What is the truth?

To follow up on my last blog: I have taken time to research the use of marijuana and its effects. Unfortunately research into this subject is very emotional with relatively no middle ground. To eliminate even a hint of fallacy, I read reports by the World Health Organization (WHO) , Drug Free America, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and finally an analysis by the National Health Service (NHS) in the U.K. (the equivalent of ObamaCare in the U.S.). Searching through what is relevant and what is “dopey” (pardon the pun), I attempted to find a common denominator that would at least bring some truth to the subject of cannabis and its effects on those who insist on taking it.

I was disappointed in WHO because most of the so-called “research” articles were published by blatant pro-marijuana activist groups that were if nothing else disingenuous: hiding under the umbrella of WHO and its parent organization the U.N. to push their agenda. These articles were blogged under: the weedblog, hempforfuture, cannabislegal, and of course the mother-load of disingenuous journalism: the huffingtonpost! The blogs and dotcoms quoted and stated that WHO and U.N. “research” discovered that in the past 20 years, drug related laws have failed in keeping people away from drugs and have equally failed in helping those who are addicted to give them up. Surprise: I am in total agreement with this opinion. I am also in agreement that locking a kid up for a reef in his pocket is insane. Having said that: WHO and the U.N. should remain impartial and not succumb or get in bed with activism of any sort. They are supposed to be the global caretakers and policemen of peace and goodness.

Enters Johnny Green (July 22, 2014) in a blog on weedblog.com entitled World Health Organization Calls For Drug Decriminalization; Johnny stated that WHO recommended (quote):
• Countries should work toward developing policies and laws that decriminalize injection and other use of drugs and, thereby, reduce incarceration.
• Countries should work toward developing policies and laws that decriminalize the use of clean needles and syringes (and that permit NSPs [needle and syringe programmes]) and that
legalize OST [opioid substitution therapy] for people who are opioid-dependent.
• Countries should ban compulsory treatment for people who use and/or inject drugs.

Well, well… now enters into the picture Professor Wayne Hall; an “adviser” to WHO on drug addiction. In an October 7, 2014 article by a Telegraph (U.K. major newspaper) reporter (Cannabis can be highly addictive, major study finds), Professor Hall links marijuana “…to a wide range of harmful side-effects from mental illness to lower academic attainment to impaired driving ability.” Professor Hall’s seven major findings were:
• One in six teenagers become dependent on cannabis if used regularly
• Class “B” cannabis can reduce birth weights if used during pregnancy
• Long-term use can result in cancer, bronchitis, and heart attacks
• Long-term use doubles the risk of psychosis and schizophrenia
• Withdrawal from cannabis can cause anxiety, insomnia, loss of appetite and depression
• Less than half of those in treatment for cannabis use stay off for six months or more following the treatment
• No cannabis user has ever died of an overdose, however, long-term use is damaging to mental health
The article included a quote by Professor Hall in the Daily Mail (another U.K publication): “If cannabis is not addictive, then neither is heroin or alcohol.” A very provocative statement indeed.

Going through Professor Hall’s findings, I must also admit that some are not surprising. Let’s face it: substance abuse of any kind be it drugs, alcohol, or cigarettes will cause harm to unborn children, may result in cancer, bronchitis, and heart attacks. Alcohol causes liver damage. So keeping all of this in perspective, I find the last statement of Professor Hall the most significant. What he was implying was that no one drug should be dismissed as harmless because then we would be compelled to dismiss all as such. That raised the ante on marijuana. Those zealots who equate marijuana use to alcohol or cigarettes are disingenuous because as Professor Hall stated: “If cannabis is not addictive, then neither is heroin or alcohol.” We should not find the devil only where it is convenient. Bad is bad. We put images of dead lungs and fetuses on cigarette packages to deter cigarette smoking, why isn’t there a campaign to deter marijuana smoking? But I digress! An NHS analysis published on the same day as the Telegraph and Daily Mail report on Professor Hall’s findings, concluded that although Professor Hall’s research was based on observational studies, it was still not “…clear how the author identified the studies used as a basis for the review. This being the case; there may be other studies not included in the review showing negative effect or evidence of physical or psychological harm. However, the analysis concurred that cannabis use could be associated with adverse health effects, and that possibly potential harms have been understated. I admit that I find Professor Hall’s consequential research and conclusions incomplete and nebulous because he did not extrapolate on his methodology, nor on how he compiled his results. Demographics between adults, teens, smokers and non-smokers were not mentioned as being taken into account or included in the study. His report would have been more inclusive and possibly more acceptable if he had given us more insight into his statistics. This does not mean that his research or conclusions should be dismissed. On the contrary; a more in depth report would have been more gratifying regardless of the outcome.

