CultureWatch

Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

Marijuana Madness

Feb 16, 2014

In the US two states have recently decriminalised non-medical marijuana use: Colorado and Washington. US President Obama added fuel to the fire by saying, “I don’t think it is more dangerous than alcohol.” And in Australia the Queensland Premier is talking about allowing marijuana for medical use.

drugs 2Campbell Newman said, “I am perfectly prepared to accept that hemp has potential to create drugs or treatments that might have a medical benefit for people. I believe this is something the Therapeutic Goods Administration or the National Health and Medical Research Council should be looking at.”

How are we to assess such developments? While entire libraries have been written on this, and I have written fully referenced research papers on these matters, let me here offer a very brief assessment. As to decriminalising marijuana for recreational use, the short answer to this madness runs as follows:

First, many studies have identified the dangers associated with cannabis use. Indeed, there are well over 10,000 scientific studies about marijuana and its effects. The findings reveal some alarming facts. Acute effects of cannabis use include: anxiety, panic, paranoia, cognitive impairment, psychomotor impairment, and increased risk of low birth rate babies. Chronic effects include: respiratory diseases, attention and memory loss or impairment, and cannabis dependence.

The Australian Medical Association has issued warnings on the health risks associated with smoking marijuana. Risks of cannabis use include memory loss, psychosis, impaired driving, hallucinations, asthma, and even lung cancer. Moreover, warned the AMA, one third to one half of detained patients admitted to psychiatric units in Australia are there because marijuana use has precipitated a relapse.

Numerous recent studies continue to point out the dangers of cannabis use. A recent article in Pediatrics made these conclusions: “Marijuana is an addictive, mind-altering drug capable of inducing dependency. . . . Marijuana should not be considered an innocuous drug. . . . There is little doubt that marijuana intoxication contributes substantially to accidental deaths and injuries among adolescents”. Another major study, as reported in the June 2000 issue of the Journal of Immunology reported that use of cannabis could cause cancerous tumours to grow faster.

The British Lung Foundation recently released a major report stating that “there is an increased negative health impact on those who smoke cannabis compared to those who do not smoke at all”. And a recent Australian study has found that marijuana use is a major factor in road accidents. The study found that earlier studies purporting to show that marijuana may in fact make driving safer were fundamentally flawed.

The late Australian brain and behaviour expert Dr John Anderson has looked extensively at the effects of long-term marijuana use on the brain. He says that in “terms of long-term functioning, [marijuana] is one of the worst drugs”. He said about 25 per cent of psychiatric patients who experienced psychotic episodes were cannabis users. And one Melbourne doctor who has treated drug addicts for two decades says that cannabis is destroying a generation of young men. Even though he wants to see the drug legalised, Dr John Sherman admits that “cannabis is causing huge harms in the community”.

The studies continue to come forth. A 2002 study found that teenage cannabis users drastically increase their risk of suffering mental illness. The findings, published in the British Medical Journal, say the risks of psychiatric disorders due to cannabis use are much higher than previously thought.

More recently Andrew Campbell of the NSW Mental Health Review Tribunal said that we are facing an epidemic of cannabis-induced psychosis. He said the drug is even more dangerous than heroin. He referred to a five-year study of the histories of mentally ill patients in NSW who had been committed to an institution or needed compulsory treatment. Four out of five of them had smoked marijuana regularly in adolescence.

Moreover, it is not just the user who suffers. Children born to mums who smoke marijuana also suffer. Babies born to pot-smoking mothers are more likely to experience growth retardation, and a range of health and behaviour problems later in life.

And it needs to be borne in mind that cannabis is becoming more and more potent. It is much stronger, because of higher THC levels (the “high” producing element of cannabis). Thus the grass smoked by hippies in the 70s was much less potent than today’s high THC cannabis. With increased potency comes increased health risks.

Because today’s marijuana may be as much as 15 times stronger than that smoked in the 1960s, it is much more dangerous. A recent report by the British Lung Foundation stated that marijuana was four times more likely to cause cancer than tobacco.

Second, cannabis is what is known as a gateway drug. Many if not most users of hard drugs came by the way of cannabis. True, not all cannabis users go on to the harder drugs, but most hard drug users began with illicit drugs like cannabis.

As one Melbourne policeman put it, “marijuana is the kindergarten of the drug world, with heroin its university, the only problem being there is no graduation or happy ending”. Or as drug expert Elaine Walters has remarked, “young people who do not use marijuana rarely become regular users of any other illegal drug”.

