Sunday, May 16, 2010

Pot Debate



I got caught up in the comments on Land of Shimp's post on medical marijuana, and thought I would expand on the topic over here.

There are certainly pros and cons regarding legalizing marijuana for recreational use, but to have marijuana legal for pain control should be a no-brainer. We have such a problem in this country with addiction to pain medication, that it only makes sense to use something that is non addictive. That does not mean that a person cannot become dependent on it, however. What it means is that if denied the drug, the person does not go into physical withdrawal, as one does when addicted to alcohol, heroin, crack cocaine, methamphetamine, or prescription medications.


One of my abnormal psychology courses in college discussed, in great detail, the effects of different drugs on the brain. The professor was stymied as to why marijuana was illegal and alcohol was legal, when you look at the corresponding effects.

I'm curious to know what you think. Do you think marijuana should be legal for pain?

** For a real-life story go to DJan's post on her experience with pain meds after a serious accident.

42 comments:

DJan said...

I think it should be legal, period. I can't understand why the government hasn't regulated it in order to take care of the national debt, for one thing. It's legal in other countries, and their governments actually make money, like we could, from the sale to potheads. Somebody told me once that the reason it isn't legal is that the Mafia is so powerful, and that's where THEY make their money! Legality is the last thing they want to see happen.

Nancy said...

DJan - Wow, great point.

ellen abbott said...

I also think it should be legal, period. People are going to indulge if that's what they want. Making it illegal only makes these people criminals, it does not prevent anything. So much money is spent in the war on drugs and it is a total failure. I remember when my kids were in elementary school, there was a campaign to get small kids to rat their parents out. What they didn't tell these children was that they would be put in foster care. These poor kids thought they were 'helping' their parents and then found themselves taken away.

Everyone who smokes pot does not waste their lives away in a fog. By far the grand majority are functioning successful people who prefer this sort of stress reliever over alcohol.

Brian Miller said...

i think what is hazy is at what point to you draw the line...when is a drug too harmful to be legal. i say legalize with restrictions...

Hilary said...

I totally agree with Ellen. And I'd far rather see my kids smoke recreation pot than drink. To me it's the lesser of evils by far in many ways. Legalize it. Regulate it.

Marlene said...

I always thought it should be legalized.. with restrictions..it helps alot of people that need pain management...I think its safer than drinking...

susan said...

On the face of it it seems ludicrous to ban something that can be grown in any summer garden anywhere. The US war on drugs places huge emphasis on arresting people for smoking marijuana. Since 1990, nearly 6 million Americans have been arrested on marijuana charges. I think it should be legalized without restriction too but I also believe the profit oriented prison industry has a lot to do with why we still have such a ridiculous law.

Joanna said...

I think it should be legal and thus taken out of the narcos' bailiwick. I am also thinking that all drugs should be legalized so that the stranglehold on distribution isn't kept with criminals. If you legalize it you can tax it and control it. Right now it's totally out of control. Drug lords are making a killing (literally) and it's all a big mess. Just look a prohibition. The result of that was the growth of mafia and the mob. Wouldn't it be better (and cheaper) for the US to legalize and control the whole thing?

Nancy said...

Ellen - I totally agree. And what was with that nasty program of ratting their parents out about, anyway? I remember all those little kids going to foster care. Wow, how sad is that? Did the people who designed that program have any ideal what kind of a psychological impact that would have on that child?

Brian - Good point. Legalize and control.

Hilary - Alcohol scares me much more than pot for a variety of reasons. Not the least of which is the feeling of invincibility. An adolescent brain on alcohol is not fully matured, and heavy drinking at that age retards emotional maturation.

Marlene - I agree. I would rather they not use anything, but if I had to pick it would definitely not be alcohol.

susan - Interesting point. There is money in the penal system when it is privatized.

Joanne - Well one thing is for sure - the war on drugs has been a total failure. To continue doing the same thing expecting different outcomes is a sign of insanity.

Lori ann said...

Since it has been proven to alliviate pain with less to no side affects, i think for that reason yes. But since i hate the smell and hate smoke too i selfishly say no. I guess i just cancelled out my vote. :)

Nancy said...

Lori - You're right about all those things! :-)

tinkerbell the bipolar faerie said...

Anyone who can get high from pot can certainly experience withdrawal ~ it's largely psychological, but chronic users will experience some physical symptoms of withdrawal ~ it feels like a very mild heroine withdrawal. Been there, done that.

There is no such thing as physical withdrawal from cocaine or crack in the way that there is from heroine (been there, done that, too). It's purely psychological/psychiatric; the nature of cocaine is that it makes the user want more ~ that's because of its very short half-life. Pot, on the other hand, has a longer half-life.

