Obama, drugs and common sense

By Bernd Debusmann
December 23, 2009

bernddebusmann.jpg– Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed  are his own –

Barack Obama, January 21, 2004: “The war on drugs has been an utter failure. We need to rethink and decriminalize our marijuana laws…we need to rethink how we’re operating in the drug war. Currently, we are not doing a good job.”

Amen to that!

Since President Richard Nixon first declared war on drugs in 1969, seven successive administrations have spent billions upon billions on eradicating drug crops abroad, blocking shipments at the country’s borders, and enforcing tough drug laws at home. They failed to curb demand or throttle supplies.

Obama made his assessment of the drug war during a debate at Northwestern University, near Chicago, when he was running for a seat in the U.S. Senate, a key stage in his meteoric political career. Now that Obama is nearing the end of his first year in office as president of the United States, how much rethinking has there been and how good a job is his administration doing on the drug war?

The record is mixed but after decades during which the words common sense and drug policy never fit into the same sentence, American attitudes towards drug prohibition – and above all, punitive laws on marijuana – are changing too fast for policymakers and legislators to ignore.

Public opinion polls reflect steady change. Between 2000 and 2009, the percentage of Americans in favor of full legalization of marijuana rose from 31 percent to 44 percent, according to the polling organization Gallup. If the increase in support continues at the same pace, by 2013 more than half the adult population will back measures to treat marijuana like tobacco and alcohol.

Three milestone events in the past three months are a reason to believe that common sense is beginning to prevail over the blinkered ideology which compelled U.S. administrations to act is if they were trying to prove correct Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity – doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

MILESTONES IN 2009

The first milestone was set by Obama’s Attorney General, Eric Holder, on October 19 when he sent new policy guidelines to federal prosecutors telling them that “it will not be a priority to use federal resources to prosecute patients with serious illnesses or their caregivers who are complying with state laws on medical marijuana.” In plain English: federal agents will not arrest people who use marijuana for medical purposes in the states where that is legal: Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.

Milestone #2: The American Medical Association (AMA), with about 250,000 members the largest physicians’ organization in the United States, on December 1 changed its long-held attitude  on the classification of marijuana as a drug as addictive and dangerous as heroin. AMA urged the federal government to “review marijuana’s status as a Schedule I substance.”

(In the government’s classification, Schedule I embraces a cocktail of drugs that include heroin and LSD.)

Milestone #3: Obama signed into law on Dec. 17 an end-of-the-year spending package, a so-called omnibus bill, that
included a provision to overturn a ban on implementing a medical marijuana law that had been approved with an overwhelming majority by voters in Washington DC in 1988. The U.S. capital is now free to set its own medical marijuana policies for its 600,000 inhabitants.

Changing the laws on marijuana for medical purposes is one thing, blanket legalization another. But pro-reform advocates, such as Bruce Mirken of the Marijuana Policy Project, see medical marijuana advances as bricks hammered out of an ever-weakening “Berlin Wall of Prohibition.”

While common sense is creeping into domestic drug policies, it is – so far – business as usual for America’s involvement in the seemingly endless and probably unwinnable drug wars abroad, in Latin America and Asia. The same omnibus bill that freed Washington DC to dispense medical marijuana had provisions to continue financing and equipping Mexican and Colombian military and police forces fighting drug producers and traffickers.

But it would be unwise to underrate the global impact of domestic policy changes in the U.S., even though they fall short of legalizing marijuana and regulating its sales like alcohol and tobacco.

After all, the U.S. has long been the spiritual home of prohibition and its most important international champion. Rigidly orthodox American thinking on drugs is reflected in United Nations treaties, including the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, which have been obstacles to domestic drug reforms in some signatory nations.

The Single Convention puts marijuana in the most restrictive category, alongside heroin, as does the U.S. federal government. It is a wrong-headed classification that flies in the face of a mountain of evidence to the contrary but has survived various legal challenges over the past four decades. Time and again, facts that did not fit the drug warriors’ preconceptions were simply ignored.

Example: A 1988 finding from the Drug Enforcement Administration’s then administrative law judge, Francis Young.
“In strict medical terms,” he wrote after a hearing on the matter, “marijuana is far safer than many foods we commonly consume. For example, eating ten raw potatoes can result in a toxic response. By comparison, it is physically impossible to eat enough marijuana to induce death.”

Which helps explain marijuana’s enduring position as the most widely used illicit drug not only in the United States but in the world. The U.N. World Drug Report 2008 estimated there were 162 million users around the world. The 2009 report gave a range of up to 190 million. Numbers like these make a mockery of  prohibition laws. It’s high time to repeal them.

40 comments

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/

We can only hope. I’m no fan of opiates or meth or hallucinogens like LSD, but marijuana? Come on, policing pot is a total waste of time, effort, manpower, money, not to mention young lives lost in the criminal justice system. I smoked it countless times when I was younger. I’d rather be slightly stoned than drink red wine (my drug of choice these days). Alcohol is the real scourge. But, we regulate its sale. I’ve never known a stoned man to beat his wife or get into a bar fight. Booze makes an angry man mean, pot mellows him down. It’s almost as though our capitalistic society doesn’t want calm, relaxed, happy people — it wants them stressed, aggravated , driven and dissatisfied.

If marijuana were legal in my state I’d buy it. No question about it. And the tax revenue could fund any number of urgently needed programs.

Posted by IntoTheTardis | Report as abusive

If you want to truly eradicate the violent cartels in Mexico, legalize all drugs. Wouldn’t cost a dime to do all those thugs in. The drugs are already available on every street corner of America anyway. Let’s take the criminal element out of it.

Posted by justanotherjoe | Report as abusive

The first commenter is absolutely correct. It makes no sense to punish people who choose to use marijuana instead of the far more harmful substance, alcohol. In fact, this is the subject of a great new book entitled, “Marijuana is Safer: So why are we driving people to drink?” If you are interested in the subject and/or being part of the movement to make marijuana legal, I strongly suggest that you check it out. Perhaps even send a copy to a friend or family member for the holidays: http://tinyurl.com/lub5yl

Posted by SaferChoiceDC | Report as abusive

When I was a kid I used to smoke pot, and I can honestly say that the worst thing that I ever did while I was stoned was eat too much pizza!

