The DEA has basically robbed Americans of $3.2 billion
Most people have been taught that alcohol increases the risk of accidents.
Smoking and driving can get you a DUI for an accident even in states where cannabis is legal. Current state laws for marijuana have focused on regulating it like alcohol while on the road. This is especially true when it comes to consuming and driving. Yet evidence of marijuana’s culpability in on-road accidents is difficult to prove.
Many states have reduced penalties for cannabis related crimes over the last few years. Yet as states continue to loosen regulations on marijuana safety, law enforcement is struggling to figure out how to establish a legal limit for drivers. They have focused on setting a blood-content test just like the .08 limit for alcohol.
A new study shows the challenges in accurately testing drivers.
One of the most difficult parts of testing is developing a threshold for what’s considered too high to drive. The conductors of the study concluded that “THC concentrations drop rapidly during the time required to collect a blood specimen in the U.S., generally within two to four hours.”
The low amount of time cannabis remains active for oral tests using the drivers’ saliva make it harder to fail than traditional tests. Saliva tests can be done roadside without a long wait but researchers found oral tests don’t provide “a precise measure of the level of impairment.”
Politicians are hesitant to implement concentration-based cannabis-driving legislation because it might ” unfairly target individuals not acutely intoxicated, because residual THC can be detected in blood for up to a month of sustained abstinence in chronic frequent smokers.” Depending on the direction that the new Attorney General Jeff Sessions takes the Justice Department over the coming years, detecting residual cannabinoids may be more important than registering intoxication.
Smoking weed is not safe while driving.
Cannabis intoxication has been shown to mildly impair a drivers psychomotor skills. It doesn’t appear to be severe or long lasting though. In driving simulator tests, this impairment was typically manifested by decreasing driving speed and needing more time to respond to emergency situations.
Yet this impairment does not appear to play a significant role in on-road traffic accidents. A review of seven different studies involving 7,934 drivers showed in 2002, “Crash culpability studies have failed to demonstrate that drivers with cannabinoids in the blood are significantly more likely than drug-free drivers to be culpable in road crashes.” And it’s not like people haven’t tried to prove a link either.
A Massive body of research exists that explores the impact of marijuana on psychomotor skills and actual driving performance. Researchers have done driving simulator studies, on-road performance studies, crash culpability studies, and reviews of the existing evidence. To date, the result of this research has shown how mildly cannabis affects driving abilities but that won’t stop the cops from hauling you off for having it in your system if you get in an accident.
Marijuana has a measurable yet relatively mild effect on psychomotor skills.
Yet it does not appear to play a significant role in vehicle crashes, particularly when compared to alcohol. Researchers conducting a study for the National Institute on Drug Abuse said alcohol “significantly increased lane departures/minimum and maximum lateral acceleration”. Cannabis did not have the same correlation between consumption and decreased performance.
Researchers for the Highway Traffic Safety Administration funded study concluded Cannabis-influenced drivers are better able to measure their intoxication “may attempt to drive more cautiously to compensate for impairing effects, whereas alcohol-influenced drivers often underestimate their impairment and take more risk.”
People keep studying the link between cannabis, alcohol and car accidents.
The prevalence of both alcohol and cannabis use and the extreme morbidity associated with car crashes has lead to repeated research on the link between the two. According to another study, “drunk drivers are involved in 25% of motor vehicle fatalities, and many accidents involve drivers who test positive for cannabis.”
The researchers say that while both alcohol and cannabis impair performance in a “dose-related fashion” the “effects of cannabis vary more between individuals than they do with alcohol because of tolerance, differences in smoking technique, and different absorptions of Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active ingredient in marijuana.”
The effects of a cannabis “high” vary according to dose but are more pronounced with highly automatic driving functions than with more complex tasks.” Basically making it easier to focus on a plan than instinctively react to something. With alcohol the opposite pattern of impairment is produced and people get distracted easier.
Cannabis and alcohol have a synergistic effect.
Because of an increased awareness that they are impaired, “marijuana smokers tend to compensate more effectively while driving than drunks” by utilizing a variety of strategies. Mixing marijuana with alcohol removes the ability to use such strategies as the two substances increase the potency of the other when mixed.
