cannabisnews.com: What Is the Matter With Mary Jane?





What Is the Matter With Mary Jane?
Posted by FoM on October 15, 2000 at 09:39:06 PT
By Sam Howe Verhovek
Source: New York Times
The medicinal use of marijuana has scored some smashing victories at the polls in recent years, winning approval by voters in seven states, and it's on the ballot in two this fall. But in Alaska, an important test is at hand for those who use images like "Trojan horse" and "camel's nose under the tent" to argue that medical marijuana's advocates are really out to clear the way for the legal recreational use of the drug. 
Just two years after Alaska's voters backed a measure allowing doctors to prescribe marijuana for medical purposes, they are being asked whether the state should become the nation's first to legalize it, period. The measure is sweeping, allowing use by anyone 18 or older, giving amnesty for anyone ever convicted of growing or possessing marijuana, and even moving toward restitution for them.Regardless of the outcome, the fact that legalization is being so openly discussed is clearly a step in some sort of direction. It's a backward one, of course, in the minds of drug opponents, and a forward one for those who feel that America's approach to what they call "soft drugs" is unduly harsh and lags behind the European tack.The Netherlands has basically legalized possession of small amounts of marijuana, and several countries, including Germany and France, have all but stopped enforcing laws against it. Switzerland's cabinet has proposed making it legal to smoke it. And in Britain, the push to legalize marijuana has picked up surprising steam in recent days, owing in no small part to a backlash against a Conservative Party proposal to impose a "zero tolerance" measure for its possession as a platform plank. The Conservative leader, William Hague, was forced to back down on the policy last week after seven leaders in his party, in response to a survey, admitted to having smoked marijuana in their youth. Several leading newspapers and politicians of other parties have come forward to argue that marijuana should be legalized or decriminalized. Whether the same movement is afoot in the United States is harder to determine. Aside from the Alaska measure, voters in Mendocino County in northern California will be asked on Nov. 7 whether to allow residents to grow marijuana for personal use. That citizen-sponsored initiative is expected to pass, though Mendocino, in the heart of an area where marijuana is widely described as the leading cash crop and use of the drug has long been tolerated, is hardly a bastion of mainstream opinion on the issue.And polls on legalization are a bit tricky to read, too. Generally, if Americans are asked whether they wish to legalize or decriminalize marijuana, they say no  depending on exactly how the question is worded, the majorities range from just above 50 percent to much higher. But, notes Allen F. St. Pierre, executive director of the Norml Foundation (Norml stands for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws), the same question, asked differently, can yield dramatically different results. "If you say, should an adult who gets arrested with a small amount of marijuana face any jail time, the number who say `no' goes way up," he said. His group supports the Alaska initiative, though he says its creators may have gotten a bit carried away with the restitution component. "It has a little bit of a radical tinge to it that isn't associated with Norml," he explained. In Alaska, supporters are out in force. Willie Nelson has taped a radio ad. "The vast majority of these millions of marijuana smokers are good citizens who work hard, raise families and contribute to their communities," he says. "They are not part of the crime problem and they don't deserve to be treated like criminals." Drug critics worry that the Alaska campaign, gauzed in a certain amount of humor, could catch on. "It would not surprise me if there are a lot of people in Alaska right now saying, `Look, I can have a joint, and I can handle it, so this is O.K.,' " said Dr. Herbert D. Kleber, a professor of psychiatry at Columbia University and medical director of the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse. "We simply do not have the same historical connection with marijuana that we do with alcohol. And anything that legalizes it for adults is basically going to make it more available for kids." In surveys, he said, roughly 50 percent of high school seniors say they have used alcohol in the last 30 days, while 24 percent have used marijuana  a figure he said would rise if marijuana were legally available to adults.Marijuana, he argued, is a particularly insidious drug for adolescents, because it interferes with memory, decreases energy and stunts development of some "psychosocial skills," a key task during the teenage years.Those are all arguments that proponents of the Alaska measure, not surprisingly, reject. In a pamphlet distributed by a group called Free Hemp in Alaska, alcohol seems far worse than marijuana. A marijuana-smoking group is "more likely to talk of politics, art, music and comparable topics as the children play nearby," it argues. "Adults intoxicated by marijuana still behave like grownups. They enjoy the youngsters and can help care for the babies." And, it adds, "men using marijuana are more respectful, thoughtful, charitable and less foolhardy than when drunk." For now, most of the debate is framed as medical. Surveys suggest that in Colorado and Nevada, measures allowing medicinal use will pass Nov. 7. (Nevada approved it with 59 percent of the vote in 1998; adding it to the state constitution requires a second yes vote.) Like measures have passed in California, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington, Arizona, Alaska, Maine and the District of Columbia, though they have gone into effect in the face of federal drug laws. (None addresses the even more complex issue of selling marijuana.)Medical marijuana advocates say the drug is enormously helpful to chemotherapy patients, and many insist, in the words of Dan Geary, a leader of the Nevada movement, that "this is a public-health issue completely unrelated to the war on drugs." Other proponents say the two issues are indeed linked. Ironically, opponents like Dr. Kleber, at Columbia, agree that the two issues are separate, but say there is perhaps less of a reason to put medical marijuana to a vote than legalization. "They really are two totally different issues," he said. "One is in many ways a political issue, but the other