Let Science Drive Marijuana Policy – Not Superstition

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Earlier this month, The Enquirer featured two letters to the editor that were very critical of the legalization of marijuana. One suggested marijuana use caused a fatal accident, and the other concerned marijuana being a gateway drug. I am no expert, but I thought I would share my research.

In 1969, I was a junior in college and member of a fraternity. That year I learned that a prospective member had a history of smoking marijuana. While the substance was becoming more fashionable, I was uncertain. But any given fraternity brother could “blackball” a nominee, thereby keeping him out of our group. Taking my power seriously, I decided to speak to our chapter adviser, a family physician in our southeast Ohio community. He gladly informed me of all the horrors of marijuana usage, including all the stereotypes that were bandied about then and even to this day. I blackballed this individual based on his account. I was lobbied intensely from my fellow “brothers” to change my vote, but I steadfastly refused.

The year after I graduated, I came to find a book called “Marijuana: The New Prohibition.” It had just been published and the author was John Kaplan. Kaplan had served in 1966 as the Assistant U.S. Attorney in California and former prosecutor of drug law violators. A short while later, he was asked to rewrite the California penal code for drugs under then-Gov. Ronald Reagan. After two years of research, he submitted the findings of his committee, which included research scientists, physicians, lawmakers and psychologists. He was summarily fired and removed from his appointment. His act of betrayal: his research team called for the legalization of marijuana. He then decided to publish his comprehensive findings, and this book was the result.

Though marijuana was legal in this country until 1937, the classic “Reefer Madness” (1936) depicted a highly fictionalized version of the depravity which ensues after the casual use of marijuana. Attitudes towards marijuana began to change rapidly.

As the false associations continue to spread, marijuana became tarnished in the eyes of well-intentioned people who associated its use with puritanical visions of pleasure, permissiveness, radicalism, and lack of law and order.

Kaplan’s studies closely examined the widely-perceived, age-old fairy tale that marijuana leads to harder drugs, leads to aggression and would impair coordination. The comprehensive testing done for his studies found all of the above to be unfounded.

By the way, I am not vouching for all forms of marijuana as currently used. Over the years, marijuana has been laced with all kinds of vile additives which create an entirely different substance. This is what happens when there is no regulation. I am speaking of a pure form, grown naturally, as would happen should the DEA drop its outrageous characterization of it and let states regulate the growing and distribution of it.

Currently, marijuana is classified as a Schedule I Controlled Substance. There are five Schedules, according to the DEA website, with the most dangerous drugs being Schedule I. This group includes those drugs “with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” Included in this category with marijuana are LSD, heroin, some methamphetamines, and peyote. Less dangerous drugs, meaning Schedule II, according to the DEA, are opioids!

If you are thinking that we should be enlightened enough to know better today, then look no further than a news conference with Sean Spicer, former press secretary for President Donald Trump, who during a Feb. 24, 2017 news conference suggested that marijuana use could lead to harder drugs and even linked its usage to the opioid crisis.

I have long believed that the federal government and local authorities, by demonizing recreational marijuana as malevolent and promoting false narratives about it, have undermined our countries efforts to convince young people of the truly dangerous drugs that they should always avoid. I have not even discussed the positive medical aspects of marijuana. Yet my hope is that policy on this drug will be driven by scientific facts, not hearsay and superstition.