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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Apples to Bananas and Pot to Pablum

posted by on April 29 at 11:30 AM

While Timothy Garon is dying here in Seattle without a liver transplant because he used medical marijuana, folks in Michigan are fighting over a medical-marijuana initiative. An organization calling itself “True Compassion,” funded through the U.S. Department of Justice, is running a slick television ad to quash the measure.

It’s a crisp ad, but, with an ironic twist, it uses muddy logic. Apples aren’t bananas, check. Dogs aren’t cats, check. Pot isn’t harmless, check. I think everyone is on board so far. Pot doesn’t help some people… wait.

Here’s the strategy behind the ad (and the federal government’s latest talking points against medical marijuana). First, it implies that the debate over medical marijuana boils down to pot being either harmless or dangerous. As we know, all drugs prescribed by doctors have some potential for danger, but we accept that potential harm because our doctor believes the benefits outweigh the risks. This is true for everything from Ambien to Zyrtec. Pot is a drug, so when it’s used for medical purposes, it should be held to the same standards as every drug—not compared to some mystical hippie claim that it’s harmless. Now, do some trashy hippies with angels hanging from their rear-view mirrors claim pot is “just a plant” from “Mother Nature” and “God doesn’t make mistakes” and blah, blah, blah? Sure they say those things, but those people are total dips. Licensed physicians are the ones recommending medical marijuana.

Next, the ad suggests that pot isn’t helpful to anybody. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you 66-year-old Jim Ware, a cancer survivor and former cop.

More stories like Ware’s are over here. Last, the ad makes a familiar claim which is outright false: “Every major health organization rejects smoked marijuana.” There’s been limited research on medical marijuana because, well, the government rarely allows it. Nevertheless, medical marijuana has been supported by the American College of Physicians, American Nurses Association, American Public Health Association, American Academy of HIV Medicine, Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, Lymphoma Foundation of America, AIDS Action Council, American Academy of HIV Medicine, National Association of People With AIDS, and others.

This debate isn’t about medical marijuana, of course; it’s about recreational pot smoking. The admission that medical marijuana is an acceptable treatment for the severely ill is to concede that the government has been lying. Pot isn’t purely dangerous, and pot, like alcohol, should be legal.

RSS icon Comments


what is the significance behind the ad saying "smoked marijuana" as opposed to just "marijuana"?

Posted by jake | April 29, 2008 11:49 AM

Does anyone know why Marinol isn't an acceptable substitute for weed in a medical context? Or for that matter, why there isn't a pharma-grade THC-based product that would meet people's needs? People with pain don't have to score H from their local dealer, they get a scrip for morphine. Why is THC different? Just wondering...

Posted by Westside forever | April 29, 2008 11:56 AM

(link to long URL of pros/cons of Marinol.)

Posted by NaFun | April 29, 2008 12:12 PM

1) The "smoked marijuana" issue comes primarily from a report from the Institute of Medicine denouncing "smoked marijuana." The DEA has turned that into a talking point because smoking stuff is harmful and it sounds very convincing. But people don't smoke much pot compared to tobacco--a couple puffs and they're done--so the potential danger is minimized. For many patients, the harm of inhaling a few lungfuls of smoke is outweighed by the benefit of curbing violent nausea, managing pain, etc. That's why all those other medical organizations have come out in favor.

2) Marijuana contains lots of different cannabinoids and similar compounds that, in combination, affect the body in various ways. Synthetic drugs, like Marinol, which contains only one of those compounds (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol), don't provide most users the same benefits. Another problem with the synthetic pills is that patients have a difficult time controlling the dose--either not getting a strong enough effect or being too stoned to function--whereas smoked marijuana allows patients to take incremental doses.

Posted by Dominic Holden | April 29, 2008 12:16 PM

Worse yet, until cannabis is legally available for medical use, researchers can't work on producing new varieties to treat various illnesses. The drug war is blocking legitimate medical research.

Posted by Greg | April 29, 2008 12:22 PM

Anyone who thinks pot is harmful should be in a controlled study where they smoke some, sit down on a couch, are given a bowl of popcorn and a large pop, and watch "Airplane!". Then we'll see what they think.

Posted by PJ | April 29, 2008 6:39 PM

Not to worry, Canada will do the research.

Posted by Will in Seattle | April 29, 2008 10:50 PM

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