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Thread: Colby Cosh on Legalizing Marijuana: Barbara Kay Vs. Mary Jane

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    Colby Cosh on Legalizing Marijuana: Barbara Kay Vs. Mary Jane

    In yesterday's National Post, our columnist Barbara Kay unexpectedly revived an editorial that appeared in our pages in July of last year, when the UN Office of Drugs and Crime declared Canadians the world's leading consumers of marijuana. We noted at the time that having a proportion of pot smokers four times the world average doesn't seem to be doing us much quantifiable harm, as it obviously would if we had a similarly strong propensity for alcohol or tobacco.

    Ms. Kay has assembled a file of evidence " of varying quality " on some dangers that cannabis may legitimately pose. Having presented it, she thus "respectfully ask[s] the Post to reconsider its editorial stance on the legalization of pot." Our stance was, and is, that as terrible as you can possibly make marijuana sound by the use of anecdote and by cherry-picking the scientific literature, you cannot make a credible argument that its public health and other social effects are as bad as those of alcohol and tobacco.

    So why treat them differently? And if we're not going to treat them differently, are we going to prohibit them all? As libertarian-minded editors, we hope not.

    We tried prohibiting alcohol: This policy had the effect of enriching organized crime, encouraging the sale of harder beverages that could be smuggled more easily, increasing addiction and creating a constant danger from adulteration. If the underground marijuana market of today suffers from some of these ills, isn't it remotely possible that legalization would actually be beneficial?

    "In March 2007, The Lancet, Britain's leading medical journal, declared cannabis to be more dangerous and addictive than LSD and Ecstasy," Ms. Kay writes. She is, of course, quite correct, and her point will seem overwhelming to readers who don't stop to consider that LSD and ecstasy (MDMA) are ridiculous examples of toxic or addictive drugs. MDMA is difficult to overdose on, and LSD nearly impossible; both were rated relatively safe by doctors in David Nutt's aforementioned 2007 study. Ecstasy, in fact, was considered the safest of all drugs of abuse. In other words, Mrs. Kay is exploiting societal misconceptions about other drugs to impeach marijuana.

    And where did pot actually end up on the Lancet scale? In the middle, well behind "you guessed it" tobacco and alcohol.

    Challenging our "intellectual sobriety," our columnist puts forth two other main arguments: that the marijuana of today is stronger than that of the past, and that the drug has now been "linked" to mental illness by scholars. Both are true, though both are vastly overstated in her column. Samples of government-seized marijuana collected by the Potency Monitoring Project at the University of Mississippi contain about twice as much THC nowadays, on average, as they did when the project began keeping records in 1983. Since this means a user has to inhale less tar to get a buzz, this could be, on net, good health news. Either way, it is certainly not fair to denounce legalization while fretting over the effects of criminalization, which forces contraband shippers to favour a lower-volume product.

    Under alcohol Prohibition, people routinely drank 150-proof moonshine. Give them a choice, and it turns out they generally favour wine and beer for their other pleasant qualities. The same is almost certainly true of marijuana, as any coffeehouse pot vendor in the Netherlands can attest. (And, sorry, we don't assign any credibility to an addiction counsellor's anecdotal claim, cited by Ms. Kay, that today's users are throwing out marijuana leaves and smoking only pure cannabis bud: That would be exactly like discarding $5 bills just because you happen to have some twenties in your wallet.)

    As for the "link" between marijuana and mental illness, it is still being debated, and the consensus is that marijuana may play a role in precipitating it amongst those who are predisposed to it. Few scientists consider the drug itself a cause of psychotic behaviour, but adolescents and those with a family history or early signs of schizophrenia are increasing their risk by consuming it. Heavy long-term abuse may play some role in depression, though it is difficult to factor out the other lifestyle variables that might make a hardcore pot smoker miserable.

    None of these effects, obviously, have been strong enough to skew public health statistics very much in pot-friendly Canada; compared with the accepted impact of tobacco and alcohol, they are puerile trivialities. So may we expect Ms. Kay to don her bonnet, pick up her hatchet and take up the battle against the legal poisons that openly kill thousands of Canadians every year " as opposed to an illicit one that millions enjoy, and that rarely, if ever, takes a life?

    Source and Copywrite: CS Redir

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    Re: Colby Cosh on Legalizing Marijuana: Barbara Kay Vs. Mary Jane

    Quote Originally Posted by Smokin Moose View Post
    Heavy long-term abuse may play some role in depression
    I wonder what the difference is between "heavy long-term abuse" and heavy long-term use? As many have stated, cannabis has been a great relief from chronic depression.

    Excellent article. It is encouraging to see nay-sayers in the media being challenged on their propaganda by their peers.