because if you are relying on "impaired judgment and diminished reflexes" = danger, then you just fell flat on your face, as such a link is not obvious - as the study of marijuana consumption and driving accidents proves. The reason why the link is not obvious is the following: diminished reflexes and impaired judgment does not determine behavioral results, due to compensatory mechanisms. In other words, if marijuana is such a drug that while slowing your reflexes, it also inhibits you from engaging on dangerous behavior, or compels you to take greater care in your tasks, the net result will be neutral or even advantageous... as seen in the driving example. In contrast, alcohol tends to instill unjustified confidence in the user, so the slowed reflexes are compounded by misplaced confidence, thus the result is very negative. See?

And after all, we are talking about "danger" that marijuana represents, so you know, address yourself to the "danger" part, since merely linking danger to "slower reflexes and impaired judgment" clearly has been refuted at least in the driving example. It is up to you to prove the link. And the best way to prove it is by accident statistics - so get on it. If there are none, your thesis remains speculative. Because merely conjuring up theoretical possibilities of "what if an astronaut is shooting at an asteroid with his laser, trying to save earth, and then marijuana! da, da, da dum!", has no value. Reality trumps speculation every time. Merely hinting darkly at "slowed reflexes" amounts to nothing without a link to concrete, statistically demonstrable danger, and you have not proven such a link (the only example, the driving study, proves the opposite).
posted by VikingSword at 7:22 PM on June 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


I defy you to refute the State of California's claim that marijuana smoke is a carcinogen.

All smoke is carcinogenic. That does not mean marijuana is carcinogenic.

Further, multiple studies have shown that THC kills cancer cells.

Once again, I defy you to show a quality study that demonstrates marijuana is dangerous. You have yet to do so.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:30 PM on June 22, 2009


And here's a further hint for you naysayers: MeFi is generally populated by people who are unusually well-informed and intelligent. When dozens of them are telling you that what you are saying is mis-informed and wrong, chances are that you are indeed misinformed and wrong.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:32 PM on June 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


And one more thing: that marijuana smoke is carcinogenic (duh!) does not mean it is dangerous. My wife accidentally burned the tops of the biscuits we're having with supper tonight: that means they contain, gasp!, carcinogenic compounds — but they are not dangerous to eat.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:36 PM on June 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


And one more thing: that marijuana smoke is carcinogenic (duh!) does not mean it is dangerous. My wife accidentally burned the tops of the biscuits we're having with supper tonight: that means they contain, gasp!, carcinogenic compounds — but they are not dangerous to eat.

This needs elaboration. Carcinogens are present in many substances, including food. Mere presence of carcinogens is not proof of cancer-causing danger. For example, many vegetables naturally contain substances which are carcinogens under specific conditions in a laboratory. Yet, human bodies have evolved mechanisms to cope with these, and so those vegetables do not cause cancer, despite containing carcinogens. The point being carcinogens present does NOT equal cancer outcome. That is why we look for high-quality studies showing such causation - which we have for some substances, but not for others. You need to show specific cancer outcomes. Carcinogens, at best are an indicator of possibility of a cancer outcome, but not proof by a long stretch. Danger, must be judged by outcome, not by a long speculative chain of "maybes". So far, no such has been supplied for marijuana. Still awaiting the negative outcomes statistics and studies from the "marijuana danger" mongers. Proof, please, not speculation. Thanks.
posted by VikingSword at 7:43 PM on June 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Besides, most of the "dangerous" argument is exactly why these sorts of issues should be treated as health and human services problems and not criminal justice problems.

Quoted for truth.

Drug misuse, abuse, and addiction of any form are health problems and shouldn't be treated as a crime.

Putting people in jail for minor drug possession is a waste of time, effort, and money. It solves no health problems, deters no usage, nor prevents any crime. That is the key issue here.

The "danger" of most pot use is negligible. That someone could hypothetically have a bad pot experience and get hurt or killed is simply irrelevant to this argument.
posted by device55 at 7:50 PM on June 22, 2009


The "danger" of most drug use is negligible, as Portugal's change in drug laws indicates. They decriminalized all drugs and the result has been an absolute success by every metric.

