The Return of Reefer Madness

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"While most Americans still consider it plausible that LSD causes insanity," I wrote in my 2003 book Saying Yes, "they would probably be surprised, if not amused, to hear that the same charge was once leveled against marijuana." Make that "is now being leveled." As The Drug War Chronicle notes, the Office of National Drug Control Policy has revived the quaint claim that smoking pot drives you crazy, based on a few studies that found an association (though not necessarily a cause-and-effect relationship) between early and/or heavy marijuana use and subsequent mental problems.

I'm not sure about most Americans, but I confess that I am a bit surprised that reefer madness has made a comeback, given the lineage of this much-ridiculed claim. It's as if anti-drug warnings are on a loop, and insanity has come around again. I suppose we should expect lurid tales of marijuana murders in a few years.

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  1. More likely, people with mental illness are self medicating with marijuana.

  2. Hospitals cause disease. I know cause everyone there is sick.

  3. Pot doesn’t make you crazy.

    The clog danicng elves that live in my attic.

    They make you crazy.

  4. Like.. wow.. a stoner took an ax and killed his whole freak’n family? That’s not cool. Not cool.

    I gotta lay off the muggle.

  5. We all know where the insanity lies, and it isn’t in cannabis. What to do? My suggestions:

    1. Stoners have to vote, along with the rest of us. It’s their freedom, too.
    2. Voters have to reject the drug war and the drug warriors. Every time, even the “nice ones,” no exceptions.
    3. Jurors must refuse to convict on drug charges.

    Three steps: not too hard to remember, or to execute. Let’s do it.

  6. except for #2.

  7. The anti-marijuana posterboard at the Student Rec Center had several “facts” listed. One was “Marijuana releases 420 harmful chemicals when smoked.” I guess the old claims really are making the rounds.

  8. “More likely, people with mental illness are self medicating with marijuana.”

    Or, kids who start smoking at ridiculously early ages have home lives that aren’t good for your mental health.

  9. Or, kids who start smoking at ridiculously early ages have home lives that aren’t good for your mental health.

    Or, people smoke-up then begin posting on Hit ‘n’ Run.

  10. Two points:

    1. For the sake of argument, lets say smoking hemp once alters your mental state for the rest of your like. Since the majority of Americans have tried hemp, that would make those who never tried hemp mentally abnormal. This explains the pranoid statements from drug warriors.

    2. Their might be some truth to the 420 dangerous chemical claim, but it isn’t the enitre truth. If I burnt oak leaves and analyzed the smoke, I’m sure I could find lots of chemicals that cause damage at a high enough dosage. The same is probably true of hemp. The key question: is the dosage of those chemicals in hemp high enough to cause medical problems?

  11. The clog dancing elves that live in my attic.

    You have those, too? I’ve had to call the exterminator twice! And they still won’t go away.

  12. Marijuana releases 420 harmful chemicals when smoked

    Is this some kind of joke? It just seems bizarre that the precise number (or even the invented number, whatever) would be 420. Heh-heh.

  13. Try saying “Jehosephat!” and getting a cat. That will turn the elves into mice, just make sure that you get a more competent cat than Sylvester.

  14. Is this some kind of joke? It just seems bizarre that the precise number (or even the invented number, whatever) would be 420. Heh-heh.

    I suspect the “fact” is a joke by one of the SRC staff members, but that doesn’t keep me from doing a little Beavis laugh everytime I see it.

  15. As we all know Marijuana makes black men rape white women.

    “Marijuana releases 420 harmful chemicals when smoked.”

    420 also happens to be a kind of code for “let’s smoke some pot”.

  16. Geez, can’t these people at least come up with some new busllshit, instead of piling the same old manure higher and deeper?

    “Pot causes brain damage.”

    “Pot causes chromosone damage and birth defects.”

    “Pot is a gateway drug – smoke a joint this week and you’ll be mainlining heroin next week.”

    I heard all of this crap in high school 30 years ago – we thought it was self-serving propaganda then, and I’m sure current high school students think the exact same thing now.

    BTW – In relation to wataazu’s post, I heard the NPR story about 4-20 or “Stoner’s Day” – it was completely new to me. When I was going to school, every day was Stoner’s Day, at least for the stoners. Anyone know anything about the background to this tradition?

  17. “The clog dancing elves that live in my attic.”

    Bah! It’s CIRCUS MIDGETS you have to watch out for. I’ve had it up to HERE with the likes of those people!

