The move over the past few years to relax restrictions on, or in some locations to outright legalize marijuana is getting the expected pushback from the “Reefer Madness” crowd. Of course our Keebler Elf attorney general, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, thinks weed comes directly from Satan. But he has for-profit prisons to fill with people of color, and how can he possibly do that without abandoning the sanity of the Obama years and getting back to the good old days of the war on drugs?
The latest shot across the bow of legal weed showed up on Saturday, in the form of an editorial in the center-right newspaper The Hill. Thomas Ascik, identified as a former prosecutor, wants to know why marijuana doesn’t come with a warning label.
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To make his argument, Ascik notes that the Drug Enforcement Administration, the DEA, calls marijuana “a mind-altering (psychoactive) drug.” Well, of course, they do. Marijuana is the most used illicit substance in the US. It’s big business. Legalize it and the DEA, while not exactly being forced out of existence, will not need to employ nearly as many people, or require nearly as large a budget as it gets now.
While not coming right out and saying it, Ascik suggests he agrees with the federal line that there are no legitimate medical uses for weed. Thousands of cancer patients and those with a myriad of other conditions will beg to differ with him. But Ascik is certain that marijuana, which was completely legal before the 1930s is a worthless, dangerous substance. And he just doesn’t understand why it doesn’t come with a warning label.
It doesn’t come with a warning label because it is simply not the danger Jeff Sessions, Thomas Ascik, and others claim it is.
To start with, it’s impossible to overdose on marijuana. (I know there have been some issues with edibles and concentrates. I’m talking about good old fashioned, put-it-in-your-pipe-and-smoke-it weed, which seems to be what Ascik is also talking about.) There is also little evidence to support what many marijuana detractors claim, that it is a “gateway drug” that leads users to try harder drugs. And the most recent issue that some opponents of weed have seized upon, that states with legal marijuana have seen an increase in auto accidents where the driver involved had marijuana in his/her system, is largely unproven due to the fact that alkaloids of THC, the main active ingredient, stay in your system for days, long after you have come down from your high.
Forget Keebler Elf attorneys general. Forget retired prosecutors. Forget federal agencies. If you want to know whether marijuana is dangerous enough to require a warning label, ask healthcare practitioners. And many of them will respond with an absolute “meh.”
I have used marijuana regularly for several years. During that time I have also been under ongoing treatment for melanoma. Of course, I have been very up front with the folks who have provided my care about my marijuana use. And to practicing medical professionals, at least the ones I have encountered, everywhere from my local hospital to the world famous Johns Hopkins hospital, weed is just not a big deal.
But here’s what is a big deal — keeping it away from kids. Will we ever completely stop kids from getting ahold of weed? Not likely. But legalizing it, regulating the way it is grown, distributed, and sold will reduce the likelihood of teens getting it. Just like we haven’t stopped teenage drinking, but strict enforcement of alcohol laws have kept it under control.
So maybe that could be the warning label Thomas Ascik would like: “Not for use by those under 21.” Because, despite the hysteria, for everyone else, it’s not the dangerous drug they want you to think it is.