Drug Policy

Is Anti-Pot Hysteria Waning at the Times?

|

Yesterday The New York Times ran a Fashion & Style article about marijuana that, in the usual fashion and style of drug scare stories, begins and ends with cautionary anecdotes of addiction. The story hypes the alleged hazards of rising cannabis potency, which it says may be "contributing to higher addiction rates," without quoting experts who question that claim or pointing out that marijuana users tend to compensate for higher THC content by smoking less. At the same time, the piece makes several concessions that undermine the anti-pot thesis. It notes, for example, that the percentage of pot smokers among Americans admitted to drug treatment has "increased significantly" in the last decade or so but allows that "57 percent of those admitted for marijuana addiction treatment were ordered to do so by law enforcement." (The significance of that concession would have been clearer had the Times mentioned that arrests for marijuana possession increased dramatically during the same period.) Here are a few other points that are not likely to show up in a DEA press release:

Addiction experts agree marijuana does not pose as serious a public health problem as cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine. The drug cannot lead to fatal overdose and its hazards pale in comparison with those of alcohol….

Advocates and even some addiction specialists say cannabis is an effective treatment for medical and emotional problems, and can even help some battling addictions to harder drugs.

The risk of addiction, they say, is less problematic than for alcohol and other drugs. For instance, of the people who had used marijuana, only 9 percent became addicted, according to a 1999 study by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, a nonprofit research organization on science and health. Of those who drank alcohol, 15 percent became addicted. For cocaine, the figure was 17 percent, and heroin, 23 percent….

Many people can smoke marijuana every day without ill effects, advocates say, just as many casually drink wine in the evening….

Marijuana withdrawal is not nearly as severe as withdrawal from most other drugs. Giving up drinking can cause fatal seizures….

Some doctors specializing in treating addicts would rather prescribe marijuana for anxiety and insomnia than sleeping pills or Valium and Xanax, which are highly addictive.

Even the opening anecdote about a writer in Manhattan who "started smoking pot when she was 15″ and calls it "a slow form of suicide" falls short of the typical tale of degradation, destitution, and disease:

"I would come home from work, close my door, have my bong, my food, my music and my dog, and I wouldn't see another person until I went to work the next day," said Joyce…"What kind of life is that? I did that for 20 years."

From this account, I gather that Joyce has been gainfully employed her entire adult life and that her job pays well enough for her to afford her own apartment in Manhattan, one that is well-stocked with food and has a nice sound system. Scary stuff.

Even more encouraging than the article's relatively restrained tone is the online debate to which it links. The Times asked five drug policy experts to address the question of whether "addiction will rise" if "marijuana is legal." The general thrust of their answers is "maybe," but every participant is careful to note that prohibition also carries costs that have to be taken into account, and all of them seem to support more-liberal marijuana policies, ranging from decriminalization of possession for personal use to legalization of production and sale. Since the Times presumably tried to represent a wide array of opinion, the consensus against the status quo is striking.

[Thanks to Tom Angell at LEAP for the tip.]

NEXT: Bad Health-Care Reform Won't Just Be Bad Now, It Will Continue to Be Bad For a Really Long Time

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. “I would come home from work, close my door, have my bong, my food, my music and my dog, and I wouldn’t see another person until I went to work the next day,” said Joyce…”What kind of life is that? I did that for 20 years.”

    Clearly the whole world must be made to suffer because this one woman was kind of a recluse.

    1. This study about how addictive pot is was done over ten years ago, Since that time, the chemicals they are using to make the plant bigger and stronger and grow faster, actually makes pot much more addictive than back in the days of growing it on your backyard. It’s not a natural plant growing in a natural way. It’s bigger, better and grows twice as fast. They make that happen with addictive chemicals.

  2. I would come home from work, close my door, have my bong, my food, my music and my dog, and I wouldn’t see another person until I went to work the next day,

    Christ, if I was surrounded by millions of New Yorkers, I’d do the same thing.

    Seriously, if that is supposed to be a scare story . . . .

  3. “I would come home from work, close my door, have my bong, my food, my music and my dog, and I wouldn’t see another person until I went to work the next day,” said Joyce…”What kind of life is that? I did that for 20 years.”

    UMMM. HEAVEN! i go to work come home to my dog in my nice house, smoke a bong watch netflix or play hockey or Baseball on the PS3. play with my pooch call my girl etc. Thats not hell thats how i love to live. course i am a bit of a recluse, lol

  4. “I would come home from work, close my door, have my bong, my food, my music and my dog, and I wouldn’t see another person until I went to work the next day,” said Joyce…”What kind of life is that? I did that for 20 years.”

    Well, aside from the fact I’m married, that’s pretty much how it goes every night. Oh, yeah, and I traded in the bong for expensive beer. That whole random urinalysis at work thing is kind of a buzzkill.