  18. Anyone know anything about the background to this tradition?

    I can’t say I know where it exactly came from, but I can say that I have been celebrating the day for the last 10 years or more. In some regions of the country (ahem, west coast) its nothing new. One thing else, it is actually a good “bonding” number. A friend and mine had a divorce a couple of years back. It was your basic not so good, but not so bad divorce. But one thing the failing couple would do is set aside differences at 4:20, light up, and act civily for a half hour. The mere 420 could probably bring more peace to the world then one realizes. But then again, that could simply be my dream from my pipe! (Maybe I am insane, too:)

  19. “Bah! It’s CIRCUS MIDGETS you have to watch out for. I’ve had it up to HERE with the likes of those people!”

    Seriously. Twin Peaks was just not right. Not right at all.

    “I am the arm. Green … is my color.”

    (shudder)

  20. Anyone know anything about the background to this tradition?

    See: http://www.snopes.com/language/stories/420.htm

    JMJ

  21. I heard all of this crap in high school 30 years ago – we thought it was self-serving propaganda then, and I’m sure current high school students think the exact same thing now.

    You know, I bought all of that BS hook, line, and sinker in my HS days. Once I got to college and actually met some people who were fairly open about their occasional drug use, I realized it was a bunch of crap, and the last thread I had to the Republican party was pretty much cut. Nothing pissed me off more than knowing people that regularly smoked pot or drank excessive amounts of booze, and were still able to make Dean’s list at an engineering school.

    Anyone know anything about the background to this tradition?

    My stoner engineer room mate back in college told me that it was pretty much a wacky tabaccy twist on the British idea of tea time. Whether this is true or not, I have no clue.

  22. Seriously. Twin Peaks was just not right. Not right at all.

    The owls are not what they seem, Jason.

    Damn fine coffee, though. And damn fine cherry pie.

  23. I suppose we should expect lurid tales of marijuana murders in a few years.

    Thats how I took the ads that ran during Bush’s first term, especially during the superbowl between St Louis and New England a couple of years back. Such as, pot smokers aided the terrorists, as if my homegrown put money in their pockets. Or the kids in the drive through who run over a little girl on a bike or how about the boys playing with dad’s gun? The message they were trying to levy was all too clear, smoking pot won’t kill you, but it will cause you to kill, whether directly or indirectly.

  24. Taken from this site: http://capwiz.com/norml2/mail/oneclick_compose/?alertid=7531001

    Republicans Ron Paul (TX) and Dana Rohrbacher (CA) and Democrats Barney Frank (MA) and Sam Farr (CA), have reintroduced the States’ Rights to Medical Marijuana Act. This bill, which will be assigned a bill number within a day or so, has been introduced in each of the last several
    sessions of Congress, and has gained increased support and co-sponsorship each time around.

    Everytime I turn around, the good ship Ron Paul (R-TX) is sailing favorable waters. More and more, I would like to see him be the captain of the helm in DC.

  25. Thanks for the link, John M. – I didn’t realize that the term went all the way back to the early 70’s. Serves me right for going to school in uncool New Mexico rather than trend-setting California.

  26. I suppose we should expect lurid tales of marijuana murders in a few years.

    Murdering a few plates of nachos maybe.

  27. I wonder what the government would say if caffeine were discovered today. Thesis writing has reinforced for me just how potent and addictive this substance is.

    I appreciate the many different brands that the caffeine cartels offer. The Pepsi cartel tries to lure The Children with the benign connotations of its “Mountain Dew” brand. The high-end cartels like Starbucks use fancy Italian names like “Espresso” to market their highly addictive stimulant.

    I can feel the effects of over-indulgence in caffeine, yet I don’t care. I’ve over-indulged before when I’ve faced critical deadlines, and when I’m not facing a time-crunch I revert to social use. For me, caffeine is a mix between a social drug (that I buy when meeting friends at coffee houses) and a tool (that I use now and then when I can’t afford the luxury of sleep).

    If caffeine were illegal, I’d have to buy it from disreputable dealers who lace it with impurities to stretch their profit margins and use violence to resolve disputes. I wouldn’t be able to get modest recreational doses in flavorful drinks, instead I’d probably only be able to get injectable versions that carry the risk of over-dose. And if it were illegal I’d run the risk of getting kicked out of the university when I’m just about to finish my Ph.D.

    I’m tempted to suggest that Ron Paul introduce a bill to ban caffeine as a joke to make a point. As a doctor he could no doubt describe in detail the potential health risks of over-use (just about any stimulant is bad for you if taken in sufficiently large doses) and the addictive nature of the drug.