Danger comes from drug abuse.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:02 PM on June 22, 2009


...like water abuse.
posted by gman at 8:19 PM on June 22, 2009


Sorry. I'm stoned. That looked right when I typed it.
posted by gman at 8:21 PM on June 22, 2009


And here's a further hint for you naysayers: MeFi is generally populated by people who are unusually well-informed and intelligent. When dozens of them are telling you that what you are saying is mis-informed and wrong, chances are that you are indeed misinformed and wrong.

Logic fallacy: Appeal to popularity. I wouldn't accept any majority opinion that flies in the face of my own, extensive experience, I don't care what the topic: pharmaceuticals, politics, religion or whatever.

As for being misinformed and a naysayer, I can only say that's a knee-jerk reaction to what I'm saying. I've toked up a LOT in my life. And I've been in the company of a LOT of other folks who have done so. Now, one might say that my experience is anecdotal, and I suppose it is. But so is my experience with just about everything in life.

Moreover, I have a graduate degree in biochemistry, so I'm not so stupid to accept the idea that any substance is as benign as water when you put it into your system, even if it is relatively benign, compared to more dangerous drugs. No, my training doesn't make me right, but it's one more data point that argues against the suggestion that I don't know anything about the topic in question.

Finally, just so it's clear, I support decriminalization. But for someone to try to sell me a line that pot is as harmless as water, or that there's no obvious link between having your judgment impaired and your reflexes diminished as you go through your everyday life, makes me call bullshit. But go ahead with those arguments if you've found it to be successful with your interlocutors in the past. I wouldn't want to deny what works, and if they've been winning converts to the decriminalization side for you, more power to you. It's just that no one I know would find it a credible thesis.
posted by darkstar at 8:27 PM on June 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Danger comes from drug abuse

To be fair, FFF, I do think that

I personally saw 3 cases of schizophrenia that were obviously brought on, precipitated, whatever you want to call it, by abuse of cannabis.

was what Onanist was getting at, at least in his second comment.
posted by nudar at 8:28 PM on June 22, 2009


"For the record" I do not spark up. And nor do I even maintain that marijuana is not "dangerous", whatever that means - my position rather, is that we do not have the grounds to call marijuana "dangerous". And those who advocate calling marijuana "dangerous to x degree" should provide some proof. Since I'd rather that policy be guided by objective evidence, and not moral panics, rampant speculation and the kind of fallacious reasoning that gave us the whole war on drugs, war based on "evidence" of Iraq's WMD, the entire GWOT, and so on.

But for someone to try to sell me a line that pot is as harmless as water, or that there's no obvious link between having your judgment impaired and your reflexes diminished as you go through your everyday life, makes me call bullshit.

Interesting, since the case "for" the danger is the one that needs to be proven. Proving lack of danger, like proving a negative is pointless. The burden of proof rests on those making the claim: "marijuana is dangerous". Please prove it then. At the outcome level, not with speculation upstream like "it impairs reflexes, therefor most likely X", speculation which has already been disproved for outcomes such as driving under the influence of pot. So, calling bullshit here is appropriate for those who ask for the proof when it is not forthcoming. Where are the stats? Still waiting.
posted by VikingSword at 8:39 PM on June 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'll simply reiterate my own view, since it's in "danger" of being recast as a straw man: marijuana is relatively benign. It isn't as biologically harmful as alcohol or a host of other drugs. But it does lead to diminished reflexes and impaired judgment when one takes it. And if you smoke it, you're putting carcinogens into your lungs. So it requires a cautionary approach that drinking a glass of water, for example, does not.

Does that enhanced cautionary approach mean it should be illegal? Not in my opinion. No more illegal than we take an enhanced cautionary approach when we deal with caffeine or trans fats. The government does not have a compelling argument to make that whatever the degree of danger is or is not posed by the drug requires their interdiction.

And don't get me started about how the Commerce Clause has been perverted and twisted out of any recognizable reflection of the Framers' intent in order to limit, for example, completely intra-state cultivation and distribution of the drug.
posted by darkstar at 9:05 PM on June 22, 2009


"Dangerous" is a spectrum. It's dangerous to cross the street. It's dangerous to pull a plugged-in and running toaster apart with your hands while running the kitchen tap on it to cool it down. There are plenty of "dangers" posed by marijuana smoking but all of these, as far as I can tell, are well within the capacity of almost everyone to anticipate and mitigate. Furthermore these dangers are almost exclusively visited on the user or their dependents, and anyone whose politics include the barest respect for liberty or self-determination surely must consider endangering oneself to that slight a degree to be within the boundaries of personal choice.