  5. Joyce is just pissed that her uterus is well past its sell-by-date. Have fun with your barren womb, Joyce. That hurt look in your dog’s eye meant you probably would have been a shitty mom anyway. Enjoy your loneliness and menopause, Joyce. Especially when you shatter your hip tripping on the throw rug and no one comes looking for you until your house is full of dog turds.

  6. Oh, yeah.

    Giving up drinking can cause fatal seizures….

    Anybody who has that reaction is living on borrowed time anyway.

  7. wow ,my parents must need help to. they both work, come home have dinner and wine and then its just them every night, oh wait thats how most of us live, dumb bitch

  8. hahahahah scary stuff, following this is very interesting.

  9. My worst addictions are caffeine and Denver Bronco games (the latter of which are fortunately only seasonal).

  10. I don’t smoke pot. I get outta bed. I have my coffee, food, music, teevee and my naps. I don’t give a rip if I see anyone till I get outta bed the next day. What’s the big deal?

  11. Having reported earlier in the article that there is no fatal overdose for marijuana, the author then reports (unblinkingly) this ridiculous assertion from a physician:

    “With marijuana, “it’s going to take some real fatalities for people to pay attention,” Dr. Volkow said. “Unfortunately that’s the way it goes.””

    That’s the way it goes when medical professionals claim expertise they clearly do not have.

    Just in the past week, on an NPR report on the use of unmanned drones to patrol the Canadian border, I heard a U.S. Border Patrol officer describe how the drones have helped catch smugglers of BC bud, which he described as a “more lethal form of marijuana.” ROTFLMAO! Except it’s not funny when people, especially medical and law enforcement professionals, have been brainwashed with such counterfactual information.

    I have been a daily user of marijuana for more than 30 years, during which time I earned two BAs, an MA, worked for more than a decade in white collar jobs in my field for Fortune 100 firms, held a security clearance for many years, successfully established myself as a free-lancer working from home, bought a house and a vacation home, made and lost money in the stock market, and generally had a terrific upper middle class life, with considerably more independence and time off than is typical of the American workplace. I vote, I produce, I consume, I smoke dope, and I don’t disturb the peace.

    In our current dire economic straits, how much longer before this country realizes what an expensive luxury the war on (some) drugs is (to say nothing of its corrosive effects on law enforcement and the Constitution).

  12. ” and heroin, 23 percent….”

    So 77% are able to use heroin responsibly. How come we never hear about that?

  13. bc bud is fucking beasters, the best dank is US grown anyway. schawag is form mexi and crappy bc beasters (mids) is from canada.
    its not even that strong LOL. i love idiots they make my day better, LMAO

  14. From this account, I gather that Joyce has been gainfully employed her entire adult life and that her job pays well enough for her to afford her own apartment in Manhattan, one that is well-stocked with food and has a nice sound system. Scary stuff.

    Indeed. It sounds she was just a step away from becoming one of those reefer whores you see roaming the streets in major US cities.

  15. i get home from work, share some bonghits with the wife, listen to music, surf the interwebs, and watch tv. aside from the wife, i don’t see another soul (except the delivery guy) until the next day.
    we’re happily married, never fight, and we smoke lots of pot. big fuckin deal.
    when i first read this article yesterday, after wakin & bakin, i got really paranoid that i was addicted to marijuana and that the expensive pot i buy with the money i make from my job, is going to ruin my life. then i forgot what she was talking about and decided to play some Wii.

  16. Y’all,

    It’s orders of magnitude more lethal because 100x zero is still zero.

  17. “I have been a daily user of marijuana for more than 30 years, during which time I earned two BAs, an MA, worked for more than a decade in white collar jobs in my field for Fortune 100 firms, held a security clearance for many years, successfully established myself as a free-lancer working from home, bought a house and a vacation home, made and lost money in the stock market, and generally had a terrific upper middle class life, with considerably more independence and time off than is typical of the American workplace. I vote, I produce, I consume, I smoke dope, and I don’t disturb the peace.”

    People like you (and me BA / MS) are the reason that corporations drug test now. They can’t tell if you use cannabis because you don’t fit the “stereotypical stoner” mindset, but you are getting high and that freaks them out.

  18. SpongePaul,

    Could you speak fucking English, please? Thanks.

  19. “I would come home from work, close my door, have my bong, my food, my music and my dog, and I wouldn’t see another person until I went to work the next day,” said Joyce…”What kind of life is that? I did that for 20 years.”

    Livin the dream, livin the dream.

  20. “For cocaine, the figure was 17 percent, and heroin, 23 percent….”

    WHAT

    This goes against everything I have been carefully indoctrinated to believe.

    Everyone knows that the addiction rate for cocaine is ONE HUNDRED PERCENT and the addiction rate for heroin is ONE HUNDRED FORTY THREE PERCENT.

