LEEF: Should the recreational use of marijuana be legalized now?
The tens upon tens of people who voted for me and have read my commentaries know I am an enemy of hypocrisy and can be, at times, a tad bit sarcastic; however, today I attempt to set aside most of the snark and sticks with the relevant facts regarding marijuana.
These facts are especially important because Illinois appears likely to legalize recreational marijuana use, which is a development Illinois’ Leftists enthusiastically support as an advancement of social progress and their pet lawmakers, the Democrats, view as a new tax revenue stream.
But enough about the vapid, gutless, immoral and intellectually barren creatures who claim to represent us.
The two uses of marijuana are medical and recreational. The medical use of marijuana dates back centuries, to 2737 B.C. in China. Today, the medical literature documents multiple scientific studies establishing marijuana’s efficacy in treating a variety of illnesses, including chronic pain, multiple sclerosis and side effects (nausea, vomiting and severe wasting) of cancer treatment.
What is lacking are comparable studies regarding marijuana’s recreational use; indeed, much of the useful research regarding the safety of marijuana’s recreational use is either dated or incomplete.
Two leading medical journals (CHEST and BREATHE) address, in Donald Rumsfeld’s immortal phraseology, “…the known knowns” of marijuana. The research has established marijuana, like alcohol, is a central nervous system depressant; it contains many of the same injurious elements as tobacco, elements like phenols and known carcinogens like benzpyrene and benzathracene.
Despite the presence of these substances, there currently is no evidence to suggest an increase incidence of either lung cancer or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease but there are proven changes to the bronchi, which transmit air to and from the lungs. Cigarette smoke causes the identical changes within the bronchi. Cessation of smoking marijuana does produce complete reversal of the changes of these cells to normal.
There are no consistent findings between studies which demonstrate any increase in the incidence of pneumonia in patients with normal immune systems.
Currently, the medical literature documents the only consistently established consequence of smoking recreational marijuana is the development of chronic bronchitis.
One might be tempted to conclude recreational marijuana falls well within the libertarian belief of “do as you please as long as it doesn’t negatively impact others”; however, the absurdity of that statement is well demonstrated with tobacco smoking. Trillions of taxpayer dollars have been spent on tobacco-related illnesses. That affects me. How about you?
What about marijuana use and driving? The National Institute of Health (NIH) and The American Journal of Addictions (A.J.A.) have both published the known knowns on this topic and they are, if you will pardon the expression, sobering:
• marijuana is the most prevalent illicit drug identified in impaired drivers;
• two-thirds of trauma center admissions are for motor vehicle accidents and 60% of these patients test positive for alcohol and/or marijuana;
• marijuana acutely impairs several driver related skills;
• evidence suggests a concentration of 2-5 ng/ml of THC (marijuana’s main active ingredient) in the blood is associated with substantial driving impairment.
• concentrations of THC exceeding 5 ng/ml is associated with increased motor vehicle accidents;
• marijuana’s psychoactive compounds (the chemicals which alter brain functions like perception, mood, cognition and behavior) varies over time
These same studies document the delay collecting samples of THC have complicated epidemiologic studies, which makes determining marijuana’s safety more difficult to assess. The studies established TCH blood levels rapidly decrease after smoking.
The studies further demonstrated that alcohol led to faster driving and one’s under-estimation of impairment, while marijuana led to slower, more cautious driving; the combination of the two led to more impairment than either alone.
What these studies show is the known unknowns of recreational marijuana use are great and such a knowledge gap could well lead to horrific health consequences to marijuana smokers and a new, more insidious public health crisis, with its attendant societal and financial costs.
For example, not unlike the Democratic Party, cannabis has been and will continue to be bred to be more insidiously toxic and disguised as an antidote to all things deemed malignant (such as ambition and hard work). In essence, research will never catch up.
Also, no study has either proved or disproved whether cannabis is a gateway to more addictive and dangerous drugs. While only a small percentage of cannabis-users progress to illegal substance abuse, nearly 100% of cocaine, heroin, and opioid addicts have launched their destructive journey with marijuana.
Lastly, I’ve only cited research as to how THC blood levels relate to motor vehicle accidents. Soon, dear readers, you will be able to legally purchase and smoke or consume marijuana to treat the anxiety you feel over the fact that your neurosurgeon has legally achieved a mind-altering blood level of THC prior to removing your brain tumor.
With this information in hand, knowing it is impossible for politicians of either party to resist their natural inclination to be disingenuous and self-serving, is it possible for the average voter to set aside ideology and take a rational approach to answering the question, “Should the recreational use of marijuana be legalized now?”
My personal feelings aside, since legalization seems inevitable, voters must at a minimum make certain non-negotiable demands from our own dazed and confused policy makers.
Therefore, I am forced to make the following simple proposal:
• Legalize the recreational use of marijuana AFTER a roadside test is made available. As cannabis is a billion dollar business, this should be invented yesterday.
• Address, what I view, as the improper imprisonment of a predominantly black and brown population by granting them immediate pardons.
• Initiate the process of changing the laws such that possession of cannabis is not illegal, but the documentation of a roadside level greater than 5ng/ml is a felony.
But to justify the legalization of marijuana by preaching the benefits to our economy by the resulting financial windfall is at best fallacious and at worst morally repugnant.
Who believes that the state whose government leaders have run it to near ruins will spend the new revenue wisely? To quote the great Nobel Laureate Milton Friedman, “If you put the federal government in charge of the Sahara Desert, in five years there’d be a shortage of sand.”
Secondly, knowing what we know, should we prematurely legalize a substance for the sole reason of paying off the debts incurred by dishonest and incompetent politicians?
Sadly, my suggestions are for naught, as Governor Pritzker has firmly stated that:
• “There is an abundance of evidence that shows we can legalize marijuana in a safe way.” And
• The result of legalization will be to “reduce opioid overdose.”
Both statements are patently false.
In fairness to Governor Pritzker, would Governor Rauner do the right thing?
What to do?
Governor John Hickenlooper of Colorado recently made the following suggestion at the Economic Club of Chicago:
“If there’s a fatal car crash, for example, do a blood test and find out for sure whether weed was a factor.”
Tell me, Governor. Would you be so cavalier and willing to act with an air of such heartless nonchalance if it was your son involved in that fatal car crash?
God help us, Illinois.
Common sense has long gone up in smoke.
– Jeffrey Leef, M.D. is a two-time candidate for US Congress and concerned citizen.