Monday, July 28, 2014

The Straight Dope ~by Legal Pub

Sitting on a plane from Denver to Nevada this author sat next to an expert on marijuana.  Now, in the course of practicing law it is not unusual to deal with "stoners" not unlike stereotypical characters portrayed by Cheech and Chong in the 70' and 80's.  But this was different.  This individual was a well educated, articulate medical doctor who commanded respect and more importantly, my attention. On a two hour plane ride, I was captivated about the potential medical benefits of marijuana as well as the economic implications to possible legalization.  The trip caused me to ponder over the next few days the history and future of this country's relationship with marijuana.

Marijuana  has been illegal in the U.S since it was criminalized in 1937 by the Marijuana Tax Act.  Many advocate federal legalization of the plant. Even the New York Times editorial board has apparently jumped on the pot band wagon.  The key argument in favor of legalization is that marijuana is less harmful than alcohol.  While the debate rages on at the federal level, more and more states are beginning to reduce their restrictions on marijuana which is directly contrary to the federal prohibition.  Few educated people would deny that marijuana use by minors should remain prohibited. Advocates for reform of the marijuana laws generally agree with prohibiting sales of marijuana to those under the age of 21. While lobbyists readily admit that they do not know all of the potential health consequences, they believe the cost on society to continue to prohibit and prosecute marijuana users makes such prohibition impractical.
The FBI figures from 2012 suggest that there are almost three times as many arrests for marijuana possession than there are for cocaine, heroin and other hard drugs.  Is it worth turning so many people into criminals?  Colorado legalized marijuana use in January 2014.  The initial concern was impaired drivers.  Washington state adopted similar laws.    It remains to be seen if traffic accidents will increase as some fear.  In the mean time, the remaining question of whether the federal ban on marijuana will end like the 13 year prohibition of alcohol looms large upon the horizon.  
Scientific literature suggests some possible benefits from marijuana consumption:
1.  It may prevent HIV from spreading throughout the body;
2.  A 2006 study suggested that marijuana may block an enzyme that advances the progression of Alzheimer's. It may also prevent  "protein clumps that can inhibit cognition and memory;
3. It may retard the progression of certain cancers;
4. It is a pain reliever that may reduce the need for opiates.
5.  It may combat ADHD, anxiety and depression
6.  It may reduce the symptoms of epilepsy and Tourette's.
7.  It may reduce symptoms associated with concussions and some types of nerve damage,
8.  It can reduce the consequences of glaucoma; and
9.  It may reduce a diabetic's need for insulin.
Nevertheless, until both state and federal laws are changed, marijuana use remains a criminal  offense in most jurisdiction.  President Barack Obama said in 2012 that federal prosecutors have better things to do than prosecute pot users in states where it is legal. Nevertheless, it remains illegal in most states and most prosecutors will not hesitate to file charges. So if you are going to light up, munch laced brownies or otherwise consume cannabus, consider traveling to Colorado where the grass may be greener and the U.S. attorneys are likely to look the other way.


Anonymous said...

Fair read. May reconsider my opinion against legalization

Anonymous said...

Why create a ton of criminals in our society when it is a victim-less crime?

Anonymous said...

So who all is for legalization and who is against?

Anonymous said...

Reluctantly, I have to agree with legalization. More than 50 government agencies spend tax dollars fighting marijuana use. Meanwhile, Food stamps and other social programs budgets are cut in order to support the effort to stop adults from using marijuana.

It is simply a waste of resources from a cost benefit analysis.

Dollar Bill said...

Come on, it is all about the money baby! Legalize Pot and tax the hell out of it. That will more than pay for the social programs and get this country back in the black!

Doc said...

I have seen it argued that the prohibition against marijuana has thwarted medical research. Scientists believe that chemicals naturally occurring in marijuana activate so-called cannabinoid receptors in the body and thus create positive reactions. This intrigues scientists to opine that there are potential new medicines that may be derived from the 66 or so cannabinoids identified in marijuana. These receptors are in the brain and many other parts of the body including the immune, endocrine and reproductive systems.

So, in the name of science, get rid of the prohibition and let's get started on scientifically using cannabis to manage pain control and reduce opiate dependency.

Grandma said...

I still say if it's wrong it's wrong. It is a moral issue to me. All smoking, especially mind altering substances, is disgusting.

Anonymous said...

If states allow doctors to prescribe marijuana,does that create significant issues in many workplaces? Due to privacy laws, how can employers distinguish between prescribed use of marijuana and drug abuse? What about blanket prohibitions against drug use on the job? Does an employer have to make accommodations for medical marijuana but not recreational use?

Anonymous said...

In general, courts have upheld employee terminations for failed drug tests. In most cases, that includes termination when legally prescribed marijuana is the cause of the drug test failure. Lawyers can make a good living providing guidance on how to handle accommodations. Rewriting drug testing policies may also be a fertile source of income.