As far as pain control goes, I say whatever relieves a person's pain, why not. However, there are many in the medical marijuana movement that take its usage to the ridiculous extreme. Does anyone really need 28 grams (1 ounce) of weed per day? Get real.

But that's the type of thing that goes on ~ I think people have to be honest with themselves and separate medicinal use from recreational use. In other words, the desire to get high is not a medical need. If we're going to start talking about pot as a medicine, then we're going to have to stop using it as a pasttime.

There's a difference, too, in making something legal versus decriminalizing. Here in Vancouver it is not legal, not even decriminalized, but a person can apply to the federal government for an exemption which legally allows them to grow and possess pot. Nonetheless, the cops turn a blind eye, a few pot lounges and marijuana dispensaries are operating in the city.

Everyone that uses street drugs is self medicating. That doesn't mean pot (or whatever their drug of choice) is what these people medically need.

I think prohibition of anything is downright foolish. But the issue of legalization is not a simple matter of black and white. I suppose I would like to see it legalized, but I do imagine that that avenue would have its own problems.

In the meantime, I wonder why the American government wanted so badly for Marc Emery to be extradited to the US in order to serve his 5-year jail sentence for selling pot seeds to Americans!

The war on drugs is a war against sensibility. What's our first clue that it's been a completely devastating failure?

One more thing ~ when you drink you know what you're getting. Not so with anything purchased on the street.I don't think anyone under the age of 19 should use pot ~ growing brains should not be exposed to weed. Research bears this out.

Thanx for this post.

Nancy said...

tinkerbell - Can anyone really use that much in a day? Selling seeds? Really? Hadn't heard that story. I guess our government just doesn't have enough occupying their time these days. Geeze. Thanks for weighing in on this subject!

Von said...

In my experience of chronic pain, there is no pain medication that is non-addictive.The distinction medics make between addiction and dependency is nonsensical to someone who tries to come of a drug of dependency.
Marijuana as grown today is dangerous, addictive and damaging, particularly to young people in their developing years.Yes I have seen the evidence of damaged, wasted lives.Before you support legalising, check out the evidence.You might be surprised if you're still thinking 70's.
The politics of drugs is another story, with this not being the right place....

Shrinky said...

Although it's readily available, it's not legallised here, either. The varieties of dope bought "on the street" is not necessarily pure, but mixed and tampered with (skunk springs to mind, which is reportedly up to ten times stronger than that which was around in the sixties).

There is a proven link between marijana and schizophrenia, it is now thought schizophrenia is passed on genetically, and can lie latent. It concerns me marijana may "trigger" thisillness, in those (albeit rare) people who are already vulnerable to that condition. Two of my family members were schitzophrenic (which is why I have researched this).

I am in favour of allowing doctors to PRESCRIBE marijana for pain relief, but I don't believe it should be freely available to buy for recreation on the open market.

Jeff D'Antonio said...

I don't understand why it isn't legal for medicinal use. For some people, it's the only pain medication that works. When Jill was in the late stages of cancer, she tried every pain medication available and NONE of them even took the edge off. She was dying and in constant agony. In desperation, I had to risk everything by buying her marijuana off the street because it was the only thing that helped her. As a high school teacher, a drug conviction would have been the end of my career - but watching her suffer was not an option, so I had no choice. Why can't I walk into a pharmacy with a prescription and buy it like I can oxycodone or any other pain medication?? It makes no sense to criminalize it.

As for recreational use, I can't really offer an opinion there. I did my share back in the day, but that was the least of my problems back then. I don't think its damaging effects are any worse than alcohol, and it could be made safer if it were legalized and regulated, but there are many sides to that debate.

luksky said...

I am certainly no pothead, but I say it should be legalized for more reasons than one...period.

Expat From Hell said...

Last year (2009), Mexico exported $22B in oil to the US - their largest "official" export product in terms of value. The drug trade over the border is estimated at between $40 and $60B. Makes you wonder what kind of pressure we are putting on all kinds of things - drug use, "fair" trade, immigration. Funny that we also consume 2/3 of all anti-depressants produced in the world. On a somewhat related note, I guess that's why your blog page is so popular! EFH

The Good Cook said...

Nancy - I came of age in the 70's. I would like to see pot legalized and regulated. Seriously, I don't see the difference between a martini or a joint and frankly, see less danger in the 2nd. choice. I have seen one too many lives shattered by the effects of alcoholism and none shattered by marijuana smoking.....

At the very least possession or growing of a small amount of marijuana should be decriminalized - do we really want to send people to prison for possession of a small amount of weed? Now that's a life wrecker...

Nancy said...