Posted by bass_man86 | Report as abusive

My ideal isn’t as radical as some might think. Legalize the drugs, maintain the drug free work place rules already in place along with testing. You still get fined or jailed for driving impaired and use the money currently spent on trying to stop the drugs from getting in (which is an utter failure) on education and rehabilitation.

Posted by justanotherjoe | Report as abusive

As a retired firefighter/peace officer, I have been to hundreds of traffic accidents, incidents of domestic violence and other medical emergencies. Alcohol was involved in a high percentage of these responses with teen drinking topping the traffic accident list. The domestic violence calls were almost always alcohol related. Frantic calls in the morning when their spouse did not wake up (heart attack) were generally from long term tobacco use. In my career, I never responded to an incident that was marijuana related.

If we want to save lives, let’s use our limited funds to set up more sobriety check points and not worry what someone is growing in their back yard.

You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to see that the “gateway” drugs start with coffee to get going in the morning, a drink to let down at night, pills to cure headaches and cigarettes to calm the nerves when another family crisis arises. Children mimic the behavior of their parents at a very early age.

We need to stop being in denial and classify the drugs in the order of their harm to our society. The “Schedule One” drugs should start with tobacco- a narcotic & our number one killer and alcohol.

Posted by HorridToad | Report as abusive

Our marijuana policy completely reflects the bipolar conflict of the American ethos. We are trapped on the one side by our desires- ever prompted and prodded by seductive advertising and television programming, and with guilt inspired religiousness on the other side. In essence, we want to be ‘good’ but we know we are not. We are a dieter who while jogging on the treadmill is also eating cupcakes.

It’s time we accept who we really are and embrace one of our appetites most harmless cravings- pot. Simple, natural, and far less dangerous than any other similar vice- some of which are not only legal, but which are wholeheartedly embraced by public policy- such as, gambling.

Let’s put our money to good use, rather than to fight futile ‘wars’. The war on marijuana was lost a long time ago, but the casualties of our current policy continue. The drug war simply creates an illicit drug trade that kills and threatens thousands of people each year.

What we must do is buy up all the drugs- setting specific, exclusive, contracts with growers and distributers, keeping them rich and nullifying the need for any black-market. From this we set regulations to sell the most harmless drugs, and destroy the most harmful. With this aproach, there will be no more cartels, no more addicts and destroyed lives, and plenty of revenue. Problem solved.

Posted by mcarney | Report as abusive

I find it interesting that most of the people I read pushing for medical marijuana aren’t even sick. And many of those sick people have prescriptions for “back pain” or some other minor illness.
If the truth be known, most people want it legalized for recreational and not medical reasons. They just feel like people will be more accepting of the idea if they throw in a few sick (and not so sick) people here and there.
I for one feel that every penny spent on the drug war is well spent. I don’t care if it cost 50 billion dollars, there is a reason that these drugs were banned in the first place. If marijuana enhanced society as much as many of these writers would have you believe, they would never have made it illegal at the beginning of the 20th century.
Every drug starts off with the promise of serving us well, until we wake up and find that it has become our master.
I have personally known people who smoked marijuana, and the only outcome that I can ascertain is cognitive and motor impairment. When a user is given an antagonist drug to block the receptors for THC, the user goes into withdrawls just like any other drug addict. The only reason that it is not experienced normally, is because it is stored in the fat and released slowly. Studies also suggest that long term use may precipitate damage to the brain.
So far, I have I have not heard one good argument for marijuana legalization, save terminal cancer. And this should only be persued by means of extracting the beneficial ingredients pharmacologically, and regulated like any other narcotic.

Posted by averageguy1 | Report as abusive

I believe this topic has been covered in some depth – as have several others – by the late great Bill Hicks. Except, perhaps, for the pressing need for America to develop an industry at which it excels, something this country is really good at, besides making lamentable political excuses and causing widespread grief, disaster and suffering in Third World countries by way of war for profit.

In that sense, marijuana could be just the ticket.

Posted by HBC | Report as abusive

@averageguy1

You are the very definition of what is wrong with this country. Brainwashed to not objectively gauge a situation that doesn’t work. I guess you fall into Einstein’s category of insane.

I remember a big drug bust at my high school the summer before I became a freshman, and in a few months the school was flush again with a seemingly endless supply of pot. In fact it was easier, and more exciting, to get pot over alcohol. Some good your “50 billion dollars” did.

And no, users do not go into withdrawals at all. My friend smoked pot for over 5 years and quit cold turkey when he got married and his first child was born. No withdrawals whatsoever. And it has been scientifically shown (plenty of material online for you to check) that it is not addictive.

I’m sorry but you lie.

Posted by willdabeast | Report as abusive

Mr. Debusmann is exactly right that the way forward is to repeal the prohibition laws. The name of the primary law that needs repeal is the Controlled Substances Act of 1970.

Posted by BillHarris | Report as abusive

Legalize it.

Posted by Moosewax | Report as abusive

And no one here has yet raised the interstate commerce demon? I never understood that one either. Alcohol can be produced anywhere, yet we seem to have controls in place…

People who have never taken drugs are so funny how they feel they are somehow qualified to open their mouths into the discussion.

Posted by THeRmoNukE | Report as abusive

Come on people, what is wrong with you? You are all so quick to point out the evils of alcohol and compare it to pot. Your all so quick to swap one vice for another. I have never tried pot and I’ve never been a regular drinker, dont believe either should be illegal, but lets get real. Pot is not all roses. Studies show that regular pot use is more detrimental to your health and much more likely to cause cancer than tobacco. Do consider that tobacco products are full of filler products such as added tar and nicotene that are far worse for you than tobacco alone. Give manufacturers a chance and they will sell you a pot product that is addictive, much like tobacco. Recent studies also show that long term pot use may effect brain function. On the other hand, long term moderate drinking has actually been proven to improve health. What this really comes down to is responsibility of the user. Like everything in life, it depends on who is holding the glass (or joint :) ).