Cannabis and alcohol work on many of the same levels in the brain and both inherently affect chemical production in the brain. Mixing cannabis and booze will amplify the effects of both and can lead to serious repercussions. While studies have been inconclusive regarding whether cannabis use causes an increased risk of accidents; in contrast, unanimity exists that alcohol use increases the risk of crashes.
In addition, the risk from driving under the influence of alcohol and cannabis together is higher than the risk of driving under the influence of either alone. One study even recommends that patients who smoke cannabis wait several hours before driving, and avoid combining the two drugs.
Even schools have studied how dangerous driving while high is.
The first study to analyze the effects of cannabis on driving was conducted by Researchers at the University of Iowa’s National Advanced Driving Simulator, sponsored by National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, National Institute of Drug Abuse, and the Office of National Drug Control Policy.
The researchers found that cannabis use caused almost no impairment. The impairment that it did cause was similar to the change observed while under the influence of a legal alcohol limit. They basically couldn’t get cannabis to impair driving as much as one beer.
They tested impairment mainly with a simulator. “Once in the simulator—a 1996 Malibu sedan mounted in a 24-feet diameter dome—the drivers were assessed on weaving within the lane, how often the car left the lane, and the speed of the weaving. Drivers with only alcohol in their systems showed impairment in all three areas while those strictly under the influence of vaporized cannabis only demonstrated problems weaving within the lane.”
More research is needed to find the right limits.
All these study’s findings show that alcohol is a much more dangerous drug than cannabis yet regulated in a more relaxed manner. While driving while under the influence of cannabis can still get you locked up, it is unclear how dangerous it is. More research is needed to show exactly how much cannabis should be legally allowable but for the time being, driving after consuming any cannabis remains illegal.
Until the whole world switches over to autonomous vehicles and we don’t have to worry about driver error any more, people are still going to get into accidents (sober or not). It is best not to contribute to the problem and simply don’t drive while high. You never know when you might need to instinctually react to something in your lane. Thanks for reading.
Marijuana has been called a gateway drug for over 80 years.
The battle lines were drawn long before anyone currently driving the gateway debate had assumed power. Political figures have demonized cannabis and those who consume it for almost a century and worked to create a massive industrial prison complex designed to harvest people. Low income and minority people have borne the brunt of the assault.
Americans have been tricked into accepting the most ridiculous claims about cannabis and a whole generation of people have grown up behind bars because of it. Politicians have used slippery speech to sway public opinion and outright changed the law in order to suite their desires for decades. When Reagan and Clinton enacted laws that put more people in jail than the Romans had slaves.
Larry Anslinger didn’t care about how many would suffer without the healing properties of cannabis, he was motivated by an zealous hatred for the plant to create the movie Reefer Madness. President Nixon was motivated by a religious desire to punish people regardless of what his own investigators proved. Reagan had no mercy for people caught in the crossfire when he enacted draconian mandatory punishments for minor drug infractions.
We stand at the dawn of a new era of American drug policy.
Despite an abundance of empirical evidence about the medical benefit of cannabis from reputable medical professionals from the Shafer Commission to Sanjay Gupta, it remains a schedule 1 controlled substance. This classifies weed as having “no medical benefits” and creates massive hurdles for scientists and doctors looking to research cannabis. It also puts it in the same medical category as heroin.
With the rise of Trump and the appointment of Jeff Sessions to Attorney General, the entire industry is bracing for another impact. Part of the collective wince comes from the evasive actions of top officials on the matter through election season. Instead of giving clear messages about how they plan to pursue policy, government officials are as vague as possible about how they plan to pursue policy.
This evasive attitude has made many wary of the how the Trump Administration plans to deal with cannabis. Statements in the past by Jeff Sessions like “Good people don’t smoke marijuana.” and his past issues of discriminatory prosecution during the Civil Rights movement has helped to stir up old debates.
The debate surrounding legalizing marijuana has resurrected the Gateway Theory.
This theory presumes that experimenting with marijuana inevitably results in the use of harder drugs like cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine. Until recently, the DEA website contained dozens of lies and inaccuracies and it begrudgingly changed them only after being threatened with legal action.
Many people don’t know that it is illegal for federal agencies to spread incorrect information. Yet when it comes to cannabis, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has been doing it for years. In less than a month, a petition from Change.org calling on the DEA by a to stop lying about medical cannabis received 85,000+ signatures.