What unambiguously is dangerous, and very much closer to the water-cooled bare-handed toaster maintenance end of the spectrum of danger, is jailing people for marijuana possession. It's one of the stupidest public policies to come out of a political system that could have been designed with the objective of producing stupid public policies by the truckload. The trivial danger of marijuana use to bystanders and to its users does not come anywhere near to justifying the serious dangers that jailing users causes to those users, to users' dependents and associates, to law enforcement officers and the legal system, to the economy, and to society as a whole. It just doesn't add up.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 9:33 PM on June 22, 2009 [4 favorites]


And here's a further hint for you naysayers: MeFi is generally populated by people who are unusually well-informed and intelligent. When dozens of them are telling you that what you are saying is mis-informed and wrong, chances are that you are indeed misinformed and wrong.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:32 PM on June 22


This is asinine, childish, and insulting to a member of the community who is taking the time to make reasonable contributions to the discussion.
posted by lazaruslong at 9:48 PM on June 22, 2009


Eh, I understand where he's coming from. And I heart FFF, too. It's just that we don't see eye to eye on this particular point of this particular debate. But I think we do generally agree on the underlying theme, which aeschenkarnos stated above.
posted by darkstar at 10:04 PM on June 22, 2009


I find it somewhat surprising that two of the people who are saying time and again that it should be decriminalized are self-identifying themselves as naysayers. Particularly when my post quoted someone who isn't them. WTF is with that?
posted by five fresh fish at 10:05 PM on June 22, 2009


Ah, FFF. Yes, I conflated your comment with VikingSword's comment above it which was directed at me. Apologies for that confusion.
posted by darkstar at 10:09 PM on June 22, 2009


Of course, I perhaps flatter myself to think that your last comment referred to me as one of the "two of the people"! Maybe it's just the paranoia from the weed: everybody's talking about me!

In any event, probably the most dangerous thing I ever did on pot was in grad school when I decided to call my Dad for a heart-to-heart chat. Collect. At 4 a.m.
posted by darkstar at 10:18 PM on June 22, 2009


I suggest those who wish to become informed should start by reading A Primer of Drug Action, one of the more well-respected texts on the subject. It will serve as an excellent starting point for discerning whether this or that internet information is sensible or hysterical.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:29 PM on June 22, 2009


I am simply taking people at their word, when they say that they are interested in specifying precisely the degree of danger of various substances, including marijuana.

Therefore, when the observation is made:

"No more illegal than we take an enhanced cautionary approach when we deal with caffeine or trans fats."

I worry somewhat, because negative consequences of consuming trans fatty acids are very well established. The case is not at all unclear - it's all negative, dose-dependent with greater intake leading to more negative outcomes. The case is much more confused wrt. caffeine, where the overall health impact appears "U" shaped. So I worry when both these are lumped together. And then the comparison is made to marijuana - but to what? Trans fats? Caffeine? Both of these are different, so how is the comparison made? There certainly is no evidence that marijuana is as harmful as trans fats. And while there are hints that marijuana might act as an anti-oxidant with good impact on brain tissue (particularly relevant vis a vis Alzheimer's), that is highly speculative - just as speculative as findings that marijuana may damage DNA in cells in vitro. It says nothing about actual in vivo effects.

I go into details, precisely because of cries "let us measure exactly the damage marijuana does vs heroin etc.". OK, if we are going to be precise, then let us see the research with exact figures, not comparisons to trans fats and caffeine when these in turn are nowhere alike as risk factors for morbidity outcomes. You want precision? Fine. In that case, I still say: evidence please.

Of course, if it is all personal opinion, that's different. And not a very interesting conversation for me, personally. I was certainly interested in the astounding claim that pot "clearly causes schizophrenia", and was bitterly disappointed with the evidence supplied. Appears to be the same with the claim that marijuana represents "danger" of some unspecified degree - though I am still eager to learn the exact degree and nature (backed up by solid evidence, of course).
posted by VikingSword at 10:48 PM on June 22, 2009


VikingSword, this summary seems to offer quite a few ways in which marijuana can be potentially dangerous. I suspect that not every one of them can be dismissed away as flawed study, but I confess I have no interest in tracking down every reference and critically reading it to determine if the study was sound. In any event, the link seems to take a pretty even approach, also pointing out the potential medical benefits of marijuana.