Posted by mikemike0221 | Report as abusive

@averageguy1

I, for one, respect your views; however, I must disagree with them. Your supposition that there being a law to prohibit something is justification enough for it being prohibited, is a circular argument with no basis. An example of this type of logic might be to say that slavery is justified because there was no law to have prohibited it originally.

Alcohol is far more physically and psychologically damaging to those who abuse it (not to mention those who don’t, but who are impacted in any event by those who do), than the example you’ve described among the marijuana users “you’ve known”- perhaps you just have cognitively impaired friends. And yet, alcohol, a drug, is legal to the extent that it’s only prohibitions reflect the government’s need to make money from its regulation and the religiously inspired laws, in some places, that would have you not be drunk while attending church on Sunday.
As to the possibility of brain damage after long term use of marijuana, I am curious to know how that might compare to the brain damage suffered during a night of binge drinking over the holidays. Clearly, anything done not in moderation has its consequences.
The link between death and alcohol is found on the streets of this country where drunk drivers kill thousands of people annually or in the ERs where addicts’ livers and kidneys are failing. The link between death and marijuana is found on the streets where black marketers conduct territorial warfare- the only consequence, a direct consequence, of the drugs legal status.
It is no more simple than that. Furthermore, if the drug was harmful, doctors wouldn’t prescribe it for their patients. I don’t see doctors prescribing whiskey or cigarettes.
My suggestion is this… let’s get to the bottom of marijuana once and for all. Conduct a large-scale clinical trial, and let the evidence speak for itself. Then, let the evidence drive public policy.

Posted by mcarney | Report as abusive

Great, well written piece that ties the domestic and international pieces together. But one ERRATUM about the AMA: “on December 1 changed its long-held” — it was actually on November 10.

Posted by phaedrus | Report as abusive

Averageguy1, what verbal diarrhea. Get your facts straight!

If you don’t like Cannabis, don’t smoke it. But DO NOT make up misleading information.

As pointed out, you are what is wrong with America. Little knowledge and no purpose.

Posted by dutch | Report as abusive

So often the evils of alcohol are cited as reasons to legalize and regulate sales of marijuana. But is there any reason to believe that when it’s as easy to get as alcohol, that the same problems associated with substance abuse will not arise with more mj use? We know it does impair driving and cognitive abilities.

Personally, I drink alcohol knowing that there are plenty of studies to show it is heart-healthy when drunk in moderation. From all I’ve read, it seems that smoking mj is worse for the lungs than smoking cigs, although I suppose one could get the desired effects from eating mj brownies. Still, it doesn’t seem that it would be as healthy as a drink or two to get the same calming effect.

The tax revenue from legalization would be nice, but I’m not sure the benefits outweigh the risks. Remember, teens always overdo it and are seeking the next thrill. I don’t know that alcohol abuse leads to cocaine, meth and heroin addiction. But I think MJ abuse very well could.

Posted by yogahelps2 | Report as abusive

I am not surprised by your point of view Wildabeast. Like many young people today, you are not a very intellectual person. You cannot see what the rammifications of marijuana legalization would be, beyond the haze of your own “clouded” judgment. It is the hallmark of the uneducated to make blanket statements. If you research the science journals and have a basic understanding of science, you will see that my statements are factual.

As for your argument about being brainwashed, who is really the one that is brain washed. To be brainwashed would imply that someone follows others blindly without understanding why. I understand perfectly why I disagree with the legalizations, whereas the only reason that you have given is that, “it’s fun to break the law.”

I am glad for your reply, because you enforce my point as to the kind of people who are really pushing for marijuana legalization–angry kids who wasted their education.

Posted by averageguy1 | Report as abusive

@averageguy1
You are right, marijuana was made illegal for a reason: To discriminate against Mexicans. Don’t trust me, dig deep and find the truth. Marijuana was made illegal by five Southwestern states in order to stem the flow of Mexican immigration. To add irony to insult, the first person arrested for marijuana possession was a white man.

Posted by terets | Report as abusive

As a canadian pot smoker, i am aware that American regulation affects the Canadian stance. Our laws have shifted from decriminalization to re-criminalization, leaving law enforcement to switch between levels of interference. In 2004 i was busted with a bong, 14 grams and a scale…these items were taken from me and nothing further happened. In 2006 while ‘tailgating’ at Warped Tour in Ontario myself and 3 friends were fined a total of $600 for possessing negligable amounts of marijuana. Although Canada has far more lax rules than the U.S., we were politically forced to re-criminalize pot under the 2005 harper government and the then bush administration. It doesn’t help that Canada has undergone a recent process to see harsher punishment given to drug dealers and producers, which have included weed producers. Essentially, the more the United States changes their view of pot, the more Canada is able to change. The viewpoints of many comments echo my belief that pot is far less dangerous than alcohol, and I am happy to see progress in the U.S. on this front (however small) as it makes things easier on us chill folk up north!

Posted by smokadian | Report as abusive

@mcarney
It was only a short 50 to 60 years ago doctors were prescribing cigarettes to patients because it was believed there were medical benefits to smoking. So your argument that doctors would not prescribe marijuana if it was harmfull is not entirely accurate. Many “legitimate” drugs prescribed by doctors every year are recalled by manufacturers because health problems arose from their use. Doctors, while medically knowledgeable of course, are not end-all of what is safe just because they can prescribe it. Medical marijuana is prescribed.. or should be if it is prescribed properly.. for terminal cancer patients or patients who are in such pain as the relaxing aspects of the drugs would help ease.

