Fresh From New Zealand: Honest Drug Information

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A report from a New Zealand parliamentary committee recommends decriminalization of marijuana for adults. The report offers the sort of candid advice you never hear from our government, which is currently conducting a campaign aimed at convincing the public that marijuana is "more harmful than we all thought." The New Zealand committee has this to say about the respiratory hazards of pot smoking, for instance:

Smoking cannabis carries a similar risk of lung cancer and other cancers as tobacco. However it must also be recognized that, with the exception of extremely heavy users, cannabis users tend to smoke less than tobacco users….We recognize that the use of high THC cannabis may have the effect of decreasing harm by reducing the amount of smoke inhaled by the users….The current practice in New Zealand of users holding smoke in to maximise the effect of the THC has been shown to increase risk of lung damage without increasing the high. We encourage the provision of harm reduction information that makes this clear.

By contrast, the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy warns that "one joint contains as much cancer-causing tar as four cigarettes," without noting that the typical pot smoker does not consume even as much as a joint a day, while the typical tobacco smoker goes through around 20 cigarettes a day. And according to our government, higher THC content makes marijuana more dangerous. In other words, better pot is worse.

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  1. I just had a sudden realization:

    “By contrast, the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy warns that “one joint contains as much cancer-causing tar as four cigarettes,” without noting that the typical pot smoker does not consume even as much as a joint a day, while the typical tobacco smoker goes through around 20 cigarettes a day.”

    I have a question, then – wouldn’t the harm from cigarette smoking be reduced if there were simply more nicotine per cigarette (or puff) than there is now? Does the speed at which nicotine leave the human body provide a strong counter-balancing effect, as it still will need to be replenished every few hours to avoid the withdrawel and craving effects? Would there be any way to make nicotine stay in the system for longer without being used up to allow smokers to go for longer without a fix?

    In short, couldn’t the harm from smoking be reduced if the amount of nicotine was increased so that smokers have to smoke less, less often, and inhale less smoke? This only deals with the craving for nicotine itself as a chemical impulse, rather than the behavioral aspects, but still.

  2. That makes sense rationally, but then cigarette manufacturers would subsequently be selling fewer cigarettes than at the current nicotine levels. Or is there a compound effect from nicotine where a more concentrated cigarette would increase addiction/craving and therefore sell even more cigarettes?

  3. Well, it’s pretty established that lite or low-tar cigs are a bad idea, because people just suck harder and hold longer to get the same dose of nicotine they would from a regular cig. I wonder if in doing that you’re actually getting more toxins than you would from a regular cig. So maybe the way to go is a tarry, filterless thing that you would just barely puff on? Interesting idea. A wonder some tobacco company hasn’t tried it yet.

  4. Tobacco companies generally have marketed “light” cigarettes that have low yields of nicotine as well as tar (as measured by smoking machines). From a health perspective, what you really want is a high-nicotine, low-tar cigarette. But given the way the industry already has been pilloried for “spiking” cigarettes, you can imagine how that would go over.

  5. The nicotine delivery problem is solved by having a regular non-lite cigarette along with a nicotine patch.

  6. Plutark et al:

    In principle, a higher-nicotine cigarette would be less harmful, but it would not work as well toward harm reduction as high-THC pot would. Unlike THC, which hangs around in fatty compartments for days, nicotine has a plasma half life (in humans) of about 2 hours…we metabolize it pretty quickly. Furthermore, there is a much more definite “window” in which the effects of nicotine are pleasureable…if you get too much at once, it can be downright unpleasant. (If you give rats a high enough dose IV, they have pretty spectacular seizures, for example.) The subjective effects of THC generally plateau, after which taking more doesn’t get you “more high”, it just makes it last longer.

    So while you could theoretically reduce the number of cigarettes smoked by increasing the nicotine levels, you’d get into an area of diminishing returns pretty quickly.

  7. Thanks for the explanations, everyone. That’s what I get for going into liberal arts and completely neglecting to delve into the sciences…

  8. Hey Neil–

    I did the exact opposite, which is why I now spend so much time hanging around places like this!

  9. I’m a smoker. I cannot go for more that about an hour and half before I ‘need’ a smoke. Yet I can sleep, undisturbed, for eight hours without my cravingins waking me.

    Is there something, chemical or otherwise, going on during sleep that could be a solution?

    Help!

  10. “one joint contains as much cancer-causing tar as four cigarettes,”

    What size joint? 1 1/4? 1 1/2? 2.0? Thin joint? Fattie? You can pack a LOT into one joint, for which you use a slow-burning paper. Other people prefer looser/thinner joints. There is no “standard size” joint.

    Re the pot itself, is it seedy? Twiggy? Or has it been thoroughly cleaned? Is it leafy?

    Is it Sativa? Indica? Hydro?

    Anyone? Buehler?

    They’re not even trying.

  11. As a seasoned pot smoker and Cannibus Cup enthusiast, it took me an entire day to smoke one joint of this nug they called Surgar Cube in Amsterdamn! They claimed it was 32% THC. What I can tell you is that it was a classic “One hit and you are done” herb. Of course, “done” means that, done smoking for awhile. In contrast, during my days with the cigs, if a pack lasted a day, it was because I had the flu.

    What else is interesting to note, when I smoke tobacco, I couldn’t hike or run worth a damn. I quit tobacco, smoke pot recreationaly, and ride my bike every morning (before work) as I train to summit Mt Rainier. Tobacco oppressed me, pot released me. Go figure.

  12. JOSH: What size joint? 1 1/4? 1 1/2? 2.0? Thin joint? Fattie? You can pack a LOT into one joint, for which you use a slow-burning paper. Other people prefer looser/thinner joints. There is no “standard size” joint.

    Steve: First, is this the Josh that reefered me to Hit&Run?

    Second, we all know thanks to the fine folks at The National Family Assn that you can get at least 252 joints from 3 ounces (84 per single ounce..hahahahahahahahahahahaha), based on their presentation to the citizens of Nevada when they wanted to illustrate that the proposed legalization of 3 ozs in that state would be FAR MORE THAN A SMALL AMOUNT OF MARIJUANA.

    Meanwhile here at the Bar n Grill, we’ve been trying to get that kind of bang for our bud buck for past 27 years and still keep on running out of our ounce at about 25 nice ones.

    It’s not due to my usual stash being hydro either, because then we could explain the shortage of spliffs. See, according to this police officer, http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v03/n1191/a02.html?1561

    ‘….hyrdro weed weighs less than other marijuana…”

    2nd round of hahahahahahahahahaha

  13. haha. That leaves me wondering, what weighs more, and an ounce of hydro or an ounce of feathers.

    “The nicotine delivery problem is solved by having a regular non-lite cigarette along with a nicotine patch”
    Reminded me again why you’d want nicotine in your system. I think a much easier solution to the problem would be just stop smoking cigarettes all together, since they have bugger all effects anyway. That’s what I did, very soon after finding the much healthy (greener if you will) alternative.

    There is no such thing as a high nicotine low tar cigarette, if the two could be separated they’d never put tar in there in the first place.
    The reason it causes seisures in rats in higher doses is because it’s a highly toxic chemical. THC on the other hand, like LSD has no know lethal dosage.

  14. smoking pot does not affect the body it gives you more energy to do anything you want(exept for flying)im on the gilbert high school football team and smoke mostly everyday it hasnt affected my running, lifting weights, or my ability to toss people around a bit you know how it is and i play running back and strong safetey

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