    The problem is that Congress might actually pass the bill.

  28. thoreau, you know you are bringing to light a very dangerous substance. Every morning on the commute, I always see a few fender benders. No doubt there is a travel mug in those cars filled to the brim with hot , steaming, addictive caffeine. When will the government do something!?! My children for christ sakes travels on those same freeways!

  29. “Or the kids in the drive through who run over a little girl on a bike or how about the boys playing with dad’s gun? The message they were trying to levy was all too clear, smoking pot won’t kill you, but it will cause you to kill, whether directly or indirectly.”

    Have you seen that ad where an unattended, toddler girl is pushing a raft into a in-ground backyard pool? The message was “since you were busy getting high at the time, what are you going to tell her parents?”.

    The thing is, one can substitute other space-out activities, such as playing video games (hours can seem like minutes) or text messaging. Or talking to your girlfriend on your cell. Of course, then the ad would look STUPID.

  30. “Have you seen that ad where an unattended, toddler girl is pushing a raft into a in-ground backyard pool? The message was “since you were busy getting high at the time, what are you going to tell her parents?”.”

    according to a poster in the 14th st/6th ave F train station a few years back, “sorry dudes!”

  31. Marijuana releases 420 harmful chemicals when smoked.

    And melting ice releases a chemical that kills far more people every year than even the wildest MJ claims. We must ban dihydrogen monoxide.

  32. Have you seen that ad where an unattended, toddler girl is pushing a raft into a in-ground backyard pool? The message was “since you were busy getting high at the time, what are you going to tell her parents?”.

    Yeah I have seen that one. Wasn’t this dispelled in Jacobs book when the actual statistics for this scenario showed the TV set as the villianous attention grabber? Maybe it was another anti-drug war book. All of them bring up so much good statistics to combat the propaganda.

  33. Pot doesn’t make you crazy, it’s those got dam noisy ass dirt bikes.

  34. Voters have to reject the drug war and the drug warriors.

    What do the poll numbers look like on pot-related issues, anyway? Legalization (at least of medical dope) seems like something obtainable in my lifetime, but maybe the level of support I see around town is just my imagination.

  35. Caffiene is also a gateway drug. Sure it starts out harmless enough, maybe a little experimentation with an innocent sounding mocha latte to impress the girls. Next thing ya know the last twelve years of life are a blur and you find yourself with coffee stains in the pantscrotch, an XL shirt straining to hold an XXXL gut and yer using day old donuts to swab pudding-like folgers out of a never washed company mug with a chipped handle. Those first precious moments of percolated giddiness have flushed you to the gutter of middle management. Where the hell were the government warnings then?

  36. There are many chemicals in pot smoke and the precise number goes up or down depending upon the specific type of plant being smoked. The argument is the same argument made against free radicals. We don’t know where some of those chemicals go because they don’t come out. Then there’s the lung damage to contend with. Ask George Harrison about that (I know, he blamed it all on the cigarettes).

    I heard that caffeine was illegal in the Middle Ages in England because, you guessed it, IT MADE PEOPLE CRAZY.

    I don’t know if it really was illegal or not, never checked it out, but that’s what my 10th grade world history teacher said.

  37. PHOCION, here’s the numbers most relevant.

    USA TODAY Spring 2001 National Poll 34% YES to full legalization

    NEVADA voters in Nov 2002 39% YES to 3ozs legal

    ALASKA voters in Nov 2004 43% YES to full legal

    Voters age 18-25 POLL at about 70% YES to full legal.

    BUT those same voters only show up to vote about 20% of the time.

    If we can get them up to national avg of 45-50% turnout we’re very close to 48-49%.

    Finally, the age demographic of 65+ says YES to full legalization only about 25% of time.

    But that same voting bloc suffers an average of about 8,000 deaths a DAY, giving us about 1 to 1.5% boost per year.

    We should be seeing some state initiatives passing by year 2010-2012, along with a variety of additional decrim and ‘lowest priority for police’ initiatives as well.

    Seattle voters passed a form of that latter bill two years ago and in 2004 Seattle police arrested only eight people for MJ possession as compared to almost 200 the previous year.

  38. Oh, and a quick note to any H&R readers aged 65+….I predict you will live long and prosper, so don’t get nervous about the above Death Rates.

  39. Marijuana Murders? I can’t wait ’til that show starts running on A&E.

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