Smoking marijuana is harmful. Our lungs are designed to process oxygen from the air we breathe in order for us to survive, they are not designed to process contaminents of any kind. Smoke is a contaminent so when it enters the lungs, no matter how natural it might be, it is harmful. The severity of that harm is contingent on the intake of the contaminant. Alcohol is harmful, cigarettes are harmful, marijuana is harmful.

Legalizing marijuana will make potheads happy and a lot of closet smokers feel better about doing it. There can be laws on the books about under-age use, use while driving, use while in public, etc. as we have with drinking alcohol but as with alcohol many will not bear such responsibility and the same problems will arise as we have with alcohol use. Regualtion will fall to the same corporate and political greed as we are accustomed to. Basically marijuana would become just another industry.

The issue as I see it is not if it should be legal or not. While alcohol is legal and socially acceptable, we as a country do not take well to it’s addiction and those who present themselves as drunks. With marijuana the issue will be how we will tolerate this country being high most of the time?

Posted by iflydaplanes | Report as abusive

Hey- @averageguy1

Man, you just don’t know what your talking about, but yet you state it as fact (while denouncing the intellect of others).

I have an (err) friend who smokes more pot than anyone (and the dreaded “mega-strains” of recent, at that…) and I can tell you from first (err…second) hand experience that there is absolutely no withdrawal that you are describing. I can take any breaks I want at any time for however long, months (mostly to save some money) and maybe your jonesin’ for a day (because it’s an oral fixation… read: psychological) but THAT’s ABOUT IT…. You obviously don’t speak from first hand experience, so you wouldn’t know, would you.

As far as the intellectual capacity of pot smokers, hehehe.. you are entirely wrong. The greatest botanists in the world grow the biggest cash crop. I mean, the economy of the state of Kentucky would implode if there were no marijuana.
As far as your ‘studies’, there are multiples more studies that suggest that almost every other drug known to man including the legal ones are exponentially more dangerous (have you taken your YAZ lately?)
As well, I can trump your 50 billion with the revenue the government could collect if they taxed it like they should. I’d gladly pay them and pay for your kids schooling.

I have no problem with the war on other drugs. Frankly I believe what the good god put on this green earth is all we need.

Posted by cheech | Report as abusive

Annual Causes of Death in the United States
Tobacco 435,0001
Poor Diet and Physical Inactivity 365,000
Alcohol 85,000 1
Microbial Agents 75,0001
Toxic Agents 55,0001
Motor Vehicle Crashes 26,347
Adverse Reactions to Prescription Drugs 32,000
Suicide 30,622
Incidents Involving Firearms 29,000
Homicide 20,308
Sexual Behaviors 20,000
All Illicit Drug Use, Direct and Indirect 17,000, 5
Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs Such As Aspirin 7,600
Marijuana 0

1.(2000): “The leading causes of death in 2000 were tobacco (435,000 deaths; 18.1% of total US deaths), poor diet and physical inactivity (400,000 deaths; 16.6%), and alcohol consumption (85,000 deaths; 3.5%). Other actual causes of death were microbial agents (75,000), toxic agents (55,000), motor vehicle crashes (43,000), incidents involving firearms (29,000), sexual behaviors (20,000), and illicit use of drugs (17,000).”
(Note: According to a correction published by the Journal on Jan. 19, 2005, “On page 1240, in Table 2, ’400,000 (16.6)’ deaths for ‘poor diet and physical inactivity’ in 2000 should be ’365,000 (15.2).’ A dagger symbol should be added to ‘alcohol consumption’ in the body of the table and a dagger footnote should be added with ‘in 1990 data, deaths from alcohol-related crashes are included in alcohol consumption deaths, but not in motor vehicle deaths. In 2000 data, 16,653 deaths from alcohol-related crashes are included in both alcohol consumption and motor vehicle death categories.” Source: Journal of the American Medical Association, Jan. 19, 2005, Vol. 293, No. 3, p. 298.)

Source: Mokdad, Ali H., PhD, James S. Marks, MD, MPH, Donna F. Stroup, PhD, MSc, Julie L. Gerberding, MD, MPH, “Actual Causes of Death in the United States, 2000,” Journal of the American Medical Association, March 10, 2004, Vol. 291, No. 10, pp. 1238, 1241.

2.(2000): “Illicit drug use is associated with suicide, homicide, motor-vehicle injury, HIV infection, pneumonia, violence, mental illness, and hepatitis. An estimated 3 million individuals in the United States have serious drug problems. Several studies have reported an undercount of the number of deaths attributed to drugs by vital statistics; however, improved medical treatments have reduced mortality from many diseases associated with illicit drug use. In keeping with the report by McGinnis and Foege, we included deaths caused indirectly by illicit drug use in this category. We used attributable fractions to compute the number of deaths due to illicit drug use. Overall, we estimate that illicit drug use resulted in approximately 17000 deaths in 2000, a reduction of 3000 deaths from the 1990 report.”

Source: Mokdad, Ali H., PhD, James S. Marks, MD, MPH, Donna F. Stroup, PhD, MSc, Julie L. Gerberding, MD, MPH, “Actual Causes of Death in the United States, 2000,” Journal of the American Medical Association, March 10, 2004, Vol. 291, No. 10, p. 1242.

3.(2006): The US Centers for Disease Control reports that in 2006, there were a total of 33,300 deaths from suicide in the US.

Source: Heron MP, Hoyert DL, Murphy SL, Xu JQ, Kochanek KD, Tejada-Vera B. Deaths: Final data for 2006. National vital statistics reports; vol 57 no 14. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2009, Table B.
http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr57  /nvsr57_14.pdf

4.(2006): The US Centers for Disease Control reports that in 2006, there were a total of 18,573 deaths from homicide in the US.