Third, opening the door to legalised marijuana usage will simply act as the thin edge of the wedge. Demands will soon be made for the legalisation of other drugs, for the cultivation of other drug crops in the home, and soon calls for the recreational use of various “hard” drugs will be heard as well. This in fact is the ultimate aim of the pro-legalisation lobby, as is clearly set forth in their writings.

Fourth, the link between drugs and crime applies to marijuana as well. As but one example, a study was made of homicide offenders in the New York State prisons. One-third of those who had ever used marijuana had smoked the drug in the 24-hour period prior to the homicide. Moreover, 31 per cent of those who considered themselves to be “high” at the time of committing murder felt that the homicide and marijuana were related.

Medical Marijuana

The issue of the medical use of marijuana needs to be carefully examined. Many voices are calling for marijuana to be used to relieve pain and the side effects of cancer chemotherapy, among other things. However, as a National Institutes of Health (NIH) panel of experts has found, the evidence is not yet in on the medicinal value of marijuana. Both short-term and long-term risks associated with the medicinal use of marijuana have not been adequately determined, and therefore caution is urged in this area.

Another report to the US Government said that “there is insufficient medical and scientific evidence to support a conclusion that cannabis has an accepted medical use for treatment of any condition, or that it is safe to use, even under medical supervision”.

Indeed, the following are just some of the medical organisations in the US that have stated that marijuana has not been shown to be safe or effective as medicine: the American Medical Association, the American Cancer Society, the National Multiple Sclerosis Association, the National Cancer Institute and the National Institute for Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

And a Sydney expert on marijuana, the late Dr John Anderson, has recently argued that marijuana trials would cause more harm than good. He acknowledges that there may be some efficacy to marijuana use, but that other, safer drugs are currently available for treatment. He believes the argument that marijuana has medicinal value will send out the wrong message, and people will ignore the possible harmful effects of marijuana use.

For these and other reasons, I strongly disagree with Obama and Newman. Marijuana is illegal because it is a dangerous drug which causes great harm. We do not need to open the floodgates here by decriminalising it.

www.couriermail.com.au/news/queensland/campbell-newman-gets-behind-medicinal-pot/story-fnihsrf2-1226801037682

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16 Responses to Marijuana Madness

  • Similar to Porn, it`s much stronger these days, we can see it`s addictive, we can see the influence it has on children, we can see it tearing families apart, but still think we can use it responsibly. Will grass smokers be able to smoke in front of children, drive cars, smoke in the office or playground, what will we be telling children by legalising it and will the tax be enough to cover the consequences of condoning it`s use ???

  • One thing you forgot to mention Bill, is that 90% of people who have Schizophrenia have at some time in their lives, smoked Marijuana.

    Use of it certainly does lead to major Mental problems short and long term and those who Advocate its use and Legalization in my Book are themselves a few Cents short of a Dollar.

    Leigh D Stebbins

  • Marijuana users are six times more likely to develop schizophrenia, which is incurable. I hope places legalising marijuana are going to invest huge amounts of money into their mental health services. The strain on the families involved is also horrendous and lifelong.

  • The drug culture has been encouraged by highly influential neo-Marxist ideologues for over 60 years. They are only interested in promoting witlessness in the young and the general population so they can obtain political power more easily. Calling it ‘freedom’ they are creating a hell on earth which will eventually consume them as well as the unfortunates who fall for their lies.

  • Exactly right Alan. All these movements for social perversion and unrighteousness (whether drug legalisation, or porn legalisation, or prostitution legalisation, etc) are all part of well-funded and well-oiled lobby groups, all sharing the worldview of cultural Marxism. They are working overtime to destroy the West through these nefarious agendas. Yet incredibly some “Christian libertarians” are jumping on the same bandwagons. Go figure.

  • Normally one identifies the active ingredient of a plant or other agent which is therapeutic. Where marijuana is concerned, has anyone identified the active ingredient which alleviates pain? No. Again, if one could one wouldn’t smoke the weed, one would have a tablet with carefully calibrated dosage. Until we prove that such an ingredient exists in marijuana, isolate it, test it, prove it safe for human consumption, and identify the safe level this remains purely hypothetical. Indeed one is left to wonder whether the unproved appeal to medical marijuana is just a ploy to advance the case for decriminalisation.

  • Though high, the reported association between psychosis and marihuana is much lower than I expected. As an undergraduate medical student I remember ONE(1) patient admitted for schizophrenia who had not smoked marijuana. Indeed, in interviewing her, one of the first things she said was “I know you’re going to ask me about marijuana, and no I’ve never smoked it. I’m the only one here who hasn’t but that’s just the way it is.” She stands out because she was the only exception I saw to the marijuana-schizophrenia cause and effect relationship.