Some of the symptoms of marijuana, such as dramatically increased heart rate, seem to speak for themselves in terms of their potential danger to the user. And it shouldn't require trotting out a raft of studies to illustrate the point that putting anything into your lungs other than air is a prescription for health complications, including asthma, chronic bronchitis, etc.

But inasmuch as I really am not terribly motivated to pour a whole lot of refutation into convincing you, I'll leave it where we are and let the link, and its cited references, speak for themselves.
posted by darkstar at 11:38 PM on June 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Even if marijuana is dangerous for some people that doesn't mean it hasn't been extremely beneficial for some of us, like me and my friend Jeff. Honestly, Jeff was a total asshole until he started toking up, so those of you who are trying to impose your nanny-state ways on other people should just accept my evidence: it's really fun to get stoned, it can show you a lot about life, there are no serious studies that show that casual use is harmful, and it's far better for you than most other drugs.

Hey. You. Get off of my cloud.
posted by twoleftfeet at 12:29 AM on June 23, 2009


VikingSword: what do you think of PMID 19080993?

I only looked at the first two pages of results - there are other studies that report correlation but don't claim causality.
posted by Infinite Jest at 12:37 AM on June 23, 2009


This is awesome.
posted by lunit at 6:49 AM on June 23, 2009


Thank you Mexico.
posted by saysthis at 8:45 AM on June 23, 2009


Mexico!? What does that have to do with whether marijuana is bad for you or not? Can we please stick to the topic of this post?
posted by stinkycheese at 10:57 AM on June 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


re: PMID 19080993 - this is another study showing association, but I don't see any proof of causation. I don't have access to the full study, but it doesn't look like anything other than the other studies I've referred to when I pointed out that there are many such "association studies", but none with proof of causation. This study was epidemiological in nature, and actually a meta-study, which brings in additional sets of problems.

re: darkstar's summary link - again, same problems of massively confounded epidemiological studies, use of other drugs and/or alcohol mixed in, ridiculous in vitro studies of no worth as far as drawing conclusions, studies based on mice, etc.

Unfortunately, medical science is a very complicated affair, and it is almost impossible to draw quick conclusions from isolated symptoms. As an example, the two things cited by darkstar as seemingly ironclad, are also not clear cut: "dramatically increased heart rate, seem to speak for themselves in terms of their potential danger to the user" - if only it were so, but it isn't, because for example, caffeine can have exactly the same effect, and overall, caffeine has been largely absolved as causing health problems or heart problems in particular. Unless you can show outcomes, and isolate the specific causative agent and prove the connection, then you have not shown a problem. Yes, the heart is racing, but is the subject sustaining damage? If not, then so what that it's racing? Even this: "putting anything into your lungs other than air is a prescription for health complications" - can be in dispute. For example, people who live in high elevations, frequently exhibit more robust heath, and pulmonary/cardiovascular health in particular. One suggested mechanism has been mild hypoxia (there is less oxygen at higher elevations). Further, cells subject to mild hypoxia often exhibit more robust repair mechanisms, and lab animals subject to mild hypoxia can have a prolonged life-span. Now imagine that someone makes this experiment in the lab: instead of regulating oxygen levels directly, they add a biologically inert gas that the animals breathe in, and the gas displaces some amount of oxygen. Now the animals are "putting something other than just air in their lungs", and through hypoxia exhibit more robust pulmonary health and longer life-span. Bingo. Is that an argument for smoking pot? Of course not, but it shows the difficulty of making arguments such as darkstar makes. Biology is complicated.

