Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Voices Of Reason | Jim Hightower Talks About Marijuana

Author and national radio commentator Jim Hightower on Pot — Sharing His Thoughts on Pot, That Is

Marijuana: Myths vs. Reality

Myth: There is no scientific evidence proving marijuana's therapeutic qualities.

Reality: In a White House-commissioned 1999 report, the National Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medicine declared that "nausea, appetite loss, pain, and anxiety are all afflictions of wasting and all can be mitigated by marijuana."

Myth: Marijuana's potential health benefits are insignificant compared to the damage caused by smoking the drug.

Reality: Marijuana need not be administered by smoking: It can be taken in food, tea, or through a smokeless vaporizer. Furthermore, a 2006 study by a leading pulmonologist, Dr. Donald Tashkin, found that even regular and heavy smoking of marijuana does not lead to lung cancer.

Myth: Allowing the medical use of marijuana will send the wrong message to children and lead to more youths using the drug.

Reality: In the 10 medical marijuana states that have before-and-after data, studies have unanimously shown that not only has youth use of marijuana not gone up overall, it actually has declined since medical marijuana became legal.

Myth: Marijuana is a gateway drug to harder substances, and therefore medical marijuana use will lead to dangerous drug use.

Reality: In science, the distinction between cause and correlation is a crucial one. A White House-commissioned study by the Institute of Medicine found that marijuana "does not appear to be a gateway drug to the extent that it is the cause or even that it is the most significant predictor of serious drug abuse; that is, care must be taken not to attribute cause to association." Moreover, claims about marijuana being a gateway make no sense in the context of medical marijuana: Patients often use marijuana instead of highly addictive prescription medicines like morphine and Oxycontin. Medical marijuana is a safe alternative for patients whose other options are not as reliable or effective.

Myth: Supporting medical marijuana is politically risky.

Reality: Across the country and with increasing frequency, public opinion polls show that support for medical marijuana is popular and steadily rising -- and cuts across demographic and party lines. A 2004 AARP poll showed that 72% of seniors support medical marijuana, and a 2005 Gallup poll found that 78% of Americans support "making marijuana legally available for doctors to prescribe in order to reduce pain and suffering." Compassion and relief from suffering are nonpartisan issues that all legislators can -- and should -- support.

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