Source: Heron MP, Hoyert DL, Murphy SL, Xu JQ, Kochanek KD, Tejada-Vera B. Deaths: Final data for 2006. National vital statistics reports; vol 57 no 14. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2009, Table B.
http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr57  /nvsr57_14.pdf

5.(2006): “In 2006, a total of 38,396 persons died of drug-induced causes in the United States (Tables 21 and 22). This category includes not only deaths from dependent and nondependent use of legal or illegal drugs, but also poisoning from medically prescribed and other drugs. It excludes unintentional injuries, homicides, and other causes indirectly related to drug use, as well as newborn deaths due to the mother’s drug use.”

Source: Heron MP, Hoyert DL, Murphy SL, Xu JQ, Kochanek KD, Tejada-Vera B. Deaths: Final data for 2006. National vital statistics reports; vol 57 no 14. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2009, p, 11.
http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr57  /nvsr57_14.pdf

6.(2006): “In 2006, a total of 22,073 persons died of alcohol-induced causes in the United States (Tables 23 and 24). This category includes not only deaths from dependent and nondependent use of alcohol, but also accidental poisoning by alcohol. It excludes unintentional injuries, homicides, and other causes indirectly related to alcohol use as well as deaths due to fetal alcohol syndrome.”

Source: Heron MP, Hoyert DL, Murphy SL, Xu JQ, Kochanek KD, Tejada-Vera B. Deaths: Final data for 2006. National vital statistics reports; vol 57 no 14. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2009, p, 11.
http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr57  /nvsr57_14.pdf

7.(1996): “Each year, use of NSAIDs (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs) accounts for an estimated 7,600 deaths and 76,000 hospitalizations in the United States.” (NSAIDs include aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen, diclofenac, ketoprofen, and tiaprofenic acid.)

Source: Robyn Tamblyn, PhD; Laeora Berkson, MD, MHPE, FRCPC; W. Dale Jauphinee, MD, FRCPC; David Gayton, MD, PhD, FRCPC; Roland Grad, MD, MSc; Allen Huang, MD, FRCPC; Lisa Isaac, PhD; Peter McLeod, MD, FRCPC; and Linda Snell, MD, MHPE, FRCPC, “Unnecessary Prescribing of NSAIDs and the Management of NSAID-Related Gastropathy in Medical Practice,” Annals of Internal Medicine (Washington, DC: American College of Physicians, 1997), September 15, 1997, 127:429-438, from the web at http://www.acponline.org/journals/annals  /15sep97/nsaid.htm, last accessed Feb. 14, 2001, citing Fries, JF, “Assessing and understanding patient risk,” Scandinavian Journal of Rheumatology Supplement, 1992;92:21-4.

8.An exhaustive search of the literature finds no credible reports of deaths induced by marijuana. The US Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) records instances of drug mentions in medical examiners’ reports, and though marijuana is mentioned, it is usually in combination with alcohol or other drugs. Marijuana alone has not been shown to cause an overdose death.

Source: National Academy Press, 1999), available on the web at http://www.nap.edu/html/marimed/; and US Department of Justice, Drug Enforcement Administration, “In the Matter of Marijuana Rescheduling Petition” (Docket #86-22), September 6, 1988, p. 57.

9.The Centers for Disease Control reported that in 2003, HIV disease was the 22nd leading cause of death in the US for whites, the 9th leading cause of death for blacks, and the 13th leading cause of death for Hispanics.

Source: Heron, Melonie P., PhD, Smith, Betty L., BsED, Division of Vital Statistics, “Deaths: Leading Causes for 2003,” National Vital Statistics Reports, Vol. 55, No. 10 (Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics, CDC, March 15, 2007), p. 10, Table E, and p. 12, Table F.

10.”Adverse drug reactions are a significant public health problem in our health care system. For the 12,261,737 Medicare patients admitted to U.S. hospitals, ADRs were projected to cause the following increases: 2976 deaths, 118,200 patient-days, $516,034,829 in total charges, $37,611,868 in drug charges, and $9,456,698 in laboratory charges. If all Medicare patients were considered, these figures would be 3 times greater.”

Source: C. A. Bond, PharmD, FASHP, FCCP, and Cynthia L. Raehl, PharmD, FASHP, FCCP, Department of Pharmacy Practice, School of Pharmacy, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, Amarillo, Texas, “Adverse Drug Reactions in United States Hospitals” Pharmacotherapy, 2006;26(5):601-608.
http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/5318 09

11.”More than 60 per cent of drug treatment demand in Asia and Europe relate to opiates that are, especially heroin, the most deadly drugs. Deaths due to overdose are, in any single year, as high as 5,000-8,000 in Europe, and several times this amount in the Russian Federation alone.”

Source: United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, “Addiction, Crime and Insurgency: The transnational threat of Afghan opium” (Vienna, Austria: October 2009, p. 7.
http://www.unodc.org/documents/data-and- analysis/Afghanistan/Afghan_Opiu…

rs: Overdose

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Posted by crawdad88 | Report as abusive

We cannot falter now, when victory is so close. If we “cut and run” from the Drug War, our enemies will be emboldened and soon they will overrun our home turf. I agree that drug laws should be strengthened: The Death Penalty for coffee or cigarette use, 10 years minimum jail for unprescribed Tylenol, etc. This approach has been very effective so far. We just need to commit a few more billions to get the job done.

Posted by drdubious | Report as abusive

I trust the facts over the distorted views of people like averageguy1.