Von - Maybe that's why it needs to be regulated, so people who need it can get it and know exactly what they are getting.

Shrinky - When I studied schizophrenia it was believed that it needed two links - genetic and a trigger. The trigger often being stress, etc., so marijuana use could definitely be a trigger. It often shows up in adolescence or college years when people are really stressed. But I think you have to have the genetic link, marijuana use doesn't cause it. I do agree doctors should be able to prescribe it, and it should be regulated to know exactly what strength it is. It very well may be that a doctor would not prescribe it for pain if he/she felt the patient should not use that particular pain relief because of a risk of dependency or mental impairment.

Jeff - That was a very brave thing to do for Jill. You could have lost everything trying to help her. It is crazy that patients can't get this pain medication when there seems so much more risk with other meds. My aunt was so constipated from pain medication when she was dying of cancer that she screamed in pain constantly.

luksky - There certainly seems to be more than one reason with the problems in Mexico.

Expat - Those figures are astounding, and you certainly are right about the pressure. You have to wonder, with that kind of money who is being bought off when it comes to decriminalizing? I had to laugh at your comment about anti-depressants and my blog. :-)

Good Cook - That has been my experience as well. Alcohol has been a major problem in my family while occasional marijuana use has had the opposite effect.

Frank Baron said...

I am unequivocally in favour of legalizing marijuana use across the board - not just for medical purposes.

But the fact that some places still resist legalizing even for medical purposes is beyond stupid.

Meeko Fabulous said...

I totally agree that it should be legalized for pain. I also think it should be legalized so it can be taxed thereby creating more revenue for the state of California.

Land of shimp said...

Unsurprisingly I'm in favor of legalization, Nancy. I think that pot is actually less dangerous than alcohol. That isn't to say I think we should all just toke up madly, that's not my point. There are inherent problems in living life through a filter of anything.

Like anything that mutes your consciousness, it can be abused, and misused. I've got a couple of in-laws who have raging problems with substance abuse. They all started with pot, and moved on to harder things. However, I don't think the pot is at issue there. I think they have a genetic predisposition to addiction. I've known a great many people who were casual pot smokers, and whose lives were not impacted in any significant, negative way by it. I've known a far greater number of people with problems resulting from alcohol, or prescription drug abuse.

The legality of something rarely impacts use in the general population. One of my SILs is still struggling with heroin addiction, but the legality of that substance is neither here nor there. I don't believe she would have been any more or less likely to experience addiction problems had pot -- and let me be clear, she started abusing alcohol long before she abused drugs -- been legal.

I think that if alcohol is legal, and it should be, that pot should be also.

I did vote for medical marijuana in my state. I used to live in Denver county where pot was actually simply legalized -- although that was a moot point, as it conflicted with state and federal law -- and I voted for that too.

People do what they do, abuse what they will, because of factors beyond societal structure. We tie up resources, law enforcement and our courts trying to prevent something that...really, doesn't have its answer in the mechanisms of the law, but rather within our own makeups.

I'm simply grateful that I have never struggled with addiction, and that furthermore, I have a mild allergy to opiates in general. The one time I was badly injured, my own body happily rejected what was legally available to me.

I don't know what I would have done had medical marijuana been legal at the time, I think I likely would have done what I did anyway: I used a lot of ice, Advil, and lived with a bunch of pain. I'm not allergic to Demerol, you see, but I was leery of using demerol because, frankly, there are alcoholics in my family.

I chose pain over potential addiction.

I think ultimately the legality of a substance is neither here, nor there in the scope of what it can and will do to a life.

When I ask myself, "If pot was legal, would I be high right now?" and the answer is, "No. But instead of Screwdriver on a Friday night, I might indulge in that." I do care about not breaking the law, but...I don't think that's what keeps me from being addicted to anything. I think I'm very mindful of my choices in almost everything.

Perhaps not legalizing pot comes from a place where our society believes we need to have some choices made for us. Strangely enough, the only people I believe it stops are people who have a fair amount of control over their choices anyway.

It's sort of the straw-man of laws, isn't it?

Nancy said...

Frank - I agree. Pain is not controlled well in this country because doctors are so worried about addiction. Using a substance that is non-addicting is beyond stupid, just as you said.

Meeko - California is on that one! :-) Can't blame them a bit.

Shimp - As usual, you said it very well, and hit all the points of contention in a reasonable and well-though out manner.

Nancy said...

Frank - I meant not using a substance that is non-addicting in the arsenal for pain management is beyond stupid, in my opinion.

JC said...

I'm for legalizing it ... at least for medical reasons.

Nancy said...

JC - Thanks for weighing in.

Sniffles and Smiles said...

