By Alfa · Jul 24, 2004 ·
  1. Alfa

    Recently, the media have repeated dire warnings about alleged "super pot."
    In an attempt to frighten parents who may have dabbled in their day, our
    government claims that new strains of potent marijuana are far more
    dangerous than the innocuous grass of the 1960s or '70s.

    Many media reports repeat these claims uncritically. For example, a July 19
    Reuters story warned, "Pot is no longer the gentle weed of the 1960s and
    may pose a greater threat than cocaine or even heroin."

    Such claims are utter nonsense, and may create more harm than good.

    First, high-potency marijuana has always existed. The average potency has
    increased slightly, but only because higher-potency marijuana has become a
    little more common. It is not a new phenomenon.

    Second, there is precisely zero evidence that marijuana with a higher level
    of THC -- the component that produces the "high" -- is more
    dangerous. Indeed, a close look at the news accounts shows that claims of
    greater danger are based on speculation piled on top of conjecture.

    To put this in perspective, the average potency of marijuana that that has
    fueled this fire is seven percent THC. This is the marijuana that White
    House Drug Czar John Walters warns is horribly dangerous because of its
    super-strength. In contrast, Dutch government standards require medical
    marijuana sold in pharmacies in the Netherlands to be more than twice that
    strong. So a country where teens are actually less likely to use cocaine
    and heroin than in the U.S. wouldn't even use our marijuana to heal their
    sick. A recent report from the European Union noted that "a slight upward
    trend" in potency means little because the potency of U.S. marijuana "was
    very low by European standards."

    Third, unlike the speculative claims of increased danger, peer-reviewed
    scientific data show that higher potency marijuana reduces health
    risks. Just as with alcohol, people who smoke marijuana generally consume
    until they reach the desired effect, then stop. So people who smoke more
    potent marijuana smoke less -- the same way most drinkers consume a smaller
    amount of vodka than they would of beer -- and incur less chance of
    smoking-related damage to their lungs.

    Official warnings about "super pot" often accompany claims that huge
    numbers of teens are in treatment for marijuana "dependence and abuse," and
    that those numbers have risen dramatically. Such claims are utterly
    misleading. According to the U.S. government's own statistics, most teens
    in marijuana treatment are there because they were arrested, not because of
    actual evidence of abuse or dependence. Virtually all of the vaunted
    increase in marijuana treatment admissions stems from these arrests.

    So, we arrest kids for smoking marijuana, force them into treatment, and
    then use those treatment admissions as "proof" that marijuana is addictive.
    Somewhere, George Orwell is smiling.

    This wave of marijuana treatment has nothing to do with actual
    dependence. According to the latest government report on drug treatment,
    called the Treatment Episode Data Set, more than a third of these marijuana
    "abusers" did not use marijuana at all in the month prior to
    admission. Another 16.1 percent used it three times or less.

    So more than half of marijuana "abusers" used marijuana three times or less
    in the month prior to entering treatment -- and this, we are told, is proof
    that we must be fearful of highly addictive "super pot"!

    There is a real story here, but it's not about the dire effects of potent
    marijuana. The real story is the misuse of science by government officials
    seeking to justify current policies and hold onto their jobs. The
    administration's misuse of science in this area is, if anything, more
    blatant than in fields that have generated far more controversy, such as
    reproductive health.

    And with the administration now talking openly about shifting prevention
    and law enforcement resources toward marijuana and away from drugs like
    heroin and cocaine, which actually kill, this dishonesty is putting
    America's young people at risk.

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