Causes of Death in the United States
Tobacco 435,000
Poor Diet and Physical Inactivity 365,0001
Alcohol 85,000
Microbial Agents 75,000
Toxic Agents 55,000
Motor Vehicle Crashes 26,347
Adverse Reactions to Prescription Drugs 32,000
Suicide 30,622
Incidents Involving Firearms 29,000
Homicide 20,308
Sexual Behaviors 20,000
All Illicit Drug Use, Direct and Indirect 17,000
Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs Such As Aspirin 7,600
Marijuana 0

1.(2000): “The leading causes of death in 2000 were tobacco (435,000 deaths; 18.1% of total US deaths), poor diet and physical inactivity (400,000 deaths; 16.6%), and alcohol consumption (85,000 deaths; 3.5%). Other actual causes of death were microbial agents (75,000), toxic agents (55,000), motor vehicle crashes (43,000), incidents involving firearms (29,000), sexual behaviors (20,000), and illicit use of drugs (17,000).”
(Note: According to a correction published by the Journal on Jan. 19, 2005, “On page 1240, in Table 2, ’400,000 (16.6)’ deaths for ‘poor diet and physical inactivity’ in 2000 should be ’365,000 (15.2).’ A dagger symbol should be added to ‘alcohol consumption’ in the body of the table and a dagger footnote should be added with ‘in 1990 data, deaths from alcohol-related crashes are included in alcohol consumption deaths, but not in motor vehicle deaths. In 2000 data, 16,653 deaths from alcohol-related crashes are included in both alcohol consumption and motor vehicle death categories.” Source: Journal of the American Medical Association, Jan. 19, 2005, Vol. 293, No. 3, p. 298.)

Source: Mokdad, Ali H., PhD, James S. Marks, MD, MPH, Donna F. Stroup, PhD, MSc, Julie L. Gerberding, MD, MPH, “Actual Causes of Death in the United States, 2000,” Journal of the American Medical Association, March 10, 2004, Vol. 291, No. 10, pp. 1238, 1241.

2.(2000): “Illicit drug use is associated with suicide, homicide, motor-vehicle injury, HIV infection, pneumonia, violence, mental illness, and hepatitis. An estimated 3 million individuals in the United States have serious drug problems. Several studies have reported an undercount of the number of deaths attributed to drugs by vital statistics; however, improved medical treatments have reduced mortality from many diseases associated with illicit drug use. In keeping with the report by McGinnis and Foege, we included deaths caused indirectly by illicit drug use in this category. We used attributable fractions to compute the number of deaths due to illicit drug use. Overall, we estimate that illicit drug use resulted in approximately 17000 deaths in 2000, a reduction of 3000 deaths from the 1990 report.”

Source: Mokdad, Ali H., PhD, James S. Marks, MD, MPH, Donna F. Stroup, PhD, MSc, Julie L. Gerberding, MD, MPH, “Actual Causes of Death in the United States, 2000,” Journal of the American Medical Association, March 10, 2004, Vol. 291, No. 10, p. 1242.

3.(2006): The US Centers for Disease Control reports that in 2006, there were a total of 33,300 deaths from suicide in the US.

Source: Heron MP, Hoyert DL, Murphy SL, Xu JQ, Kochanek KD, Tejada-Vera B. Deaths: Final data for 2006. National vital statistics reports; vol 57 no 14. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2009, Table B.
http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr57  /nvsr57_14.pdf

4.(2006): The US Centers for Disease Control reports that in 2006, there were a total of 18,573 deaths from homicide in the US.

Source: Heron MP, Hoyert DL, Murphy SL, Xu JQ, Kochanek KD, Tejada-Vera B. Deaths: Final data for 2006. National vital statistics reports; vol 57 no 14. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2009, Table B.
http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr57  /nvsr57_14.pdf

5.(2006): “In 2006, a total of 38,396 persons died of drug-induced causes in the United States (Tables 21 and 22). This category includes not only deaths from dependent and nondependent use of legal or illegal drugs, but also poisoning from medically prescribed and other drugs. It excludes unintentional injuries, homicides, and other causes indirectly related to drug use, as well as newborn deaths due to the mother’s drug use.”

Source: Heron MP, Hoyert DL, Murphy SL, Xu JQ, Kochanek KD, Tejada-Vera B. Deaths: Final data for 2006. National vital statistics reports; vol 57 no 14. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2009, p, 11.
http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr57  /nvsr57_14.pdf

6.(2006): “In 2006, a total of 22,073 persons died of alcohol-induced causes in the United States (Tables 23 and 24). This category includes not only deaths from dependent and nondependent use of alcohol, but also accidental poisoning by alcohol. It excludes unintentional injuries, homicides, and other causes indirectly related to alcohol use as well as deaths due to fetal alcohol syndrome.”

Source: Heron MP, Hoyert DL, Murphy SL, Xu JQ, Kochanek KD, Tejada-Vera B. Deaths: Final data for 2006. National vital statistics reports; vol 57 no 14. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2009, p, 11.
http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr57  /nvsr57_14.pdf

7.(1996): “Each year, use of NSAIDs (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs) accounts for an estimated 7,600 deaths and 76,000 hospitalizations in the United States.” (NSAIDs include aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen, diclofenac, ketoprofen, and tiaprofenic acid.)

Source: Robyn Tamblyn, PhD; Laeora Berkson, MD, MHPE, FRCPC; W. Dale Jauphinee, MD, FRCPC; David Gayton, MD, PhD, FRCPC; Roland Grad, MD, MSc; Allen Huang, MD, FRCPC; Lisa Isaac, PhD; Peter McLeod, MD, FRCPC; and Linda Snell, MD, MHPE, FRCPC, “Unnecessary Prescribing of NSAIDs and the Management of NSAID-Related Gastropathy in Medical Practice,” Annals of Internal Medicine (Washington, DC: American College of Physicians, 1997), September 15, 1997, 127:429-438, from the web at http://www.acponline.org/journals/annals  /15sep97/nsaid.htm, last accessed Feb. 14, 2001, citing Fries, JF, “Assessing and understanding patient risk,” Scandinavian Journal of Rheumatology Supplement, 1992;92:21-4.

8.An exhaustive search of the literature finds no credible reports of deaths induced by marijuana. The US Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) records instances of drug mentions in medical examiners’ reports, and though marijuana is mentioned, it is usually in combination with alcohol or other drugs. Marijuana alone has not been shown to cause an overdose death.

Source: National Academy Press, 1999), available on the web at http://www.nap.edu/html/marimed/; and US Department of Justice, Drug Enforcement Administration, “In the Matter of Marijuana Rescheduling Petition” (Docket #86-22), September 6, 1988, p. 57.