is a scientific issue. Marijuana for medicinal purposes should not be decided by referendum. Would you have had a referendum on penicillin for pneumonia? You don't decide these things by popular vote. You decide them by the science." Source: New York Times (NY)Author: Sam Howe VerhovekPublished: October 15, 2000Copyright: 2000 The New York Times CompanyContact: letters nytimes.comAddress: 229 West 43rd Street, New York, NY 10036Fax: (212) 556-3622Website: http://www.nytimes.com/Forum: http://forums.nytimes.com/comment/Related Articles & Web Sites:NORMLhttp://www.norml.org/Free Hemp in Alaskahttp://www.freehempinak.orgHemp 2000http://www.hemp2000.org Coloradans For Medical Rights http://www.medicalmarijuana.com/State's Pot Among Most Potent in Nationhttp://cannabisnews.com/news/thread7345.shtmlTop British Tories Admit Soft Drug Use http://cannabisnews.com/news/thread7290.shtmlCannabis Use Falls Among Dutch Youth http://cannabisnews.com/news/thread7251.shtmlCabinet Proposes Making Marijuana Legal To Consumehttp://cannabisnews.com/news/thread7238.shtmlHigh Hopes in Alaska for Sweeping Pot Law http://cannabisnews.com/news/thread7173.shtmlMarijuana Issue To Remain on Nevada Ballothttp://cannabisnews.com/news/thread6891.shtmlColorado To Vote on Marijuana Uses http://cannabisnews.com/news/thread7018.shtml
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Comment #3 posted by dankhank on October 15, 2000 at 20:32:43 PT:
Stick to your expertise please ...`
>Doc ........... where in your speciality is the information about how drug use would increase among kids ?Let me tell you a little story mayhap it will instruct ...A friend of mine came back from the store and said that some kids asked him to buy them some cigars. He reminded them that he was not allowed by law to buy nicotine for them, whereupon, the kids said that they weren't going to smoke them, they were going to empty them out, they had their own "filler."Need I take this any further you pusillanimous, incompetent commentator on the wrong side of the marijuana question?OK, I realise that you, Dr Kleber, probably need to be hit on the head to understand ...Ever hear of a "blunt?"The kids couldn't GET nicotine on their own because it's availability has been reduced ... BUT THEY HAD NO TROUBLE GETTING MARIJUANA BECAUSE THERE IS NO CONTROL AT ALL IN AN ILLEGAL MARKET !!!!Sorry for shouting, but I know this will mean nothing to those who oppose a reasonable drug policy.We can only hope that one day they will quit out of sheer fatigue ...
HEMP n STUFF
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Comment #2 posted by Ethan Russo, MD on October 15, 2000 at 12:52:05 PT:
Science? My Foot.
Kleber deludes himself by saying that the cannabis issue will be settled by science. Cannabis was prohibited by ideology on an unconstitutional basis. Its study by science continues to be blocked today. Every scientific commission report in this country has shown cannabis safety and suggested medical usages, only to have the message ignored for the sake of politics. The science on cannabis is in, and it is overwhelmingly supportive. Now where is the legislative response to match?
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Comment #1 posted by kaptinemo on October 15, 2000 at 10:50:07 PT:
Signal to noise ration
Dr. Kleber, like most antis, has a number of trite little sayings in his woefully small armorium to defend himself against pro-MMJ forces. '"We simply do not have the same historical connection with marijuana that we do with alcohol. And anything that legalizes it for adults is basically going to make it more available for kids." 'The kids, again. Let's see. The implication is that when Johnnie and Suzy are old enough to understand why Mommie and Daddy smoke herb, they'll be raiding the stash. An a priori assumption that holds absolutely no water. Just as some parents leave pencil marks on the liquor bottle labels to monitor any possible unscheduled withdrawals at the booze bank, I'm sure that parents will be equally 'responsible' to ensure that that Skunk doesn't disappear, either. The Not-So-Good Doctor also makes another a priori assumption: that parents won't *teach* their kids in responsible use. Given that the 'culture' of the antis is steeped in denial, this should come as no surprise to anyone. I'm guessing that he most likely depends upon someone else, via a DARE program in school, taught by strangers, toi instruct his children in proiper use of legal psychoactives rather than handle the chore, himself. My parents did it the 'hard way', by setting ground rules, and requiring us to do any alcohol experimentation at home rather than shame ourselves and the family with drunken, loutish behavior in public. And it paid off handsomely.The bit about the cultural aspect is especially telling; it's primarily because of the efforts of people like this supposed healer that we have not had more that a cursory examination of cannabis' possible effect upon society at large. They've simply tried to prevent any and all research. And he implies he's a scientist.'Marijuana, he argued, is a particularly insidious drug for adolescents, because it interferes with memory, decreases energy and stunts development of some "psychosocial skills," a key task during the teenage years.'The old 'amotivational syndrome' crap, again. What he fails to look at is the fact that many people who were kids using cannabis in the 70's are now respectable specialists in their fields, and are highly successful. As I am sure the doctor is aware, but is loathe to say out loud; tends to shoot down his weak hypothesis in flames.But the very last part is perhaps the most telling:'"They really are two totally different issues," he said. "One is in many ways a political issue, but the other is a scientific issue. Marijuana for medicinal purposes should not be decided by referendum. Would you have had a referendum on penicillin for pneumonia? You don't decide these things by popular vote. You decide them by the science." 'This blatant conflation is so typical. Particularly when supposed champions of "Science!" (as in the old song 'She blinded me with science!!') like this twit have done everything in their power to stonewall actual research into the medical efficacy of cannabis. And then they piously proclaim that it isn't a matter for lesser, unscientific rubes such as you and I to decide whether we wish to control our own fates.They'll get theirs, and soon. The Alaska Intitiative will add more fuel to the fire that's burning right under the antis' feet.
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