Obama’s recent comments about the relative dangers of cannabis have sparked a lot of opinion. Some believe this is an important step in legalization, others felt that his statements belittled the many people that use cannabis as a medical treatment.
One man felt particularly displeased by the President’s position. Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), who addressed Attorney General Eric Holder during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the January 29th:
“I have to tell you, I’m heartbroken to see what the president said just a few days ago. It’s stunning to me. I find it beyond comprehension…. This is just difficult for me to conceive how the president of the United States could make such a statement as that…. Did the president conduct any medical or scientific survey before he waltzed into The New Yorker and opined contrary to the positions of attorneys general and presidents universally prior to that?”
Senator Sessions however, did his research and found his smoking gun – according to earlier reports by People magazine:
“Lady Gaga says she’s addicted to it and it is not harmless.”
While this is truly an explosive and revelatory piece of evidence, perhaps the radio interviews of pop stars are best left for entertainment. What can we actually deduce from culture about cannabis? That when used recreationally it can be taken to excess, much like every other thing in our society. Sure. That it can that it can have some negative side effects depending on a person’s tolerance, past use and physiology? Absolutely. That it’s addictive and more harmful than alcohol? Not quite.
If the senator had done some simple research he would have perhaps come across a publication by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), a branch of the US Department of Health and Human Services in which states an estimated 9 percent of people who use marijuana will become dependent. Comparatively, alcohol is 15 percent, heroin is 23 percent and nicotine is 32 percent.
While one may point out that according to the NIDA, people can in fact become dependent, the withdrawal symptoms are closer to that of caffeine withdrawal irritability, difficulty sleeping and cravings.
This seems rather mild compared to the shaking, sweating and vomiting of alcohol withdrawal as well as potential seizures and delirium for long-term alcoholics. Not to mention the potentially permanent damage alcohol can cause to the brain and body including liver cirrhosis and Wernicke-Korsakoff’s disorder, in which the brain can no longer form new memories.
This is yet another example of marijuana prohibitionists make laughably feeble arguments. With defenses like this, it’s no surprise the majority of Americans believe cannabis should be legalized.