9.The Centers for Disease Control reported that in 2003, HIV disease was the 22nd leading cause of death in the US for whites, the 9th leading cause of death for blacks, and the 13th leading cause of death for Hispanics.

Source: Heron, Melonie P., PhD, Smith, Betty L., BsED, Division of Vital Statistics, “Deaths: Leading Causes for 2003,” National Vital Statistics Reports, Vol. 55, No. 10 (Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics, CDC, March 15, 2007), p. 10, Table E, and p. 12, Table F.

10.”Adverse drug reactions are a significant public health problem in our health care system. For the 12,261,737 Medicare patients admitted to U.S. hospitals, ADRs were projected to cause the following increases: 2976 deaths, 118,200 patient-days, $516,034,829 in total charges, $37,611,868 in drug charges, and $9,456,698 in laboratory charges. If all Medicare patients were considered, these figures would be 3 times greater.”

Source: C. A. Bond, PharmD, FASHP, FCCP, and Cynthia L. Raehl, PharmD, FASHP, FCCP, Department of Pharmacy Practice, School of Pharmacy, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, Amarillo, Texas, “Adverse Drug Reactions in United States Hospitals” Pharmacotherapy, 2006;26(5):601-608.
http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/5318 09

11.”More than 60 per cent of drug treatment demand in Asia and Europe relate to opiates that are, especially heroin, the most deadly drugs. Deaths due to overdose are, in any single year, as high as 5,000-8,000 in Europe, and several times this amount in the Russian Federation alone.”

Source: United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, “Addiction, Crime and Insurgency: The transnational threat of Afghan opium” (Vienna, Austria: October 2009, p. 7.
http://www.unodc.org/documents/data-and- analysis/Afghanistan/Afghan_Opiu…

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Posted by crawdad88 | Report as abusive

The very first time I smoked, I learned more about myself, why I used to say the things I used to say, and behaved the way I used to behave. In that moment I became deeply ashamed of myself, at how I’d caused pain in the past through my sarcasm and lack of empathy.

It was like I was standing on the other side of the room listening to myself speak, and I was horrified at what was coming out of my mouth as I was belittling a friend. I did not hallucinate, it was all in my mind the way everything sounded as I spoke, but I was fully aware of my environment. That split-second insight into myself changed my life in a very positive and profound way.

I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything. 10 years later I still smoke, I have a degree, and a great job. It’s going to be different for every person, and that is certainly something to consider when we speak so broadly about something so very personal.

Posted by THeRmoNukE | Report as abusive

People need to look at the facts instead of listening to distorted points of view like averageguy1′s.

Annual Causes of Death in the United States
Tobacco 435,000
Poor Diet and Physical Inactivity 365,000
Alcohol 85,000
Microbial Agents 75,000
Toxic Agents 55,000
Motor Vehicle Crashes 26,347
Adverse Reactions to Prescription Drugs 32,000
Suicide 30,622
Incidents Involving Firearms 29,000
Homicide 20,308
Sexual Behaviors 20,000
All Illicit Drug Use, Direct and Indirect 17,000
Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs Such As Aspirin 7,600
Marijuana 0

1.(2000): “The leading causes of death in 2000 were tobacco (435,000 deaths; 18.1% of total US deaths), poor diet and physical inactivity (400,000 deaths; 16.6%), and alcohol consumption (85,000 deaths; 3.5%). Other actual causes of death were microbial agents (75,000), toxic agents (55,000), motor vehicle crashes (43,000), incidents involving firearms (29,000), sexual behaviors (20,000), and illicit use of drugs (17,000).”
(Note: According to a correction published by the Journal on Jan. 19, 2005, “On page 1240, in Table 2, ’400,000 (16.6)’ deaths for ‘poor diet and physical inactivity’ in 2000 should be ’365,000 (15.2).’ A dagger symbol should be added to ‘alcohol consumption’ in the body of the table and a dagger footnote should be added with ‘in 1990 data, deaths from alcohol-related crashes are included in alcohol consumption deaths, but not in motor vehicle deaths. In 2000 data, 16,653 deaths from alcohol-related crashes are included in both alcohol consumption and motor vehicle death categories.” Source: Journal of the American Medical Association, Jan. 19, 2005, Vol. 293, No. 3, p. 298.)

Source: Mokdad, Ali H., PhD, James S. Marks, MD, MPH, Donna F. Stroup, PhD, MSc, Julie L. Gerberding, MD, MPH, “Actual Causes of Death in the United States, 2000,” Journal of the American Medical Association, March 10, 2004, Vol. 291, No. 10, pp. 1238, 1241.

Posted by crawdad88 | Report as abusive

Here in Hawai’i more money is spent by the Feds on pakalolo than on `ice’. That is, pot is considered by the DEA to be more a danger than real drugs.

Akaulu

Posted by Akuaulu | Report as abusive

@ iflydaplanes

I respect your comments. First, with the science in hand, no physician ever perscribed a cigarete to a patient. Second, I was not aware that tobacco was ever a controlled substance requiring a perscription. You are right to say that medications have side effects, which require their use under medical supervision. This goes exactly to what i stated previously- just as with medications, we need to conduct clinical trials on marijuana and accept the science that these trials reveal.
The problems you mention about under-aged and unregulated use- if pot actually became legal, haven;t waited fr the laws. If you don’t think you’r kids are already getting high, legal or not, think again.
I also agree with you that inhaling smoke is probably not the wisest idea. However, neither is eating ice-cream- and I mention that at a time when the country is jowell-deep in an obesity crisis that has cardiovascular failure as our number 1 killer. Yet, we do not make any legal restrictions on ice-cream. Furthermore, who ever said marijuana had to be inhaled?
The real argument to make here is about rational public policy and use of public funds. The war on drugs and the laws that prohibit marijuana are not rational because they are not based on fact. They are, instead, based on 1) a puritanical distaste for intoxication, and those who are intoxicated, 2) on the subjugation of other nations to the will and power of American foreign policy interests and money, and 3) possibly on discrimination born of an ancient stero-type of Latinos and the poor.
Conduct a clinical trial. See how safe marijuana is under controlled experimentation. Then, if safe, legalize it and regulate it, at which point, if there is some adverse impact on society that creeps out of the woodwork, reconsider the regluatory environment and legal status… but we shouldn’t make it illegal before there is evidence on which to judge it. And we certainly shouldn’t make it illegal if something just as bad or worse is already legal… that just undermines our policy making as hypocritical.

