Pot is not like tobacco

This post comes from Daily Kos

Before I launch into this little lecture I would like to make an assertion:

If people had just stuck to smoking pot we wouldn’t have had all the problems we’ve had all these years.

I just like to say that.

I have been wanting to address the issue of comparing marijuana to tobacco. This happens often and it is so stupid it drives me nuts to have to listen to it.

John Walters, “Drug Czar” for the Bush Administration, the worst presidential administration in human history, has often found it useful to compare and contrast tobacco and marijuana.

Is he really stupid, or does he have an agenda?

His purpose, of course, is to hold the Official Line, Reefer Madness. His job is to lie, to distort, to confuse, and to muddy the waters of public discourse. A typical Team Bush croney.

While the man has overseen the return of the reefer madness of yesteryear, it is the repeated comparison of cannabis with tobacco I wish to focus upon.

Here are some excerpts from a CNN appearance of John Walters in 2002, talking about the cannabis reform question on the Nevada ballot at that time (the “legalization” of up to an ounce, which failed.)

First, on medical marijuana:

We have to correct the attitude that this is medicine, that this is simply as safe as alcohol and tobacco. I mean, we already have 55 million people who are cigarette smokers and over 100 million who are users of alcohol. We have problem drinkers and certainly are concerned about the health consequences of cigarettes, but we have 16 million people who are users of drugs, most of that is marijuana. Now, would the 16 million grow or would it shrink if we decriminalized it?

What health consequences, John? Cancer? Emphysema? Deaths?

The first thing wrong here, before we look at some more, is that you know and I know that tobacco and alcohol are not “safe”. Tobacco-related illnesses kill 350,000 people in America each year and John Walters says they are “concerned”.

A lady down the street from me was diagnosed with tobacco cancer last year and was dead in 3 months. Her son freaked out due to the stress and had a psychotic break that has only recently gone into remission.  The death of the tobacco smoking mom was a tragedy for her son and her husband.

Tobacco causes cancer. There is no credible challenge to this.

Back to John and tobacco supporting marijuana propaganda:

I mean, we try to control cigarettes and alcohol, but still many more kids have access to cigarettes and alcohol. So the way in which the disease of addiction is spread is by non-addictive users. They’re the carriers of this disease. If we unleash non-addictive use, we are going to increase the spread of the disease of addiction, so instead of six million people, we’ll have something more approximate to the 55 million smokers or the number of problem drinkers we have.

The disease of addiction is “carried” by “non-addictive users”?

WTF is he talking about? I try to grasp this but I am afraid I’ll go blind.

Is he trying to say that because I function just fine I am a threat to others? Team Bush’s style of logic is all over this mess.

On to the hardcore lying:

Many people who are dying of smoking-related cancers smoke up to the end because cigarettes make them feel better, but it would be outrageous for cigarette companies to claim that makes tobacco medicine and we ought to give it to people.

The fact is, I would like to save smoked marijuana — we’re doing research to isolate elements of it that are medicine. But there is a dimension of this issue that is the con and it’s extremely cruel, using suffering people to suggest that this is efficacious medicine. It has three to five times as much tar and carbon monoxide as cigarettes, smoked marijuana does. It suppresses the immune system. It is a dangerous carcinogenic substance, and it’s not medicine.

John’s not alone. Here’s Karen Tandy of the DEA playing the same tune:

Smoking a marijuana cigarette deposits about three to five times more tar into the lungs than one filtered tobacco cigarette.34 Consequently, regular marijuana smokers suffer from many of the same health problems as tobacco smokers, such as chronic coughing and wheezing, chest colds, and chronic bronchitis.35 In fact, studies show that smoking three to four joints per day causes at least as much harm to the respiratory system as smoking a full pack of cigarettes every day.36 Marijuana smoke also contains 50 to 70 percent more carcinogenic hydrocarbons than tobacco smoke and produces high levels of an enzyme that converts certain hydrocarbons into malignant cells.37

Well….

Where are the bodies?

Really, if this was an issue we would know about it much like we know tobacco causes cancer and lung disease. Scientific studies merely confirm what people have noticed over the years.

Here’s a quote from WebMD citing of the most recent study:

While a clear increase in cancer risk was seen among cigarette smokers in the study, no such association was seen for regular cannabis users.

Even very heavy, long-term marijuana users who had smoked more than 22,000 joints over a lifetime seemed to have no greater risk than infrequent marijuana users or nonusers.

The findings surprised the study’s researchers, who expected to see an increase in cancer among people who smoked marijuana regularly in their youth.