  • I would agree with Father Fleming’s thoughts. I know that New-Age forums are cock-a-hoop at the news that drugs are beginning to be legalised. If anyone dares to suggest that using marijuana as a medicine is a risky exercise, one runs the risk of being vilified, “denying people the right to relieve their sufferings”.
    We have to ask, deep down in the depths of the soul, whether Our Lord could ever approve the intake of substances into the body, which cause such sickness and loss of control. The answer I get back is a firm NO.

    As for psychosis, whether drug-induced or not, it is a horrible affliction that I have had the misery of seeing close-up, in a family member (not via drugs, however). It is a gut-wrenching time to go through and you spend each day praying for it all to be cured and over with. Why any human would want to run the risk of developing the same horrors is beyond my understanding.

  • There is a documentary by David Suzuki about the connection between modern marijuana and schizophrenia.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1PP8tsmW9Z0

    Also, my best friend has schizophrenia, which she believes was triggered when she tried marijuana in high school. As far as I know, it only took trying it once or twice and as a result, she got so sick she almost didn’t graduate.

    It’s very scary that there is such strong (and apparently successful) movement to legalize this. I think the states where this is legal need to brace themselves for a rash of new problems, or at least worsening of problems that are already there.

    I have always been skeptical of the efficacy of marijuana for medical purposes, however if it does work for some people to relieve pain or whatever, I really don’t mind if they are allowed to have small amounts of it with a prescription. However I DO have a problem with it if users are smoking it in close proximity to me and I have health problems because of it. This happened a few years ago when I had a neighbor who liked to smoke the stuff. It was so hot out that I needed to sleep with my window open. I woke up a couple of hours after having gone to bed and I just felt nauseous from the horrible smell that was coming in my window. I then could not go back to sleep. This then became a regular occurrence until (thankfully!) the neighbor moved away.

    All I’m saying is, this drug is not as innocent as its proponents would like us to believe, and even if it were proven to be harmless, I would still oppose the legalization of it. Cigarette smoke is bad enough and I have been very happy with the efforts to discourage smoking. The last thing we need is to replace one kind of smoke with another one.

  • Father John Fleming 17.2.14 / 12am

    Indeed one is left to wonder whether the unproved appeal to medical marijuana is just a ploy to advance the case for decriminalisation.

    Yes, indeed. This “medicinal benefit” argument only seems to have emerged over the last 12 months that I can recall.

    Rhetorical question: Why was there no case made much earlier, so that longitudinal studies could establish the benefits?

  • British journalist and conservative social commentator contends that cannabis use is effectively “decriminalised” in many Western jurisdictions by the law enforcement policy of going easy on persons found with small quantities of cannabis for their own “personal use”.

    Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World has already given us a sneak preview of a society where a legalised recreational drug is used as a tool for the state control of its subject populations…

  • Missed the journalist’s name in my initial post: He is Peter Hitchens.

  • Apart from Paul’s instruction to Timothy to “take a little wine for your frequent stomach ailments” I have not heard anything good said about alcohol either, biblically or otherwise. Of course there is a difference between wine and strong drink, but why is alcohol legal when the benefits are so few and the problems with it so numerous? Even the CWTU has been decried by many Christians as being too strict. Prohibition was put down as an experiment that didn’t work, because it drove the sale and consumption of alcohol under ground, but we wouldn’t use that argument for cannabis. I really don’t understand why these substances are treated differently even after looking at biblical or cultural considerations.
    Maybe you could direct me to articles or studies that discuss this, Bill?
    thanks
    Many blessings
    Ursula Bennett

  • Recently, a friend of mine was violently and sadistically murdered for a reason so trivial it made international headlines (the murderer claimed he’d made an illegal chess move). The murderer’s friends said he’d never been a violent person and were at a loss to explain how he could have committed such a terrible crime (which he fully confessed to). On his Facebook page the murderer was depicted smoking marijuana. He is currently incarcerated in a mental institution.

  • As one bloke I knew once said re: leglising Marijuana,”we already have enough problems with the drugs that are already legal (tobacco and alcohol), why add one more into the mix?”. Mick Koster.

  • It’s funny how we only hear about how marijuana has positive effects and its medical value in the media. I think more people need to read this article about the risks. People need to take a stand one way or the other but I think you hit it spot on when you were talking about the legalization of marijuana could be a gateway to the legalization of other drugs for recreational use. It’s not something our society needs.

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