Again - personally, I don't claim that pot is absolved of all problems, nor that there are any problems that have been proven. I do claim that we just don't have the hard evidence for pot - one way or the other, unlike for many other drugs. Don't forget, there are also some pro-pot studies claiming benefits for pot. They don't convince me either. The fundamental problem with a lot of research in this area is that not only is it of low scientific value due to design (practical issues - we can't give healthy subjects pot and follow them under controlled circumstances and compare them with a well chosen cohort), but the whole field suffers from being to a large degree "advocacy science", which immediately degrades it immensely. It's like the sponsored "research" which magically shows whatever the sponsor wishes. In this case, government funded studies which purport to show negative outcomes of drugs - these "results" then pass into popular discourse and become entrenched as received wisdom, and often later are debunked, long after the myths are established and nobody pays attention to the new results (something like that happened recently with MDMA-ecstasy, where for the longest time "studies" allegedly showed immense brain damage from trivial use etc., and this has now been debunked). What is worse, even studying pot is very hard, because researchers cannot simply obtain pot, and the government actively obstructs such studies, while promoting one-sided "advocacy" studies.

Bottom line, marijuana studies are too fraught with multiple problems to have much credibility - either for or against. And we should not be making policy, based upon such dishonestly obtained results - that is, when even such results exist in the first place. Time to have real studies, and a real discussion, not the political process it is now.
posted by VikingSword at 11:26 AM on June 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


VikingSword, I said ""putting anything into your lungs other than air is a prescription for health complications". You countered with the suggestion that hypoxia might be beneficial to one's health. However, that in NO WAY refutes my comment. Intaking less air (what you said) is not equivalent to taking in something other than air (like combustion products, which is what I said).

I also noted, as an example, the significant increase in heart rate while under the influence. You countered that this has not been shown to be related to any deleterious health effects. But the link I provided cites a referenced which specifically notes that because of this effect, heart attacks are FOUR TIMES more likely to occur in someone on marijuana than someone who is not.

You asked for evidence and I provided a link with dozens of references to studies that have been conducted. Pardon me for assuming you haven't read all those studies, but you completely dismissed them all out of hand as irrelevant, flawed, etc. If you're arguing for a "real discussion", then maybe the first place to start is with yourself.

At any rate, since I really don't have a dog in this hunt, I'll politely decline to continue this particular debate. Peace!
posted by darkstar at 3:30 PM on June 23, 2009


VikingSword, I said ""putting anything into your lungs other than air is a prescription for health complications". You countered with the suggestion that hypoxia might be beneficial to one's health. However, that in NO WAY refutes my comment. Intaking less air (what you said) is not equivalent to taking in something other than air (like combustion products, which is what I said).

No, I did not say "intaking less air" - I said intaking a mixture of gasses that is different from air. It is a certain amount of air + a biologically inert gas. That's not air. And the result is not "intake of less air", but intake of less oxygen, which is only one component of air, and don't forget plus another gas. That qualifies as refuting this part of your statement: "putting anything into your lungs other than air is a prescription for health complications" - the inert gas is "other", not "air".

But how about direct impact of carcinogens in inhaled marijuana, rather than theoretical constructs - regarding pot and cancer, how about a science addressing it directly - according to researchers at John Hopkins Medical School in Baltimore, "marijuana, unlike tobacco and alcohol, does not appear to cause head, neck, or lung cancer", so there is also that despite all the "carcinogens" inhaled. To my mind that still does not absolve pot, but it certainly does not implicate it either.

Pardon me for assuming you haven't read all those studies, but you completely dismissed them all out of hand as irrelevant, flawed, etc. If you're arguing for a "real discussion", then maybe the first place to start is with yourself.

darkstar, I was hurrying to work, and I could not afford to write a novel size post to address all these issues, so of necessity I employed some shortcuts, and so could not address all the studies individually. Did I read all the studies? No. How can I then dare to dismiss them? Quite the same way, as someone with some understanding of physics does not have to read each and every patent application for a perpetual motion machine - there are thousands of such submissions each year to the patent office and various physics journals. And yet editors and patent examiners routinely dismiss them in great numbers without reading much beyond the title. That's how.

Now, for a more lengthy explanation, in this particular case. If I see that the study is either fatally flawed, or simply not designed to prove certain very specific claims, but rather a "case making" study from which people then extrapolate to some desired conclusion, well, I peg it as such. I say then, as in fact I did, "this is again a study that shows association, but does not constitute proof" - which is factually correct. Since we are after proof, a study the design of which precludes proof is instantly dismissed - it cannot, by its very design reach the objective we need, hence "fail". Epidemiological studies - which constitute the vast majority of these, are by their nature subject to huge confounders which it is frequently impossible to get around.

