A Doctor's Case For Legal Pot

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  A Doctor's Case For Legal Pot

Posted by CN Staff on January 15, 2010 at 12:32:56 PT
By David L. Nathan 
Source: Wall Street Journal 

USA -- Most Americans are paying too much for marijuana. I'm not referring to people who smoke it—using the drug generally costs about as much as using alcohol. Marijuana is unaffordable for the rest of America because billions are wasted on misdirected drug education and distracted law enforcement, and we also fail to tax the large underground economy that supplies cannabis. On Monday, the New Jersey legislature passed a bill legalizing marijuana for a short list of medical uses.
Outgoing Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine says he will sign it into law. This is a positive step, as cannabis has several unique medical applications. But the debate over medical marijuana has obscured the larger issue of pot prohibition.As a psychiatrist, I treat individuals who often suffer from devastating substance abuse. Over many years of dealing with my patients' problems, I have come to realize that we are wasting precious resources on the fight against marijuana, which more closely resembles legal recreational drugs than illegal ones. My conscience compels me to support a comprehensive and nationwide decriminalization of marijuana.Prohibition did decrease alcoholism and alcohol consumption in the 1920s. However, the resulting rise of violent organized crime and the loss of tax revenue were untenable and led to the repeal of Prohibition. By analogy, while the broad decriminalization of marijuana will likely reduce the societal and economic costs of pot prohibition, it could lead to more use and abuse.The risks of marijuana use are mild compared to those of heroin, ecstasy and other illegal drugs, but the drug is not harmless. A small number of my patients cannot tolerate any use without serious impact on underlying disorders. Others become daily, heavy smokers, manifesting psychological if not physiological dependence. While most of my patients appear to suffer no ill effects from occasional use, the drug makes my work more difficult with certain individuals.So why do I support decriminalization? First, marijuana prohibition doesn't prevent widespread use of the drug, although it does clog our legal system with a small percentage of users and dealers unlucky enough to be prosecuted. More to the point, legal cannabis would never become the societal problem that alcohol already is.In most of my substance-abuse patients, I am far more concerned about their consumption of booze than pot. Alcohol frequently induces violent or dangerous behavior and often-irreversible physiological dependence; marijuana does neither. Chronic use of cannabis raises the risk of lung cancer, weight gain, and lingering cognitive changes—but chronic use of alcohol can cause pancreatitis, cirrhosis and permanent dementia. In healthy but reckless teens and young adults, it is frighteningly easy to consume a lethal dose of alcohol, but it is almost impossible to do so with marijuana. Further, compared with cannabis, alcohol can cause severe impairment of judgment, which results in greater concurrent use of hard drugs.Many believe marijuana is a gateway drug—perhaps not so harmful in itself but one that leads to the use of more serious drugs. That is not borne out in practice, except that the illegal purchase of cannabis often exposes consumers to profit-minded dealers who push the hard stuff. In this way, the gateway argument is one in favor of decriminalization. If marijuana were purchased at liquor stores rather than on street corners where heroin and crack are also sold, there would likely be a decrease in the use of more serious drugs.The nation badly needs the revenue of a "sin tax" on marijuana, akin to alcohol and tobacco taxes. Our government could also save money by ending its battle against marijuana in the drug war and redirecting funds to proactive drug education and substance-abuse treatment. Hyperbolic rants about the evils of marijuana could give way to realistic public education about the drug's true risks, such as driving under the influence.Our nation can acknowledge the dangers of cigarettes, alcohol and marijuana while still permitting their use. The only logically and morally consistent argument for marijuana prohibition necessitates the criminalization of all harmful recreational drugs, including alcohol, nicotine and caffeine. We can agree that such an infringement on personal freedoms is as impractical as it is un-American. The time has come to accept that our nation's attitude toward marijuana has been misguided for generations and that the only rational approach to cannabis is to legalize, regulate and tax it.Dr. Nathan, a psychiatrist in Princeton, N.J., is a clinical assistant professor at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.Printed in The Wall Street Journal, page A19Source: Wall Street Journal (US)Author: David L. NathanPublished: January 15, 2010Copyright: 2010 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.Contact: wsj.ltrs wsj.comWebsite: -- Cannabis Archives