The petition was started by Americans for Safe Access (ASA), a nonprofit organization working to increase access to medical cannabis. “The DEA has actually admitted that the theories that cannabis use leads to harder drugs (gateway theory), long-term brain damage, psychosis, and other alleged harms, are not based in scientific fact, and yet they keep distributing this false information”, says ASA. “[W]e have found 25 instances of these false claims on their website.”
The petition for updated information was direct and their arguments were air-tight.
The group argued that the document previously known as “The Dangers and Consequences of Marijuana Abuse,” had a few inaccurate claims about cannabis. They showed how the page was in violation of the Information Quality Act which requires that administrative agencies provide accurate information to the public. The DEA also had to respond to requests for correction of information within 60 days.
A separate petition was filed by the Department of Justice demanding that the DEA immediately update misinformation about cannabis. While neither the DEA nor the DOJ responded to ASA’s request, the document which contained the majority of the inaccurate statements was removed from their website.
But the governement is made up of more people than ever before. There is a lot of room for competing ideologies and goals to play out. A key observation of the Shafer Commission is that many of the risks of drug use are the result of drug policy/enforcement rather than from the drugs themselves.
The “gateway drug” stigma refuses to die.
A prime example of how this stigma presents itself is New York governor Andrew Cuomo. He wants to keep cannabis illegal in New York State because it “leads to other drugs and there’s a lot of truth to proof that that’s true.” He holds this view despite the results of a major study on medical marijuana conducted by the venerable Institute of Medicine, which included an examination of marijuana’s potential to lead to abusing other drugs.
The study found that “There is no conclusive evidence that the drug effects of marijuana are causally linked to the subsequent abuse of other illicit drugs.” Even the DEA has gone on record to say “Little evidence supports the hypothesis that initiation of marijuana use leads to an abuse disorder with other illicit substances,” while refusing to reschedule cannabis in August of 2016.
The continuing stigma prevents meaningful reform of marijuana laws by perpetuating harmful misinformation. A Rasmussen poll found that a large percentage of Americans believe the gateway argument. Nearly half of voters (46%) believed marijuana use leads to harder drugs. Thirty-seven percent (37%) did not see marijuana as a “gateway” drug.
Patterns in progression of drug use are strikingly regular.
Because it is the most widely used illicit drug, marijuana is predictably the first illicit drug most people come across. Not surprisingly, most users of other illicit drugs used marijuana before the harder stuff. In fact, most adult users begin with alcohol and nicotine long before moving on to cannabis and other illicit drugs.
In 2006, the University of Pittsburgh released a thorough study which researchers spent 12 years putting together. They tracked a group of subjects from adolescence into adulthood and documented the initiation and progression of their drug use. The researchers reported that the gateway theory was not only wrong, but also detrimental to properly understanding and addressing drug abuse.
The myth of the Gateway effect needs to be put to rest once and for all. The more research that is conducted the clearer it becomes that cannabis use does not lead to abuse of other drugs. Some promising research has also shown that cannabis can actually help people kick the other stuff like heroine. As more and more states legalize medical and recreational marijuana, it is more important than ever to put the gateway myth to rest. Thanks for reading.
In Part 1 we talked about ancient cannabis and how it has been used throughout the ages.
Today we are going to talk about modern cannabis and how it moved from prominence as a medicine to a recreational drug. Yet medical cannabis is not relegated to the ancient past. Modern medicine uses the term marijuana instead of the ancient name: cannabis but it means the same thing.
The original name can be traced back to the Greek physician Pedanius Dioscorides. He was a roman army doctor from around 40-90AD who traveled widely on campaigns throughout the Roman empire. He wrote the medical text that virtually all others were based on for over a thousand years and had a special entry for both male and female cannabis plants. It wasn’t until the 1930’s when the plant became known a marijuana in an effort to re-brand it. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
By 1621, medical marijuana had made its way into the English Mental Health Book.
Cannabis was entered into one of the most popular medicinal textbooks from the era to treat depression. Because of the work of an Irish doctor working for a shipping company during the colonization of the new world, medical cannabis moved to the Americas.
Cannabis treatments were a staple of a professional doctors curriculum up through the industrial revolution. Before Alaska and Hawaii were states, America had laws on the books that supported medical marijuana in all 48 states. Cannabis was not seen as a recreational drug, it was medicine with little risk of side effects.