Another interesting discussion, Nancy! I just love reading all the comments...I find people's views fascinating...Your blog is always such a wonderful read...Love, Janine XO

Jayne Martin said...

Way back in the early 70s when my mother had cancer, I would bring her marijuana for the pain and nausea. Of course it should be legal for medical purposes, and I'm an advocate for completely decriminalizing it, regulating and taxing it.

More harm comes from alcohol than from grass. You'll never see someone high on weed committing road rage or getting in a bar fight.

Marguerite said...

I also think it should be legal, period!

Amy said...

Hi Nancy, It was fascinating reading the comments as well as your post. I've always been a proponent of legalization for the simple reason stated by many of your commenters - marijuana is less harmful than alcohol.

A case in point - I just returned from a high school reunion in SF - on Sunday we were observers of the Bay to Breakers - a race across San Francisco, my hometown. I love the costumes, even the nudity is inconsequential. The alcohol, on the other hand, at 9:00 a.m. is rather unbelievable - I can't imagine what it was like in the afternoon. I have to admit, I was almost hoping to see clouds of smoke, cannabis that is!

Trish and Rob MacGregor said...

Legalize it. Tax it like cigarettes, booze, everything else.

Deborah said...

Resoundingly yes. And after many, many discussions with my youngest son, I also think it should be legalized, period. If it's not being too simplistic, it would significantly ease the major problems that the drug trade causes, and give the courts better things to spend their time on.
I agree with the alcohol/marijuana comparison. I believe that alcohol has wreaked far more havoc than weed ever will.

Nancy said...

Sniffles - You are always so sweet! Thank you for that.

Jayne - I'm afraid you are right on the behavior changes in marijuana versus alcohol. Anything I did in my youth that caused me to feel embarrassed or ashamed usually involved alcohol.

Marguerite - Thanks for weighing in.

Amy - Is it just my imagination, or does it seem like people are drinking more than they used to? Maybe it's my age, but we've been to several parties that were ruined because the people were drinking really hard and fast. What happened to it taking all night to drink too much? I always feel uneasy when there is too much alcohol. I don't like how people get when they are really drunk. It feels out of control.

Trish - At least it might free up some space in the prisons. America's incarceration rate is unbelievable.

Deborah - That has certainly been the case in my family.

Cloudia said...

We in Hawaii have medical MJ and from my experience (with HIV/Aids folks) it is a big help with little (any?) downside. And the world has not ended...DJan says it very well. Harm Reduction makes sense. "War" on the human desire for happiness is foolishness.


Aloha from Waikiki!


Comfort Spiral

Emom said...

I like the way you make your point....and agree...smiles.

Nancy said...

Cloudia - Very well said.

Emom - Thanks!

Linda Pendleton said...

Yes, I think it should be legal not only for pain, but for other medical reasons, i.e. nausea, B/P control, appetite increaser.

I know of elderly who use it for that.

And it might as well be legal, period. It's not the drug problem in this country--only a smoke screen for real drug problems. Anyone can over use, or use it to escape, as they can with anything.

I've never used it so I only know what I have heard or read.

California Girl said...

Hell yeah. Everyone I know who has had cancer & smoked for the pain has said it works. To not have to take so many pain meds alone would be worth it. My husband and I agree w/ DJan's comment about legalizing and taxing it. Same with prostitution. Get it out of the hands of the underworld and into the tax coffers where it belongs. Think of all the pimps we'd put out of business.

gayle said...

Love reading this post and all the comments. I too think it should be legal!!

Nancy said...

Linda - I think you're absolutely right. There are probably more elderly that use it then we think.

California - Nevada has legalized prostitution and I can say that it is much better than having them on the streets. For one thing they are checked by a doctor for HIV and STD's at least once a month. They use protection and have clean, decent places to ply their trade. Do I agree with prostitution? Not necessarily. But it is been around since Babylon and it's not going away. Might as well protect all those involved.

Gayle - Thanks for weighing in!

Nancy said...

Marijuana is a gateway drug and no amount of calling it less harmful than alcohol with ever make me change my mind about it. I do not want my airline pilot smoking pot to relax, nor do I want my kids' pediatrician nor my daughters laser surgeon smoking pot. I dont want a single person on the road who has been smoking pot while my 16 yr old is learning to drive.
NO NO NO NO NO
I will never agree this is a good thing. Marijuana led to the downfall of many people I loved and ruined my life from day one. I hate it and anyone who does it to me, is a pot head and I will work to stay away from anyone who does it and will keep my kids from anyone I suspect smokes pot and if you are a pot head pta mom you better believe I am not coming to the meeting. (This actually happened in my community and nope I dont go to the pta meetings because the mom is a pot head)