It’s here, front and center and it’s not going away. It’s marijuana, a mostly still illegal derivation from the weeds and flowers of the cannabis plant. The newest term to gain traction is medical marijuana. I am strongly in favor of legalizing medical marijuana as the Minnesota legislature has just done.
Even the right-wing epicenter of South Carolina is considering legalizing oil from the marijuana plant, highly effective in minimizing children’s epileptic seizures. A total of 22 states allow various quantities of medical marijuana to be sold. Other states are considering similar legislation or ballot initiatives. Business Insider has compiled a potential list of medical marijuana’s existing and potential benefits gleaned from highly legitimate sources.
I still haven’t come to a decision about legalizing pot, itself, though I think it’s just a matter of time. I tried it once, inhaled a few times and forever eliminated it as a vice of choice. On the other hand, country legend Willie Nelson is a life-long pothead whose career, health and bank account seem to have prospered even as he celebrates 81 years on this planet.
Marijuana is currently classified as a schedule 1 narcotic described as having a “high potential for abuse and currently no medical use.” The schedules listed from 1 to 5 are an outgrowth of legislation passed in the Nixon era. Weed is idiotically grouped with such lethal recreational fare as meth, heroin, LSD, methaqualone, popularly known as Quaaludes (an easy overdose path to cardiac arrest). The “let’s party” ecstasy, with its technically meth mouthful of 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine also makes the cut.
The powers that be seem to think that cocaine and Oxy(Limbaugh)Contin belong a rung lower as Schedule 2 drugs, the reasoning being that they represent less abuse potential than schedule 1 drugs. Cocaine and OxyContin LESS abuse than weed??? Surprise, surprise, no prescribed drugs made the Schedule 1 cut.
You’ll need to venture to Schedule 4 before bumping into the oft-prescribed drugs of Xanax, Soma, Darvon, Darvocet, Valium, Ativan, Talwin and Ambien. Here’s the description of Schedule 4 drugs: “Schedule IV drugs, substances, or chemicals are defined as drugs with a low potential for abuse and low risk of dependence.” Six of these drugs are among the most prescribed in the nation. Xanax sits at number four. The drugs are split into two classifications; pain killers and anti-anxiety and insomnia relievers.
Numbers from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) are troubling. In 2010 for example, there were over 38,000 deaths by overdose in the United States and 22,134 were by prescription drugs. Of the drugs listed at the beginning of this paragraph, Xanax, Darvon, Atavan, Talwin, Ambien and Soma were among the most prescribed drugs in the country. In 2011, there were 1.4 million visits to emergency rooms involving the accidental or intentional misuse of prescription drugs.
You know what isn’t mentioned as abusive or potentially dependent? Alcohol. Abused? Incredibly! Potential for dependence? Over the top! Deadly? The stats to follow! Domestic violence and family destroyer? At the top of its class! Legal? Can you spell l..e..g..i..s..l..a..t..o..r with an open p..a..l..m? Check almost any legislator’s contributors and you’ll find booze pushers and “associations” all over the place.
Is alcohol technically a drug? Yes, it’s an organic compound, a natural drug through the ethanol fermentation process. In 2012, 33,561 traffic fatalities were recorded; nearly one-third involved alcohol abuse. The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence points out that of 5.3 million citizens under correctional supervision, 36% were drinking at the time of their offense, including 40% of convicted murderers and another 40% committing violent crimes, many domestic in nature. Of all violent crimes, drugs are the primary factor in only robberies; all the rest are alcohol.
In being reduced to their lowest common denominator, antibiotics and synthetic drugs are also organic compounds, but of the synthetic variety. Such drugs are first cousins to the likes of meth and coke, the only difference being you can walk in and buy them at your nearest convenience store and other retail outlets. A synthetic drug that has made headlines over the past few years is known as “bath salts.”
For the uninitiated innocents, bath salts add a pleasing aroma to the water in your tub. Not so innocent is the effect it can have when used as a designer drug. It can whack you out and many experts claim it’s even more dangerous than meth. Suffice to say you don’t want a loved one dabbling in its recreational use as this article from a July 2013 edition of the LA Times makes crystal (pardon the pun) clear. There’s a law banning its sale, but you can still get variations with the same kick at small stores and the Internet.
When it comes to marijuana, assorted other recreational and prescription drugs and especially alcohol, much needs to be done. Alcohol can no longer be given a complete pass, with virtually no government interference from either side of the political aisle. That’s because beer, wine and liquor interests spend tens of millions yearly, lobbying for favored legislation. Untold millions more are spent contributing to Congressional and state legislator campaign funds. All to protect a deadly industry that ruins families, marriages, careers and health. As a society, we glorify intoxicants.
The television commercials featuring an aging actor as the “World’s most interesting man” are everywhere. TV depictions of social gatherings at bars populated by beautiful young people without a care in the world dominate evening network and cable programming breaks.
Yes, I’m well aware you can’t outlaw booze (its been tried) and its horrific impact on society, but you can outlaw an entity that seems to have no documented overdoses, though it can affect judgment. Objectively however, the negatives of marijuana compared to alcohol don’t even move the needle. But the marijuana lobby is a speck compared to that of the beer, wine and spirits crowd.
There are few solutions as long as legislators can be bought. There are but a handful of Mr. Smith’s currently residing in Washington. Let’s try anyway. How about bar breathalyzers? Over the limit? Hello cab, bye-bye bar! We need to take the money and lobbying influences out of politics. Public funding is one answer. Somehow constraints and transparency must be applied to lobbying. Washington lobbyists were paid $3.3 billion in 2011.
Access to lobbyist’s exchanges with Congress people is a very slippery slope in the land of the First Amendment. There are lobbyists for great causes and there are lobbyists who want to make sure the polluters keep polluting and the financial sector remains largely unregulated. Somehow, the public must be able to see and hear the deals that are being made between the lobbying interests and the legislators, before, not after, the votes.
I don’t know how that can effectively be done without some privacy compromises and breaching the wall of free speech court decisions. But the making of laws is not a private enterprise; it’s supposed to be public. Maybe lobbyist should be eliminated altogether. While the shadowy profession has been around forever, in the last few decades it’s been officially out of control. Just video-conference with the industries and causes involved and post on the home district Congress person’s home page.
What a nutty idea!