But in 1936 all that changed.
Pressure was being placed on the U.S. by the international community to sign the International Treaty on Controlled Substances. While not directly listing cannabis as a controlled substance, the treaty forced all countries that signed to adopt similar drug policies. Propagandists later used the treaty to get cannabis banned across the developed world.
A very popular anti-marijuana campaign burned through the nation. Funded by the government and directed by the talented propagandist Larry Anslinger, “Reefer Madness” was a sensational tale about marijuana. It featured the plant ruining people’s lives through sex, insanity, and horrific acts of violence. Although Reefer Madness was a work of pure fiction, it was accepted by a whole generation as fact with the tenacity of religious convictions. The influential power of the Reefer Madness propaganda laid the groundwork for Larry Anslinger to get cannabis banned.
Larry Anslinger was a potent propagandist that was able to convince the developed world to outright ban cannabis use, cultivation and distribution. He used a mixed media of propaganda to accomplish this. Anslinger was a master of using media and used the newspapers, radio and television to spread a web of half-truths and outright lies.
After spreading a racially motivated panic with the Reefer Madness propaganda, Anslinger convince the U.S. to pass the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937. Anslinger provided his political masters a new way to target their political opponents voting base. The politically motivated police force acted quickly on the new laws to target the poor.
The Marijuana Tax Stamp Act brought America Modern Cannabis.
On the day the Marijuana Tax Stamp Act was enacted (Oct. 2, 1937) the FBI and Denver Colorado police raided the Lexington Hotel. They arrested a man named Samuel R. Caldwell for selling modern cannabis. He was a 58 year-old unemployed laborer. Three days later, on Oct. 5, 1937 Caldwell became the first person convicted under U.S. federal law of distributing cannabis.
In 1942, cannabis was removed from the U.S. Pharmacopeia. When that happened, cannabis lost the last vestiges of medical legitimacy. Because of the International Treaty on Controlled Substances, most of the other countries in the developed world were forced to enact similar rules.
Over the next decades, criminalization of cannabis continued.
As more and more regulations were heaped on medical practitioners, they became unable to prescribe cannabis. Legal penalties increased massively with the Boggs Act of 1951. It established minimum prison sentences for simple possession of cannabis. Thanks in great part to Anslinger’s work, cannabis was classified as a schedule 1 controlled substance in 1970.
Schedule 1 substances are substances no medical benefit and high risk of abuse. The controlled Substances Act of 1970 Classified Marijuana as a having “No Accepted Medical Use”. After the passing of the Substances Act, medical practitioners were barred from prescribing modern cannabis for any medication, effectively removing the oldest known medicine from a whole generation of healers across the globe.
In 1971, the Shafer Commission was created by the U.S. president to determine the merit of criminalizing cannabis. The Shafer Commission was bi-partisan and overseen by congress. President Nixon himself ordered it to determine “if the personal use of marijuana should be criminalized.” The commission came back with an answer and Nixon ignored it because he didn’t like that they believed there was no reason to scale up action against users.
In 1971 president Nixon chose to aggressively pursue action against cannabis consumers by declaring the War on Drugs. Motivated by personal prejudice political corruption, he saw marijuana as a way to get at his political opponents. He even admitted at the time that his reasons for attacking cannabis users and increasing penalties was motivated by personal directives.
Nixon acknowledged his action was not based on empirical evidence.
He increased criminalization despite the commission he put together telling him officially and unequivocally that cannabis use should not be criminalized. Over the next two years, the Nixon built a force specifically designed to scale up violence against modern cannabis users.
The Department of Drug Enforcement (DEA) was established in 1973 by merging the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs (BNND) and the Office of Drug Abuse Law Enforcement (ODALE) into a single agency. It comes as no surprise that the DEA continues to aggressively pursue cannabis consumers, producers and distributors to this day. They use every tool at their disposal regardless of legality or constitutionality to continue the criminalization of marijuana.
Things continued to go downhill for cannabis in the coming years. It wasn’t until 1976 that Robert Randall (who was afflicted by glaucoma) used the Common Law Doctrine of Necessity (US v. Randall) to defend himself against criminal charges of marijuana cultivation. In 1976, federal Judge James Washington made waves with his ruling. Judge Washington ruled that Randall’s use of modern cannabis constituted a ‘medical necessity’ and the case was thrown out.
