Guy W. Farmer: Government turns blind eye to pot dangers

Chad Lundquist/Nevada Appeal

Chad Lundquist/Nevada Appeal

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As a lifelong nonsmoker, I’m confused by the mixed messages I’m seeing about what enlightened, sophisticated Americans should be smoking these days — marijuana or plain old cigarettes. We intrepid investigative journalists demand an answer to this burning (bad joke) question.

Advertisers tell us cigarette smoking will make us more popular with the opposite sex, while marijuana pushers — excuse me, purveyors — claim that pot smoking will bring peace and contentment into our lives. After all, marijuana smoke is “medicine.” Right?

The Obama administration warns that cigarettes will kill us but turns a blind eye to marijuana. So it seems that it’s politically correct to condemn cigarette smoking while pretending that marijuana is harmless. Besides, Colorado and Washington, which have legalized “recreational” marijuana, will soon be collecting millions of dollars in state taxes from the potheads. So who cares about the deleterious effects of marijuana? Let’s go for the money.

Rick Hampson of USA Today recently wrote about an argument over TV advertisements for so-called medical marijuana, noting that the federal government still classifies marijuana as a dangerous drug, even though Attorney General Eric Holder refuses to enforce anti-marijuana laws. “Comcast ... has agreed to run ads in New Jersey, Massachusetts and Chicago that link people seeking medical marijuana with doctors able to prescribe it,” Hampson wrote. He said the ads will run only between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. and not on children’s TV networks.

Kevin Sabet of Smart Approaches to Marijuana criticized the ads. “Sadly, it’s one more example of the commercialization and normalization of marijuana,” he said. He accused Comcast of choosing profits over public health. But Mason Tvert of the Washington, D.C.-based Marijuana Policy Project, which has twice failed in attempts to legalize the use and possession of recreational marijuana in Nevada, replied that the ads promote ”a website providing a legal service.” Of course, I agree with Sabet.

So why is pot good for us, while cigarette smoking is akin to barfing in public? Former U.S. drug czar John Walters provided a possible answer in an article in the neoconservative Weekly Standard. “With his unique appeal to the young, President Obama has suddenly transformed the (marijuana) ‘experiments’ in Colorado and Washington state into an experiment involving every kid in America,” Walters wrote.

“Today’s marijuana has many times the potency of the weed that Obama and his contemporaries smoked in the 1970s,” Walters continued. “This contributes to the danger of addiction, but also increases other risks reported by researchers,” such as short-term memory loss, inhibited concentration and impaired motor function (think drugged driving). Researchers report that today’s marijuana contains THC (the main active chemical in the drug) levels of more than 20 percent, compared with average THC levels of 2 percent in the 1970s. So don’t claim that marijuana is good for us while tobacco is bad. It’s quite clear that both are bad.

A few years ago Carson City Justice of the Peace John Tatro told me that at least half the meth abusers appearing in his court also tested positive for marijuana. What else do we need to know?

Guy W. Farmer was a foot soldier in the international War on Drugs in seven countries during his diplomatic career.


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