A common and logical question if you are pro- industrial hemp is “what is marijuana and what should I know about?”. Politicians love to tell us that marijuana must remain illegal for our own good. In the next section we will examine some of the so-called facts about marijuana so that you can decide for yourselves whether you agree or not.
20) Aren’t you afraid everyone will get hooked? Marijuana produces no withdrawal symptoms no matter how heavy it is used. It is habit forming (psychologically addictive), but not physically addictive. The majority of people who quit marijuana don’t even have to think twice about it. Comparing marijuana to addictive drugs is really quite silly.
For a drug to be physically addictive, it must be reinforcing, produce withdrawal symptoms, and produce tolerance. Marijuana is reinforcing, because it feels good, but it does not do the other two things. Caffeine, nicotine and alcohol are all physically addictive.21) Is urine testing for marijuana use as a terms of employment a good idea? I want to make sure my business is run safely. No! Some of your most brilliant, hard working, and reliable employees are marijuana users. When you drug test, you put all marijuana users in the same place as the abusers — the unemployment line. Drug testing is bad for business. (Not to mention it is an invasion of privacy.) If a worker has a drug problem, you can tell by testing how well he does his job. Firing *all* the drug users who work for you will hurt your business, costs money, and will get people very mad at you — and for what? There isn’t even any hard evidence that marijuana users have more accidents or health problems.
Your employees will probably resent being drug tested; drug testing allows an employer to govern the actions of an employee in his off time — even when these actions do not effect his job performance. (As told above, marijuana drug tests do not test whether a person is `high’. They test whether or not they have used in the last few weeks.) Asking employees to urinate in a plastic cup every month is not a good way to make them feel like part of the business, or make friends, either. There is growing concern about drug tests, sometimes because they misfire and accuse the wrong person, but mostly because they might be used to find out other confidential information about an employee. Legal professionals are beginning to question whether they are even constitutional.22) Isn’t all this worth the trouble, though, in order to reduce accident risks and health care costs? Everyone knows that marijuana users are bad employees, right? Wrong — or at least someone forgot to tell the millions of hard working marijuana smokers that. Drug testing companies will hand you piles of statistics which they say prove marijuana use costs you money. The truth is there are just as many studies which show that marijuana users are more successful, use less health care, and produce more than non-users. Before you buy into workplace drug testing, make sure you get the other side of the story.
In the 1980’s, the Bush administration went to great lengths to promote drug testing. In fact, George Bush estimated the cost of drug use at over 60 billion dollars a year, based on a study which supposedly showed that persons who had used marijuana at some time during their life were less successful. The very same study could be used to show that current, heavy users of marijuana and other illegal drugs were actually more successful. Something is a bit fishy here, and when you add to that the fact that several former heads of the DEA and former Drug Czars now own or work in the urinalysis industry, this whole scene begins to smell a bit funny.23) Wouldn’t it be best to just lock the users all up? How do you plan to pay for that? Already, well over five percent of the people in this country (U.S) are in custody (including probation, parole, bail, etc.) Murderers and rapists are being let out of our penatentiaries right now to make room for a few more `deadheads’ — there are about 2,500 Grateful Dead fans in our federal prisons. Imprisoning one person for one year costs about $20,000. The United States leads the world in imprisonment — at any one time, 425 people out of every 100,000 are behind bars. In the Federal Prison System, one fifth of the prisoners are drug offenders who have done nothing violent. State laws are usually less strict, but state mandatory minumum sentences for drugs are getting more popular.
Our prisons and our courtrooms are so crowded that the American Bar Association’s annual report on the state of the Justice System is basically one long plea for an end to drug laws that imprison users. Even the Clinton Administration recognizes that locking people up is not the solution. This is especially true for the people who actually have drug abuse problems — they need treatment, not mistreatment. The Drug War put mandatory minimum jail sentences for drug crimes on the lawbooks. If we do not take those laws (at least) back off, we will be in sorry shape come the end of the century. A retroactive policy of marijuana legalization or decriminalization would go a long way in helping to solve this crisis.
Also consider this — Once a person gets put in jail, he becomes angry with the world. He will probably be victimized while he is there, and most likely will learn criminal behaviors from hard-core violent offenders. There is also a very good chance that he will have caught AIDS or tuberculosis by the time he gets let back out. By locking up drug users, you are digging yourself a very big trench to fall in — is it worth it?
Besides, lots of these people don’t deserve to be in jail. Why should they serve time just because they like to get `high’ on marijuana? Especially when someone can drink alcohol without being arrested… what kind of law is that? You have to think about what kind of a world you are making for yourself before you act. How are the police of the future going to treat the people? How far are you willing to let the government go to get the drug users? How many of your own rights will you sacrifice by trying to jail `the druggies’?24) I heard that there are over 400 chemicals in marijuana… Wellllll…? True, but so what? There are also over 400 chemicals in many foods, (including coffee, which contains over 800 chemicals and many rat carcinogens) and we don’t see police arresting people in McDonald’s, or giving Driving while Eating citations. Only THC is very psycho-active; a few other chemicals also have very small degrees of psycho-activity. People who use marijuana do not get sick more, or die earlier, or lose their jobs (except to drug tests), or have mutant kids… so what’s your point?
The fact that there are over 60 unique chemicals in cannabis, called `cannabinoids,’ is something that scientists find very interesting. Many of these cannabinoids may have valuable effects as medicine. For example, `cannabinol’ is a cannabinoid which can help people with insomnia. Doctors think that this chemical is why most patients prefer to use marijuana rather than pure Delta-9-THC pills (called dronabinol) — the cannabinol takes the edge off being `high’ and calms the nerves. Another cannabinoid, `cannabidiolic acid’, is a very effective anti-biotic, like pennicillin. Many of these chemicals can be extracted from marijuana without any fancy laboratory equipment.25) Doesn’t that stuff mess up your immune system and make it easier for you catch colds? Marijuana (Delta-nine-THC) does have an `immunosuppressive effect.’ It acts on certain cells in the liver, called macrophages, in much the same way that it acts on brain cells. Instead of stimulating the cells, though, it shuts them off. This effect is temporary (just like the `high’) and goes away quickly; people who suffer from multiple sclerosis may actually find this effect useful in fighting the disease.Recent research has also found that marijuana metabolites are left over in the lungs for up to seven months after the smoking has stopped. While they are there, the immune system of the lungs may be affected (but the macrophages do not get “turned off” like in the liver.) The effects of smoking itself are probably worse than the effects of the THC, and last just as long.
All this said, doctors still have not decided whether marijuana users are at risk for colds or not. With the possible exception of bronchitis, there are no numbers which suggest that marijuana users catch more colds, but… this did not stop Carlton Turner, a United States Drug Czar, from saying many times in his public addresses that marijuana caused AIDS and homosexuality. His claims were so ridiculus that the Washington Post and Newsweek Magazine made fun of him, and he was forced to resign.
Today, AIDS patients use marijuana to treat their symptoms without any aparrent problems. Some studies suggest that marijuana may actually stimulate certain forms of immunity. Researchers have tried to show major effects on the healthy human’s immune system, but if marijuana does have any substantial effects, good or bad, they are either too subtle or too small to notice.
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