The next milestone for modern cannabis crusaders came in the winter of 1991.
Modern cannabis took a step forward with the passing of medical marijuana reform in California. The first medical marijuana initiative was called Proposition P and was in San Francisco. It passed with an overwhelming 79% of the vote in November of 1991.
Proposition P called on the State of California and the California Medical Association to restore hemp medical to the list of available medicines in California, and to stop penalizing physicians for prescribing hemp for medical purposes. It only effected San Francisco but the cogs of bureaucracy had been activated. It would take another 5 years for legislation to go statewide.
Voters in California passed the first statewide medical marijuana initiative on November 5, 1996. Known as Proposition 215, it permitted patients and their primary caregivers to possess and cultivate marijuana for the treatment of AIDS, cancer, muscle spasms, migraines, and several other disorders. It also protected doctors from state sponsored punishment if they recommended marijuana to their patients.
The wheels of bureaucracy turn slowly.
In September of 1998, the House of Representatives debated a resolution called H.J.Res. 117. They passed H.J.Res 117 at the same time Oregon, Washington and Alaska provided their medical marijuana programs. In H.J.Res. 117, Congress declared support for the existing federal drug approval process.
They decide not to reschedule marijuana despite the overwhelming evidence coming forth that it should be decriminalized. While cannabis is classified as having no medical benefit, the United States Department of Health and Human Services) currently holds a patent on medical cannabis.
Patent No. 6630507 covers the use of cannabinoids for treating a wide range of diseases and was submitted to the patent office in 1999. The Department of Health and Human Services was awarded the patent in 2003. Yet the Department of Health is not the only regulatory agency that has chosen to abandon science, compassion and reason.
In 2002, the FDA decided how to use modern cannabis in a study.
They decided that shipping 300 pre-rolled joints to patients in metal canisters was the best way to judge modern cannabis. The material was frequently two or more years old upon receipt by patients and a close inspection of the contents of NIDA-supplied cannabis cigarettes revealed them to be a crude mixture of leaf with abundant stem and seeds.
The study concluded that “cannabis smoking, even of a crude, low-grade product, provides effective symptomatic relief of pain, muscle spasms, and intraocular pressure elevations…” and that “clinical cannabis patients are able to reduce or eliminate other prescription medicines and their accompanying side effects.” The FDA report was ignored by those in power and cannabis remained a schedule 1 controlled substance despite the undeniable evidence.
The DEA has still not reclassified cannabis. It remains a holistic herb used throughout time as a medicine that current U.S. legislators are violently opposed to. While international progress has been made with the UK rescheduling cannabis to Class B and the Netherlands also making great strides in medicinal research, the U.S. still struggles to come into the light. Use of scientific reasoning is about to get even harder for the U.S. government as President Trump decides who will take the reigns of power. Yet his choice of Jim O’Neill to head the FDA (who openly supports cannabis legalization) gives modern cannabis hope for the future. Only time will tell. Thanks for reading.
Featured image: shutterstock
Talk to the hand has been a phrase used by kids, teenagers, and adults alike for years, however, more recently cannabis activists have been utilizing the phrase to educate the public about the documented proof that cannabis is medicine!
If you are part of the cannabis community or have friends in your social media circle that are cannacentric, chances are you have seen a different posts and profile pictures popping up that include a picture of someone’s hand with a patent number written upon it.
You see just recently the DEA announced that they would not be rescheduling cannabis or removing it from a categorization that puts it in the same danger level as heroin, cocaine, and other deadly drugs.
This has outraged cannabis activists and medical marijuana patients alike as our federal government holds not just one patent stating that cannabis has medicinal properties but several.
One of the excuses the DEA gave for not rescheduling cannabis was the fact that it has no medicinal properties.
If you take a simple look at these patents you can see for yourself that this is an outright lie as they have known that cannabis has medicinal values for several years now.
In fact, the federal government has been sending medical marijuana to 4 patients for decades to be used for medicinal purposes. If you are sick and tired of the government lying and deceiving people for their own monetary gain, I challenge you to tell them to talk to the hand. Learn more about these patents via the links below.
Other patents are listed in more detail here.