I did not bother to mention information found on websites by DEA or Drug Free America, because they were 180 degrees weighted on the other side of the issue and just as biased as the loony weed bloggers. If we remove pundits, agenda seekers, partisans, pot head loons, ultra traditionalists, and activists; what is left albeit inconclusive is a report by Professor Hall. Keeping in mind that this man is the WHO voice of advice on marijuana, the same organization that wants to legalize drugs, give out free syringes, and do away with compulsory treatment; I am utterly perplexed. The very organization that hires him for advice recommends “solutions” which go against every finding in Professor Hall’s report. Is WHO on dope? Remember when in the 50’s and 60’s doctors tried to convince us that cigarettes were actually good for us? WHO and the U.N. funded by “we the people” of this world disregard their own adviser and encourage countries, many of which suffer because of drug proliferation, to accept substance abuse as a human rights issue rather than a health one. Who exactly elected WHO?

Drugs have been around before history was being made. According to Scott Miller (New Line Theater. 2003), marijuana entered America in 1545 with the Spaniards. In 1611, the English brought it to Jamestown as a major crop which eventually was replaced by cotton. At the turn of the century, Mexican immigrants introduced recreational marijuana which gave those living in the American Southwest a reason for bigotry and hatred as they claimed that whatever the immigrants were smoking was giving them superhuman strength! Go figure! Marijuana remained popular as the recreational drug throughout the 20th and now the 21st century. Although studies and research continue to be conducted on marijuana and its effects, I would presume to say that whether legal or not, any dependence on a substance is not good and should not be encouraged under any pretense. I get annoyed at flippant remarks by politicians, zealots, and any one in between who says that marijuana is harmless. Whether popping pills, drinking bathtub gin, smoking a reef, sniffing glue, or inhaling fumes: if you need drug induced substance to stay alive and alert, then you are not right in the head! And if you follow the flawed logic that dope has been around for thousands of years therefore it is harmless, you are equally clueless. Arsenic has been around for millennial; would you consider taking it?

What is the truth? My opinion: there is none. No amount of research has truly determined the effect of marijuana because variables into usage are not consistent. To get accurate findings a researcher has to gather subjects from various political backgrounds, ethnicity, diversity, education, income, age, gender, religious beliefs, and study them for at least a year to gather a pattern of usage and effects. I do not believe that we have enough evidence to say that marijuana kills or that marijuana is harmless either. Personally I would rather err on the side of those who say that it is bad for you. It is a substance and like any other substance it can be addictive. That is undisputed. Going through websites and information is frustrating because as much as Professor Hall’s research takes a bite out of the notion that the drug is harmless, his research could not come up with one fatality as a result of marijuana usage and his conclusions missed many variables. But the biggest frustration was attempting to locate a report, analysis, or historical data void of emotional baggage. Having read so many blogs I have concluded that no one will ever write a report without a smidgen of bias because the issue of marijuana usage and its effects is so personal that none of us will ever write about it with clarity regardless of the findings. Data can be skewed to satisfy any opinion and therefore conclusions become null and void.

My father was very pragmatic and did not beat around the bush. His opinions were based mostly on his experiences in life. When we attempted to justify bad behavior through the standard adage of: “everyone does it,” his reply was simply: you are not everyone, you are YOU! He was attempting to convey to us that we are responsible for our own destinies. We should be accountable for our choices: good or bad. Whether taking recreational drugs makes you a moron or not is still debatable; but if reported images from the jubilant marijuana imbibers in Colorado and other States are to be taken at face value: then marijuana can make you act like a dolt, but then so can a football game! Who has not witnessed the “home” crowd cheering on their team wearing weird regalia and acting stupid? What is the truth? In the words of the famous Forest Gump: Stupid is as stupid does!

Sources: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/crime/11145094/Cannabis-can-be-highly-addictive-major-study-finds.html