I am the Co-Founder of Comfy Tree Cannabis Consulting and a medical marijuana researcher studying the medical marijuana industry. I was so frustrated today listening to some of the guests on the show bash marijuana. Here are some things to understand:
Before it was 'marijuana' or 'marihuana' it was known to us as 'Cannabis'. Pharmaceutical companies like Eli Lilly sold cannabis tinctures before it was de-facto illegal in 1937. The term 'Marihuana' or 'Marijuana' is an imported Mexican word. That’s because the Mexicans introduced the recreational form of smoked marijuana to us in the 20's. It was also coming into Louisiana by West Indians and being used by Black jazz musicians. As you know, at the time, the country had a significant amount of racist tension. Whites, attributed 'marijuana' to Mexicans and started linking it to being evil, and harmful by association. They didn't realize that cannabis (marijuana) was also in many of their cough medicines, salves, and remedies. They also didn't know that this was akin to hemp which has been an American hero in times of struggle.
Our forefathers grew hemp, mandated farmers grow it and in WW2 there was another call to grow hemp to save the day. Because of Harry Anslinger and yellow journalism people would come to know marijuana as a 'gateway drug,' a causer or insanity, and an extremely harmful drug that could even cause death. Interestingly, marijuana has been shown in many cases to be an 'exit drug.' It has also been used to treat mental illness. To date there has not been a single death from marijuana usage. There have been more deaths for sure for Vicodin which is used for pain relief and is legal, of course. The number one reason people seek medical marijuana is pain relief.
Most arguments against legalizing for things like pain relief are mis-informed. Many say, ‘but there are better alternatives on the market that do the same thing’. While current pharmaceutical drugs do treat for pain, because they are synthetic they often have significant side effects. There has been a long-standing war on herbal medicine versus Big Pharma. Legalizing would give people who prefer natural medicine a way to access it safe and legally. Beyond this, as it relates to legalization...Many can not see why the plant should be legalized. A better question would be why is it illegal in the first place? Do some research on that. Is it because it is harmful...no. Several studies have been done to show otherwise (including governmental sources ---President Nixon's commission, as well as Fiorello LaGuardia (Mayor of New York) stating marijuana should be legalized, and regulated). At a minimum, it should be permissible for medical purposes like it was in the rest of the world over 3000 years ago. The evidence is undeniable.
Even within our own country since our founding. It has been legal for longer than it has been illegal. The criminalization is causing more harm than the plant could ever do. It has caused serious financial strain on our justice system, it has caused problematic racial stereotypes (because many people think marijuana is a minority drug but these are merely the people being incarcerated for it. Whites and people who have financial means have systems in place that protect from this)...
I would have appreciated more discussion from Hill Harper on this. As he is a champion on race and racism it would have been great if he had studied the history of racism in the criminalization of the plant rather go on about how it wouldn't help you get a job. Actually, with marijuana currently outpacing smartphone market growth, people won't need to 'find a job' they can create one. You can view an abbreviated map of some of the industries that could open up here. Cannabis has over 5,000 uses. Legalization would create a significant amount of jobs and people would no longer have the fear that they couldn't get a job for failing a drug test because of marijuana usage.
I would have also appreciated David Frum divulging his alignment with Big Pharma versus herbal medicine in general which supersedes any discussion on marijuana. On his post on CNN.COM he advocates for aspirin and the ability for aspirin makers to have the right to discuss medical benefits more than they are currently able. He also advocates for FDA to have 'full authority over every manufactured substance that purports to promote health or relieve illness.' Even the FDA however, reports that in 2000, 52 people died from single ingredient - Aspirin. Many of the companies that currently sell aspirin, used to sell cannabis. His complaint that herbal companies don't have to go through all of the hoops that synthetic drugs have to go through in terms of disclosure is a moot point. He complains, "St. John's Wort can be sold as an anti-depressant, without any mention of the disturbing indications that the herb weakens the effectiveness of birth control pills." His concern here is again with the 'birth control pills' and Pharma. This is regardless of the effect that there have been reports linking these pills to increased risk of breast cancer, benign liver tumors, gall bladder disease, weight gain, increased risk of blood clotting, heart attack and stroke. There are many other natural and less risky ways to prevent contraception, but Mr. Frum's loyalties are to Pharma instead of health. Mr. Frum says here that the industry willtarget minorities and youth because "secure and content people don't tend to be heavy consumers of psychoactive substances."
Actually, there are several wealthy, white, middle aged people that are wanting it for recreational and medical use, consider the Beverly Hills Cannabis Club, which regularly host club meetings not to read books, but to enjoy the various different designer strands of cannabis. It should also be noted that in the illegal market, whites are already consuming marijuana and even pay a higher price for it than minorities. The difference is white Americans also more often than minorities to buy from delivery services, or prestigious clubs reducing the risk of getting caught. The criminalization of marijuana is what has minorities and youth at risk. Law enforcement has been determined to pursue these groups for marijuana charges, give them a felony, and then no legal way to access the labor force upon exiting prison. This is the new Jim Crow. Just see Michelle Alexander's work on the topic here.
Currently, Marijuana is listed as a schedule 1 drug federally thought to have no medicinal value. Even cocaine has governmentally recognized medical value as a local anesthetic which is why it is a schedule 2 drug. Currently, cocaine is considered less harmful than marijuana and is in the same category as widely accepted high level pain killers like Dilauded, OxyContin, Demerol and Ritalin.
Your own, Sanjay Gupta knows about the medicinal benefits of cannabis though he himself was misguided before. It would be great to have him on the show to interact with these guests to bring some sensible discussion to the table. Hysteria and blatant denial of facts, and history only begets more ignorance. Thank you for inviting the dialogue however panel style debate may not be the best way to understand this as so many people are misinformed about this country’s history with Cannabis and think that 1996 (When California legalized medical cannabis) was our first legal interaction with marijuana. It is up to you and your colleagues in the media to do more investigative and historically sound journalism to hold people to the fire and get to the truth. Let the facts speak for themselves.
If possible I would appreciate the opportunity to participate on future medical marijuana round-tables to ensure the facts about cannabis are better represented to allow citizens to see how ‘Refer Madness’ was a fraud creating limitations for a plant that has been known to cure people.
ComfyTree Cannabis Collective