Harvard Professor, Lester Grinspoon, M.D., has studied Marijuana for more than thirty years and offers three possible reasons why the government is opposed to it’s re-legalization:
Source the Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, 74 Fenwood Road, Boston, Massachusetts 02115 USA. Family Medical Practice On-Line
- Governments don’t readily acknowledge mistakes. The government has been exaggerating the dangers of recreational marihuana for almost 70 years. It has spent many million of dollars in efforts to demonstrate some harm that would justify prohibition. Since 1967 more than 10 million Americans have been arrested on marijuana charges, and many of them have had to serve long prison sentences. Careers have been ruined and families bankrupted or destroyed. The damage is beyond estimation. It is difficult for the government to turn around now and say, “Sorry, we made a mistake.”
- There are now considerable vested interests in maintaining prohibition. The Drug War has created a vast enforcement and “educational” bureaucracy, a drug abuse industrial complex that parallels the military-industrial complex produced by the Cold War and is just as difficult to unseat. Forfeitures of drug dealers’ property fill the coffers of the drug control system, supplemented by the illegal seizures of corrupt drug agents. The Drug War juggernaut also sustains a growing industry devoted to examining the hair and urine of citizens for traces of marijuana and other drugs. The pharmaceutical companies and drug-testing laboratories that profit from this practice do not want to see it ended. . . . All in all, a large and growing investment of capital and human resources in involved.
- Finally, Marihuana has become a symbol charged with cultural tensions. Along with psychedelic drugs, it was seen as a catalyst of the antiestablishment movement of the 1960’s and 1970’s. Many regarded the free speech, civil rights, and anti-Vietnam War movements as socially healthy and exciting expressions of a vibrant democracy. But other saw these movements as symptoms of a society out of control . . . The establishment plays to this fear by exaggerating the harmful potential of the drug and especially by presenting its users as deviant. Successful middle-class marijuana users passively cooperate with their campaign when they keep their use secret and allow the television camera’s lens to focus on latter-day hippies.
In September 1928 Alexander Fleming returned from vacation to his laboratory and discovered that one of the petri dishes he had inadvertently left out over the summer was overgrown with staphylococci except for the area surrounding a mold colony. That mold contained a substance he later named penicillin. He published his finding in 1929, but the discovery was ignored by the medical establishment, and bacterial infections continued to be a leading cause of death. Had it aroused the interest of a pharmaceutical firm, its development might not have been delayed. More than 10 years later, under wartime pressure to develop antibiotic substances to supplement sulfonamide, Howard Florey and Ernst Chain initiated the first clinical trial of penicillin (with six patients) and began the systematic investigations that might have been conducted a decade earlier (Hayes, et al., 1993).
After its debut in 1941, penicillin rapidly earned a reputation as “the wonder drug of the ’40s.” There were three major reasons for that reputation: it was remarkably non-toxic, even at high doses; it was inexpensive to produce on a large scale; and it was extremely versatile, acting against the microorganisms that caused a great variety of diseases, from pneumonia to syphilis. In all three respects cannabis suggests parallels:
- Cannabis is remarkably safe. Although not harmless, it is surely less toxic than most of the conventional medicines it could replace if it were legally available. Despite its use by millions of people over thousands of years, cannabis has never caused an overdose death. The most serious concern is respiratory system damage from smoking, but that can easily be addressed by increasing the potency of cannabis and by developing the technology to separate the particulate matter in marihuana smoke from the cannabinoids (prohibition, incidentally, has prevented this technology from flourishing). Once cannabis regains the place in the U.S. Pharmacopoeia that it lost in 1941 after the passage of the Marihuana Tax Act (1937), it will be among the least toxic substances in that compendium.
- Medical cannabis would be extremely inexpensive. Street marihuana today costs $200 to $400 (US dollars) an ounce, but the prohibition tariff accounts for most of that. A reasonable estimate of the cost of cannabis as a medicine is $20 to $30 an ounce, or about $0.30 to $0.40 per marihuana cigarette. As an example of what this means in practice, consider the following. Both the marihuana cigarette and an 8 mg ondansetron pill — cost to the patient, $30 to $40 — are effective in most cases for the nausea and vomiting of cancer chemotherapy (although many patients find less than one marihuana cigarette to be more useful, and they often require several ondansetron pills). Thus cannabis would be at least 100 times less expensive than the best present treatment for this symptom.
- Cannabis is remarkably versatile.
It is distressing to consider how many lives might have been saved if penicillin had been developed as a medicine immediately after Fleming’s discovery. It is equally frustrating to consider how much suffering might have been avoided if cannabis had been available as a medicine for the last 60 years. Initial enthusiasm for drugs is often disappointed after further investigation. As Sir William Osler put it, “We must use new drugs quickly while they are still efficacious.” But it is not as though cannabis were an entirely new agent with unknown properties. Studies conducted in the past ten years have confirmed a centuries-old promise. I believe that as restrictions on research are relaxed, and this promise is realized, cannabis, one of the oldest medicines, will come to be recognized as a wonder drug of the new millennium.
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Some quotations from the video:
“I’ve been smoking marijuana for 44 years now, and … I think it’s a tremendous blessing!
In fact, I first began to look at marijuana as a professor of psychiatry at Harvard medical school in 1967…
I wanted to do something about all these young people who were using this terribly dangerous drug and perhaps if I could write a reasonably objective statement about this and get it published, in a vehicle which they would be interested in, maybe I could do something about it.
Much to my astonishment, here I was trained in science and medicine and had to discover that I had been brainwashed like just about every other American.
I first approached it [marijuana] from the point of view—you know—I was sure it was unsafe. Once I was convinced that it was safe, and satisfied my curiosity about it, it took me a number of years to realize what a remarkable substance it was.
I have also concluded that there’s a third reason [for humans to use marijuana], I mean, there’s recreation, there’s medicine, and there’s what I call ‘enhancement.’
It astonishes me that we can’t get around this prohibition. It’s like something is sacred about it. You can’t question it. You can’t bring any factual data to it…”
“Aspirin is “safe,” although it claims between 1,000-2,000 people per year.
With cannabis, it’s been around for thousands of years. There has never been a death – never been a death.
Is there any other substance in the pharmacoepia about which you can make that claim? I’m not sure there is.” ~ Dr. Grinspoon