Pot Worse Than Heroin! But Don't Panic!


A recent Reuters story about marijuana, the URL for which aptly includes the phrase "reefer madness," reads like a press release from the Office of National Drug Control Policy. "Pot is no longer the gentle weed of the 1960s," it asserts, "and may pose a greater threat than cocaine or even heroin." That's Reuters talking, not an ONDCP flack.

The article uncritically accepts the government's claim that 1) pot is much more potent than it used to be and 2) greater potency makes it more dangerous. Only toward the end do we get an alternative view, from someone at the Marijuana Policy Project who suggests that the federal government's estimate of THC levels in the 1970s is implausibly low and that stronger pot is in fact safer, since people tend to smoke less of it.

Reuters does not even make a gesture toward balance in its discussion of marijuana addiction. "The number of children and teenagers in treatment for marijuana dependence and abuse has jumped 142 percent since 1992," it says. CNN, which posted the Reuters story on its site, played up the treatment angle with a headline announcing "Kids Treated for Marijuana Dependency Up 142 Percent" and a subhead referring to a "Jump in Pot-Related Detox."

Reuters assumes that every teenager who is forced into treatment after getting caught with a joint is ipso facto an addict. Yet the government's own data indicate that about half of teenagers treated for "marijuana dependence" in the 1990s were referred by the criminal justice system, and that percentage probably has gone up in recent years, given the increase in marijuana arrests. Even those who are not actually arrested may be threatened with expulsion or other disciplinary action at school, or simply pressured by misguided parents.

That does not mean none of these kids has a serious problem with marijuana. But the drug's legal status clearly has an impact on decisions about who should receive "treatment." Otherwise, it would be impossible to explain why, as Reuters reports, "children and teenagers are three times more likely to be in treatment for marijuana dependence than for alcohol." Not only is alcohol more widely used, but survey data indicate that addiction is more common among drinkers than it is among pot smokers.

While noting that "the research so far is inconclusive" (it always is when it comes to marijuana scares), Reuters suggests the new, ungentle pot "could make children and teenagers anxious, unmotivated or perhaps even psychotic." The story closes by saying that drug czar John Walters, who is doing his best to whip up a pot panic despite declining use by teenagers, "does not want to overreact." "We shouldn't be victims of reefer madness," he says. At last, Walters and I agree about something.

[Thanks to Tom Vier for the link.]

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  1. KNOW YOUR DOPE FIEND! YOUR LIFE MAY DEPEND ON IT! You will not be able to see his eyes because of Tea-Shades, but his knuckles will be white from inner tension and his pants will be crusted with semen from constantly jacking off when he can’t find a rape victim. He will stagger and babble when questioned. He will not respect your badge. The Dope Fiend fears nothing. He will attack, for no reason, with every weapon at his command — including yours. BEWARE. Any officer apprehending a suspected marijuana addict should use all necessary force immediately. One stitch in time [on him] will usually save nine on you.

  2. I remember a similarly “balanced” article from ‘Roiders’ on the NRA – something about the stranglehold they have on American politics or something. Made them sound like they were some sort of evil inner-circle. Not even mentioning the millions of Americans that it is comprised of.

    I couldn’t believe it when I found that it wasn’t an Op-Ed.

  3. I thought the Reuters article was ridiculous and insulting to readers’ intelligence. W.R. Hearst would have been proud!

  4. 1) pot is much more potent than it used to be…

    Ridiculous, indeed. Julian would today be a mime in Washington Square Park.

  5. It’s more potent on average because no one is selling Kansas ditch weed anymore. The most potent weed ever was available on military bases during the Viet Nam War.

    But let’s face it, if all this is for the children, then legalize it and they won’t have easy access to it.

  6. This article makes it sound like more potent pot would be a *bad* thing!

  7. Better pot – bug? or feature?

    Is this really so hard to figure out?

  8. Marijuana’s bad, mmm’kay?

  9. Come on, we all know how much the Amerikan government wants total control our behavior by using propaganda,deceit and a thuggish police force to unjustifiably enforce it’s corrupt will on Americans.

    What else would you expect from a bunch of war-mongers, except even more war on it’s citizens who just want to be left alone?

    Slavery is still with us in 2004, it’s called the Drug War on the People.

  10. responsible type that I was, i tended to be the designated driver, so i can only compare the levels from about a year ago and from about 1995.

    That said, I got a more-than-mild buzz of a single toke a year ago, whereas in 1995 it usually took me 3 or 4 hits.

    Granted that it’s not a statistically significant sample, but I’m willing to accept that there’s at least some basis of truth to the claim.

  11. Andrew:

    You don’t have to be a warmonger to “wants total control our behavior by using propaganda,deceit and a thuggish police force to unjustifiably enforce it’s corrupt will”. If that describes the US goveernment, it equally describes every other one, whether or not they ever supported any war.


    Your tolerance may vary.

  12. Rich,
    Sure it might be true, but do you drink as much scotch as you do beer? 12 oz of beer does nothing to me, 12 oz of whiskey and I’m not getting behind the wheel.

  13. Rich:

    There are a lot of different varieties of pot out there. Some get you higher faster than others. It really varies from batch to batch, too. I had a college roommate who sold thousands of dollars worth of pot while I roomed with him, and even though his sources remained the same, each batch he’d buy would be of different quality. I’d say your experience is just as likely a result of the normal differences in pot varieties.

  14. Tom Vier?

    Hey, this link was posted on this thread the previous day……

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