“We know that there are as many or more carcinogens and co-carcinogens in marijuana smoke as in cigarettes,” researcher Donald Tashkin, MD, of UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine tells WebMD. “But we did not find any evidence for an increase in cancer risk for even heavy marijuana smoking.” Carcinogens are substances that cause cancer.

So there are carcinogens in marijuana smoke, most likely the same ones in smoked tobacco, related to burning vegetation. But the cancers are absent.

Let’s repeat that in different ways:

While two-pack-a-day or more cigarette smokers were found to have a 20-fold increase in lung cancer risk, no elevation in risk was seen for even the very heaviest marijuana smokers.

The more tobacco a person smoked, the greater their risk of developing lung cancer and other cancers of the head and neck. But people who smoked more marijuana were not at increased risk compared with people who smoked less and people who didn’t smoke at all.

I want to look at 3 main problems with comparing cannabis to tobacco:

  1. Tobacco smoke is known to be carcinogenic, aided and abetted by nicotine. Specifically, nicotine appears to encourage the growth of  neoplasms.
  2. Cannabis has shown repeatedly that it slows and discourages the growth of neoplasms  While there are tars and other nasty things in cannabis smoke (stuff ya make fuels and plastics with….) the cannabinoids and THC appear to work to discourage cancer development.[See more @ Web-MD]
  3. Tobacco-smokers – generally – smoke 10 to 20 times more tobacco than pot smokers smoke pot. Especially with the “strong pot” we are now supposed to fear.

Let’s compare tobacco smoking and marijuana smoking, shall we?

At approximately 1 gram of tobacco per cigarette, the average pack-a-day smoker smokes 20 grams of tobacco per day; 140 grams in a week.

An ounce is 28 gm.

The pack-a-day smoker smokes about 5 ounces a week; the common 2 pack-a-day person, cited in the study above as at huge risk of cancer, smokes over half a pound of tobacco EACH WEEK.

I smoke pot. I don’t drink, use tobacco or other hard drugs. I smoke pot only. I don’t gamble or play the lottery either. I do love coffee. I am a boring SOB. But I do smoke pot.

Depending on quality an ounce will last me 2-3 weeks of relatively frequent smoking.

I might smoke 3-4 grams on a Saturday or Sunday if it’s the cheap stuff I normally can get. I smoke a lot less of the good stuff that Walters want to scare you about.

When I am busy, I smoke a lot less, when I am free to relax, I smoke more.

When I run out, which happens frequently, I curse republicans and the government, feel resentful, and move on. I will sometimes go weeks without any, though that’s rare.

Ask a 2 pack-a-day smoker to stop for just one week.

All marijuana prohibition does is make it difficult and dangerous and expensive for me to have a little pot around for when I want it.

Thus I say the cigarette analogy just shows how stupid prohibitionists are, how stupid they think you are, and how  fucking worthless the media is.

And do note that it dovetails beautifully with the GOP/Conservative hatred of science and their love of prisons.

The facts are that tobacco is addictive, causes cancer, causes lung diseases, and kills 350000 Americans each year while cannabis does not kill anbody, does not cause cancer, and doesn’t demonstrate the raw physical addiction witnessed in tobacco smokers and some drinkers. It’s just not there.

Face it: cannabis is even safer than our food supply – you don’t hear any stories about people dying from e.coli contamination. Do you?

While smoking anything may be a questionable choice, tobacco is extremely bad for your health while cannabis is not.

Yet, tobacco is legal and cannabis is not.

This is a fundamental and chronic problem.

And with police spending their manhours and resources arresting 750000 people each year for touching marijuana, it is a political opportunity for crafty politicians. More about that in a moment.

Don’t listen to John Walters. He’s a highly paid professional liar who represents nothing but republican and corporate interests (yes, I repeat myself). He has zero credibility and his official efforts support and exacerbate the ongoing disaster in the War on Drugs. Just forget anything he’s ever told you that you still remember.

Walters, Tandy, The DEA, the ONDCP, the UNDCP – full of shit one and all. Their collective goal is to reinforce cannabis propaganda, maintain ignorance of the realities, and, apparently, stump for the tobacco companies.

And please don’t be stupid. Nobody told anybody to go smoke pot. A few people will raise this objection. It’s ok – they are just good citizens – doing as they have been trained to do.

This effort to educate people about cannabis prohibition is about ending an unmitigated failure and about freeing up massive police resources to do some real work.

Your government lies to you through its teeth about marijuana for a variety of  reasons and now I suggest that you have a chat with your Democratic representative about talking about cannabis reform.

When people can hear people talking about cannabis reform like sane adults on television things will change. The Democratic party needs to support medical cannabis and reform of the war on drugs. All they need to do is talk about it.

This will help crack the mainstream media blockade against rational cannabis reform discourse and start the movement towards healthier solutions.