The second class of studies in that link, which I also dismiss, are studies which don't actually address our issues at all, because they don't separate marijuana from other drugs taken at the same time. You can see why that would not address our argument.

The third class of studies in your link, which I also dismiss with extreme haste, are in vitro cell culture studies. Friend, if anybody tries to sell you any in vivo extrapolation from in vitro cell culture effects, you know you are dealing with worthless arguments. At the very best, an in vitro study can be suggestive of future research avenues and never, ever - never ever - should it be used for extrapolating to in vivo effects. Period.

The fourth class of studies in your link, which I also dismiss, are murine studies and other animal studies. For the same reasons as in vitro - the extrapolation to humans is a giant step, and at best, they can be used as suggestions from future research.

I can elaborate on all these at much greater length, but I hope I made my case as to how it is possible for me to examine the studies pretty rapidly and assess that they do not merit my reading, since by their design they cannot settle out argument.

And that small exposition on what constitutes "proof" in a study, and what is merely suggestive, with various values of "suggestive", brings me to this:

I also noted, as an example, the significant increase in heart rate while under the influence. You countered that this has not been shown to be related to any deleterious health effects. But the link I provided cites a referenced which specifically notes that because of this effect, heart attacks are FOUR TIMES more likely to occur in someone on marijuana than someone who is not.

I actually dug up that study, and you can read that link in full.

Here are the money quotes - the bolding is mine:

Methods and Results—In the Determinants of Myocardial Infarction Onset Study, we interviewed 3882 patients (1258 women) with acute myocardial infarction an average of 4 days after infarction onset. We used the case-crossover study design to compare the reported use of marijuana in the hour preceding symptoms of myocardial infarction onset to its expected frequency using self-matched control data. Of the 3882 patients, 124 (3.2%) reported smoking marijuana in the prior year, 37 within 24 hours and 9 within 1 hour of myocardial infarction symptoms. Compared with nonusers, marijuana users were more likely to be men (94% versus 67%, P<0>current cigarette smokers (68% versus 32%, P<0>obese (43% versus 32%, P=0.008). They were less likely to have a history of angina (12% versus 25%, P<0>hypertension (30% versus 44%, P=0.002). The risk of myocardial infarction onset was elevated 4.8 times over baseline (95% confidence interval, 2.4 to 9.5) in the 60 minutes after marijuana use. The elevated risk rapidly decreased thereafter.

Conclusions—Smoking marijuana is a rare trigger of acute myocardial infarction. Understanding the mechanism through which marijuana causes infarction may provide insight into the triggering of myocardial infarction by this and other, more common stressors."

Aah, the irony gods could not have served up a better study than this to poke holes in the whole "bad pot" agenda using science. As seen above, this is not exactly a high-quality clinical study to begin with. Then, the poor heart attack victims who smoked pot, were quite unlike the non-pot users, they were more likely to be men (which means automatically more heart attacks, just based on gender), obese (woohoo!), and current cigarette smokers (aces!) - boy, that's a trifecta right there! Forgive me, if I burst out laughing here. But wait, it gets better. Even so, with all of this, it remained a rare event adjusted for scale. Sigh. The final kick is this: remember how we had all this scare talk about heart racing? Well, a racing heart can cause acute elevations in blood pressure. So, given all the sad sack correlates here of male, obese cigarette smokers, did all that heart racing result in hypertension? Here I just had to burst out laughing again: compared to the non-pot users these sad sacks, had actually less hypertension and angina! Oh the irony, oh the sharp, shining irony! This study, as is so low in quality and with such blatant confounders, that it proves absolutely nothing other than that advocacy science needs a strong stomach and a brazen face.

Let this be a lesson, for you, about relying on data that is so horrifically flawed - when the discourse is so poisoned and so dishonest, you must look at everything with skepticism and double check absolutely everything.
posted by VikingSword at 4:42 PM on June 23, 2009 [3 favorites]


I'm in a Mexican Rexall

Ah, 'Mama's Candy Store' in Barra de Navidad. Fond memories.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:11 PM on June 23, 2009


More on decrim: UN Backs Drug Decriminalization.
posted by gingerbeer at 10:32 AM on June 24, 2009


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