Posted by mcarney | Report as abusive

marijuana was made illegal to deport the mexican immigrants during the early 1900′s. it was also suggested that marijuana caused african american people to go into a rage that caused them to rape and murder white people. the drug laws were created in racism and there is no denying that… it isnt man made, it is a gift from God. prohibition is futile. shift the money back to our schools where its needed, legalize and tax it.

Posted by bob_the_brewer | Report as abusive

I go to the University of North Carolina I have a 3.5 GPA and Im a junior… I smoke pot just about every single day. I don’t think I have lost any cognitive ability according to the university I attend. Honestly, you can’t knock it until you try it. Just regulate and tax the dam flower.

Posted by WAM | Report as abusive

Like most of the comments made, I think taxing and regulating a substance that is safer than alcohol makes the most sense. I think the government choosing one’s intoxicant is far too much power for them to have. I say, tax, regulate and fund treatment. It is concerning that the young person who goes to UNC (Chapel Hill?) and is a daily smoker thinks they have lost no cognitive functioning. Make no mistake, Marijuana is a dangerous psychoreactive drug that can have adverse effects.

Posted by onemanrehab | Report as abusive

@averageguy1– I find your comments quite entertaining in an ironic and unfortunate manner. It seems as though you are obviously a textbook example of a true intellectual. Your obvious superiority to the “young people of today” garners much due respect from your future caregivers.
Seriously though, I applaud you for your thorough use of contradiction.
However, your reasoning is quite hard to follow. It seems as though you have confused your personal intellect with real information. We all believe what we believe and I believe that you have failed to listen. Perhaps it is too late for you to re-evaluate your perception of the world (the external world around you) and I believe that this is quite sad.

p.s. one of the rules for posting on this site is as follows; “ensure all information provided to us is accurate, honest and not misleading.”
I don’t believe that personal beliefs meet this criteria. It disgusts and saddens me and many other “young people” when our supposed role-models are so ignorant of their own twisted perspectives. On a positive note, the propaganda of old-times is not a sustainable force and will soon be effectively forgotten.

Posted by Telegraff | Report as abusive

The debate about drugs is simply a smokescreen, for an issue which we all know is much more important.

That issue is theft.

Theft is something which comes naturally to us. It is convenient. The ability to take possession of things which do not belong to us makes our lives better. It allows us to have things which we cannot afford, or don’t want to pay for.

All across America, people of all ages engage in theft. Despite centuries of trying, the government’s war on theft has come to nothing. Countless people are sitting in jail this minute, their lives and their family’s lives ruined simply because they wanted to take another person’s property for their own.

It is time to admit that the war on theft has failed. Logically, this means we should legalise theft.

Legalising theft is the logical conclusion. As any drug user, murderer or criminal will tell you, if a law is constantly broken by people who find it restrictive, it should be repealed.

In fact, the campaign for legalising theft and marijuana is very much intertwined due to the similar nature of these things.

After all, drug users will frequently steal to support their drug habits. And those under the influence of drugs tend not to recognise the property rights of others. And both marijuana and theft both involve personal benefit at the expense of faceless victims. Theft and drug use, indeed, are almost kindred spirits.

The required action has never been clearer. March on Washington! Remember our motto:

“Down with all hypocrisy. Legalise theft and marijuana”

If successful, the campaign for violent home invasions will follow. Our fellow amphetamine and heroin users need our support.

Posted by defcon86 | Report as abusive

This is a very good article, and I agree with it and most of the comments that followed. I wonder what you’d call the ‘gap’ that exists between mass public opinion and good sense, and political ideological survival. Apparently our leaders, including locals on city councils and sheriffs everywhere, seem lagging behind what the public really wants, and what would be best for us. Sheer timidity, or a political instinct to ‘survive’ and not say anything that might come back and bite you later.

Obama would never say that first paragraph to the press today, like he did in 2004. Yet it still rings true. What happened? Did he incur a liability once elected President which placed political survival above doing or saying the right thing ?

Politics is complicated. He understands he will have to ‘baby-step’ his way towards the goal of decriminalization, in minute increments, and by late summer 2012 he can run for re-election on a ‘legalize and abolish prohibition’ platform. He would definitely attract the young, the minority, the disenfranchised, to show up at the polls and push him in.

It could be the deciding issue.

Make it an election year issue in 2010, 2011, and 2012. We will only win this thing in the courts, in the press, and at the polls. Support all state and local measures to decriminalize ’til that glorious day………..

Good article Mr Debusmann. Hope to read more of your work in the future.

Posted by scottportraits | Report as abusive

@ defcon86

Your comments are nonsensical and incoherant… are you high?

Posted by mcarney | Report as abusive

dr.dubious: Re I agree that drug laws should be strengthened: The Death Penalty for coffee or cigarette use, 10 years minimum jail for unprescribed Tylenol, etc.

Your suggestion would hurt the prison industry very badly, and thus the economy of the country that has the most prisoners in the world. It would be a blow to capitalism itself. Have you no compassion for the warders who would lose their jobs?

So, the solution would be life imprisonment, not death.

Posted by Komment | Report as abusive

@ mcarney

If I changed my words from “legalise theft” to “legalise marijuana”, would my opinion suddenly become sensible and coherent?

I would have thought the terms were pretty much interchangeable.

Posted by defcon86 | Report as abusive

Please connect with me if you can help a real life drug addict.
http://drugaddiction.co

Posted by drugaddiction1 | Report as abusive