from the 10th Edition
by Frederick J. Oerther, M.D.
People around the world had, for thousands of years, a thriving industry in hemp, its fiber, pulp, seed, and oil. Marijuana has been used as an intoxicant, sometimes as sacramental, for thousands of years around the world. But hemp production in America stopped forty years ago, and a domestic industry died. For twenty years, American politicians have thought of marijuana use as a problem of major proportions. And for twenty years, knowledgeable scientists have been saying there is little if any substantiated evidence that marijuana use by adults is the proven cause of any significant health or social problem.
Good scientists have amassed a large body of valid research. A number of sound studies have been done in other countries, in other cultures. Much research has been done and reported in contemporary North America. When the evidence is scientific instead of propagandistic, no conclusive evidence yet exists relating marijuana to significant physical damage or functional impairment due solely to marijuana use.
But every few years, someone proclaims Dramatic New Evidence that marijuana is much more harmful than we used to think. When the uproar of free publicity disguised as news dies down, closer scrutiny shows that often the new evidence has been wildly extrapolated, or is unverified data, or is a rehashing of discredited material, or has been taken out of context. Frequently an opinion is given as a proven fact. By the time real scientific evidence can be brought to refute, the propagandists have already escaped, away on another falsehood. Unfortunately, fact and fancy have been irrationally mixed with regard to marijuanas physiological, psychological, and social properties. Science gets perverted to a weapon in a propaganda campaign.
Of course we need more research. We need properly planned longitudinal cohort studies conducted on the behavioral and physiological antecedents and consequences of marijuana use. We should collect detailed and continuing medical and psycho-social data on the life careers of American adults who use marijuana daily. We should be collecting retrospective studies of middle-aged and elderly Americans who have a history of years of chronic heavy use of marijuana, systematically studying them for their medical and psycho-social attributes and for effects on job performance. An all-conclusive approach would be both a prospective (concurrent) cohort study and a retrospective case-control study of possible outcomes of and risk factors for marijuana use. These studies could be done in less than five years, at a cost one-tenth that spent on the military and paramilitary operations and propaganda known as The War on Drugs.
Good scientists have collected specific data about particular effects of marijuana. Tolerance appears quickly, disappears as fast. (Tolerance by definition is not harmful).
Marijuana smoking may produce a chronic, usually mild, bronchitis, again similar to tobacco smoking. Recommended treatment is the same for both stop smoking. Some people do. There is no substantiated scientific proof that marijuana use by adults has been responsible for birth defects in their offspring. Marijuana has not been proven to significantly interfere with ovulation, or with fertility of men or women. No researcher has produced any verified evidence of any specific pathology of brain tissues of humans. Marijuana does not break chromosomes. Marijuana MIGHT be harmful to persons with heart disease but there is no scientific proof of this. Marijuana has not been proven yet to cause cancer. We do know that exposure to cancer-causing toxins can be dramatically reduced by smoking with a water-pipe or by oral ingestion.
Marijuana was used for centuries as medicine, and was so considered in this country until sixty years ago. And today, under modern scientific scrutiny it is again used for its medical benefits. It stimulates the appetite, helps relax spastic muscles, lowers pressure in the eyeball, raises the threshold for some epileptics, and helps many asthmatics. Marijuana has unique potential as a drug in its own right, and as an adjunct to other therapy.
When drug abuse professionals get together, they report about serious problems with alcohol, opiates, cocaine, and valium but marijuana use is so seldom abuse, there is no significant problem. The fact should be emphasized that the overwhelming majority of marijuana users do not progress to other drugs, are otherwise law-abiding citizens, and would like to escape criminal trafficking by growing their own.
Drug abuse professionals all agree that alcohol is the most abusive drug in our culture. Half of the motor vehicle accidents and deaths, half the productivity loss, and half the domestic violence can be related to alcohol. Yet ninety percent of alcohol users do not have problems, and they are not treated as scapegoats for the problem drinkers. No one seriously thinks that alcohol prohibition would work any better today than it did seventy-five years ago, and no one seriously believes scapegoating will solve serious social problems.
Credibility is a major problem in disseminating factual drug information. The signal received depends on credibility of the source. Remember that the Readers Digest is not a scientific publication, and the cast of Fame are not drug experts. Remember some people USE marijuana users as scapegoats for their fears they wont be able to control their children. They believe putting us in jail will help them instill their own weird beliefs into others. They believe having famous figures as props for their positions makes up for their obvious lack of verified, substantiated, scientific facts. They have continued a selective campaign of lies, disinformation, omission, government propaganda, and religious superstition to try to force us to their values.
But the truth will come out! Thank you, Jack.
Frederick J. Oerther, M.D.
May 2, 1985
illustration © Michael M
the authorized on-line version of Jack Herers The Emperor Wears No Clothes
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