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Comment #17 posted by Had Enough on January 16, 2010 at 19:30:32 PT
I’m with BGreen...
If he is guilty of this, he should step aside and let better heads prevail...For some reason...I don’t think Diane is making this stuff up...And thanks for your post herbdoc...
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Comment #16 posted by Had Enough on January 16, 2010 at 19:22:26 PT
Adrianne Curry Defends Kampia
In several tweets sent to CelebStoner, Marijuana Policy Project Advisory Board member Adrianne Curry says embattled MPP executive director Rob Kampia "has always been completely professional   every event i went2 w/him. even the private ones, he has his game face on."Click to see the rest...***Not sure what to think of this...except damage control maybe...
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Comment #15 posted by BGreen on January 16, 2010 at 10:46:54 PT
Another powerful man with a sex problem
The difference with RK is that he never went around preaching so-called "family values" and putting himself in judgment of others like Gov. Sanford, Sen. Ensign, or any number of politicians and preachers.If RK is guilty of this, he's a dog and a jerk, but it still has nothing to do with our cause. RK should be replaced and we'll keep fighting on without missing a beat.The Reverend Bud Green
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Comment #14 posted by FoM on January 16, 2010 at 10:11:35 PT
I totally agree with you.
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Comment #13 posted by Hope on January 16, 2010 at 10:09:51 PT
Besides the insults...
What's very distressing is that, certainly, in this case, RK seems to be lacking good judgment. That's very distressing that this should be the case with someone whose name is associated with cannabis law reform. Cannabis law reform is very serious. We're trying to save lives. We're trying to stop a widespread injustice and persecution. Like a crooked cop, he casts a pall over the people working with him.It's very sad.
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Comment #12 posted by FoM on January 16, 2010 at 09:29:14 PT
I don't understand how this could happen in this day and age. It can paralyze any woman that feels they want to help and has something to offer. I really don't get it.
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Comment #11 posted by Hope on January 16, 2010 at 09:19:38 PT
Diane Fornbacher
As I recall, she used to post here sometimes and maybe joined in some of the MAP weekend conference/chats we used to have many moons ago.I always admired her, very much, and had the greatest respect for her. She is, and always has been, a dedicated and energetic reformer. It's unimaginable to me, that the offender in this situation thought there was something right, in any way, about the way he treated Diane. Unless, of course, he wanted to insult her. What possesses a man to think that's an attractive or "sexy" way to behave?The D.H., formerly known as R. K., has to be drinking too much. Way too much.
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Comment #10 posted by herbdoc215 on January 16, 2010 at 08:41:40 PT
Sam, et, al
I hate to say I told you so BUT I've long said this very thing about Nob Kampia and his merry gang and caught shit for it, when are the crooks and hedonistic pervs going to get out of the way and let us real activist get stuff finished...when agent provocateurs quit paying them to do it and naive sheeple stop putting up with their crap. Peter Lewis can be DIRECTLY blamed for this, that is exactly were the lawsuits should be aimed! Maybe now a few folks are starting to see the big picture and the puzzle unravels 
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Comment #9 posted by FoM on January 15, 2010 at 18:20:56 PT

charmed quark
Please tell her hi back and tell her I said and a long strange trip it's been!
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Comment #8 posted by charmed quark on January 15, 2010 at 17:37:00 PT

fom - diane says hi
and she remembers you
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Comment #7 posted by FoM on January 15, 2010 at 16:49:03 PT

charmed quark
She always treated me with respect and encouraged me to follow my dream. There have been people along this journey that I will never forget and she is one of them.
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Comment #6 posted by charmed quark on January 15, 2010 at 16:37:19 PT

I was just talking to Diane by IM
When I saw the link here and read it. How weird. I agree, FOM, she really is great

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Comment #5 posted by Hope on January 15, 2010 at 14:59:26 PT

Thank you, Dr. Nathan.
"My conscience compels me to support a comprehensive and nationwide decriminalization of marijuana."I hope someone listens.
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Comment #4 posted by HempWorld on January 15, 2010 at 14:29:04 PT

Sam you made a good point with Tashkin
"frighteningly easy to consume a lethal dose of alcohol, but it is almost impossible to do so with marijuana"Almost? I have never read of an overdose on marijuana. Scientifically it has been proven impossible to overdose on, you need to consume your own body weight of the stuff. But it's beyond me, when a doctor, who should know better, shows his ignorance here and with the lung cancer thing. Hey, how about a proven reduction on head and neck cancers?Obviously the doc, needs to make sure his job is still waiting for him after his superiors/masters read his article.
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Comment #3 posted by FoM on January 15, 2010 at 13:21:53 PT

Diane was one of the first people I met when I posted many years ago on She's a wonderful person. She has a great personality and was always a pleasure to talk too. She encouraged me to do what I do now on CNews.
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Comment #2 posted by Sam Adams on January 15, 2010 at 13:17:56 PT

Doctor WSJ
wow, is this really the WSJ? Sounds like a great doctor, I wish he'd read Tashkin's 2006 study, why is he still saying cannabis raises the risk of lung cancer? we'll give him a pass this time

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Comment #1 posted by Sam Adams on January 15, 2010 at 13:16:00 PT

the gory details
not for the faint of heart
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