As we marked the 40th anniversary of Richard Nixon’s jihad against pot this week, I thought about posting in a snippet of a reply I’d gotten from Patty Murray’s office in response to an action alert I’d sent out regarding upcoming medical marijuana legislation. Like every other Senator, Patty Murray opposes the creation of legal and regulated marijuana sales for adults, so her position is not a surprise. But the action alert I sent out was about medical marijuana, so I’m not sure why I got this reply in my inbox:
Like many Americans, I am concerned about the high use of drugs, including marijuana, among our citizens, especially for young people. I believe we must continue to work to reduce drug use. One important aspect of our efforts is to send a consistent message to young people about the use of drugs and alcohol. Therefore, I do not support legalizing or decriminalizing currently illegal drugs, including marijuana.
She could’ve dodged the question entirely, but she didn’t. Kudos to that, but seriously, that’s an idiotic response. What consistent message is being sent to young people by having alcohol legal and marijuana illegal? That makes absolutely no sense. And even worse, this policy results in marijuana being far easier for a young person to obtain than alcohol. Any time someone wonders what message we’d be sending to kids if we legalize marijuana, the appropriate reply should be, “the message is that high school freshmen won’t be able to buy it from the kid sitting next to them in math class any more“. And that’s the appropriate message we should be sending. It’s for adults only, just like alcohol.
But I wasn’t the only person in the state who sent out this action item to our various representatives. Another gentleman from Eastern Washington sent it out and shared with me this spectacular reefer-madness reply from Cathy McMorris-Rodgers (hold on to your hat):
The alleged “medicinal benefits” of marijuana to treat glaucoma and other ailments are assertions that have been examined and debated for decades. Although I support research into alternative medical treatments, studies have shown that marijuana possesses significant addictive chemical properties that have had devastating effects on users. Moreover, a study conducted by the Office of National Drug Control Policy indicates that 374,000 people annually enter an emergency room with a primary marijuana addiction diagnosis.
For starters, the medicinal benefits of marijuana have been examined and debated for centuries, not decades. In fact, when marijuana was made illegal in 1937, the American Medical Association protested the action on the basis that marijuana had well-known medicinal properties. And today, the American Medical Association has recommended that the government look into rescheduling marijuana precisely because it’s known to have medicinal benefits. There’s no debate here. Marijuana has medicinal properties. Everyone knows this, pharmaceutical companies are already growing the plant for use in legal drugs like Sativex, and the Department of Health and Human Services has even filed for a patent on “Cannabinoids as antioxidants and neuroprotectants“.
Second, marijuana is not chemically addictive. That’s just an outright lie. Even long-term users experience little to no physical effects from cessation of use. It’s certainly psychologically addictive (similar to addictions to video games, gambling, or sex), but calling it chemically addictive is simply a lie. It’s not. And I have no idea what “devastating effects” it’s had on users, but the vast majority of marijuana users in this country lead pretty normal lives. And of course, alcohol – a legal drug sold in grocery stores and gas stations throughout the state – is actually more addictive than marijuana.
But that last statement there from McMorris-Rodgers is just spectacular:
Moreover, a study conducted by the Office of National Drug Control Policy indicates that 374,000 people annually enter an emergency room with a primary marijuana addiction diagnosis.
I nearly laughed out loud when I read this. At first, I assumed she just made the statistic up out of thin air, but then realized that even McMorris-Rodgers isn’t dumb enough to cite the ONDCP for a completely made-up statistic. Instead, it turns out that she just embellished what was already a pretty embellished statistic. Here’s what it says on the ONDCP’s page:
Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug in the United States, with nearly 17 million Americans age 12 and older reporting past-month use, and 374,000 people entering an emergency room annually with a primary marijuana problem.
Obviously, the word “addiction” does not appear in the ONDCP headline – for a good reason. They’re not talking about addiction. And when they say “primary marijuana problem”, this is one of the things they’re referencing:
Although DAWN includes only suicide attempts that involve drugs, these attempts are not limited to drug overdoses. If there is drug involvement in a suicide attempt by other means (e.g., if a patient cuts his or her wrists while under the influence of marijuana), the case is included as drug related.
If you look through those statistics even closer, you’ll see that marijuana is far less common than alcohol, pharmaceuticals, and even the far more sparsely used cocaine in those numbers – which makes sense, because you can’t kill yourself by overdosing on pot. The number there should be zero, but the ONDCP doesn’t like that, so they fuck with the numbers to make it seem as if it actually leads to people dying.
But that’s still only a fraction of the 374,000 people who are supposedly showing up at ER’s across the country needing treatment for their pot addictions. Where do the rest come from? It appears they’re in that magic category called “Other” [emphasis mine]:
How are drug abuse cases denoted in DAWN?
Each case reported to DAWN is assigned to one of eight case types according to the following hierarchy:
1. Suicide attempt
2. Seeking detox
3. Alcohol only (age < 21) 4. Adverse reaction 5. Overmedication 6. Malicious poisoning 7. Accidental ingestion 8. Other Cases not falling into any of the first seven case types are classified as "Other." Most drug abuse cases are classified as "Other."
So what we likely have here are people coming into the emergency room for various reasons, testing positive for pot and then ending up being tagged that they have a “primary marijuana problem” even though it likely had no influence at all on why they were in the ER. But this sleight of hand gives idiot politicians like McMorris-Rodgers the ability to claim that thousands of Americans are coming into hospitals every day needing to be treated for their pot addictions. Reefer madness lives on.