  21. twistedmerkin | July 20, 2009, 5:20pm | #
    SpongePaul,

    Could you speak fucking English, please? Thanks.
    ___________________________________
    The weed and the dyslexia are kicking in for a perfect storm of typos. mostly the dyslexia, but its a bit worse than usuall.

  22. sad aint it, i understand and love string theroy and astrophysics. yet i cant type a sentence correctly.

  23. “She tried to stop, but was anxious, irritable, sleepless and lost. At one point, to soothe her cravings, she took morphine that she found at her dying father’s bedside. She almost overdosed.”

    Joyce, you’re a goddamned moron. Not to mention lowlife filth for stealing your dying father’s pain medicine. None of that’s got anything to do with pot: It’s just that you’re a loser idiot.

  24. Beasters aren’t mids, they’re at least a full step up.

  25. Anxious, irritable, sleepless, and lost. Doesn’t that describe half the people that post here?

  26. SpongePaul does regularly present a typing,blog-commenting warning against the dangers of marijuana.Sure some people can handle the weed, and then some people end up like SpongePaul.

    Do ya feel lucky punk? Well do ya?

  27. She tried to stop, but was anxious, irritable, sleepless and lost.

    IOW, she experienced how most people go through life.

  28. New York people like New York because of the people. If you’re not out every night relishing in the diversity you are nothing. Pot is less of a problem for her than her urban brainwashing. And thanks for that fatal seizures bit, I need all of the excuses I can get.

  29. “more lethal form of marijuana.”

    I heard that very same radio broadcast, though I thought he said it was a “*very* lethal form”… same difference. I was hoping for a call-in segment with him… those call screeners would be working overtime.

    As for this “horror” story… I’d wager that the weed saved her from acute organ failure, since she almost certainly would have been abusing something much more harmful (e.g., alcohol) if MJ had been unavailable.

  30. Sullum, I’m very surprised you didn’t jump on the Volkow quote. Interesting thing about Volkow- she’s a long distance runner. That’s right- the top NIDA official is an endorphin junky.

  31. The way to get pot legalized is to start a rumor that it works better than Viagra, especially for women.

  32. well everyone, I’m glad you all think pot addiction is somewhere between bogus and hilarions.
    I read that article this morning, rather than the regurgitation of it here. And what Joyce said is no joke. Not to me, because my 30 yr pot addiction was even worse. Less than a year ago I was about to kill myself. I was hopelessly addicted, and because of that, I had lost almost everything I cared about.
    Sure, there are reasons behind every addiction. But that doesn’t make it any less real, or destructive, or life-wrecking. I needed help and I was met with dismissal, judgements, ostrication. I was taken advantage of because I couldn’t defend myself.
    It was almost the end of me.
    OK everyone, back to your jokes.
    Tear what I’ve said apart.
    I lived the lifestyle all my life. I still have the free-thinking mindset. Only now, I am in control. Thanks to a few people, VERY FEW, who heeded my cry for help, rather than laughing at me and calling me weak.

  33. sorry for wendy and joyce but I don’t get what that has to do with drug laws. I drank too much booze last night. Not the legislature’s fault.

  34. Everything is waning at the NYT.

  35. “I would come home from work, close my door, have my bong, my food, my music and my dog, and I wouldn’t see another person until I went to work the next day,” said Joyce…”What kind of life is that?

    Pretty good, actually. Reminds me of college.

  36. Wendy:

    Substance abuse treatment has been readily available for decades to anyone who wants it.

    Nothing is properly outlawed for everyone because you lack self-control. I dismiss you for the same reason that I’d dismiss an alcoholic demanding reinstatement of alcohol prohibition on grounds that she can’t stop drinking. Discuss your self-control issues with a therapist. Those issues concern no one but yourself.

    1. Substance abuse treatment has been readily available for decades to anyone who wants it.

      Holy shit. Drug treatment has not been and is not currently for poor people. Those commercials? Call one of them. If you don’t have 30 grand to lay on their desk, they will show you the door. I didn’t read about the horrible conditions about they way the poor is treatend by the recovery community, I live it. It’s not for anyone that needs it. It nevr has been.

  37. I bet she was fat too.

    She’s on par with the person that claims “video games” destroyed their life. No, your lack of ability to take personal responsibility destroyed your life you moron.

  38. “I would come home from work, close my door, have my bong, my food, my music and my dog, and I wouldn’t see another person until I went to work the next day,” said Joyce…”What kind of life is that? I did that for 20 years.”

    working in manhattan and affording:
    – your own apt in manhattan
    – a dog
    – assuming pre prepared food or eating out

    This means she likely makes a decent amount of money, probably over 70k. With that said, in Manhattan her hours are probably 9-8. Who really has time to see anybody regardless of whether you smoke pot, go to the gym, or watch a movie after work? You can’t expect to go out every night – and if you do, then you will succumb to alcoholism, a far more dangerous addiction.

  39. Like Wendy, I’m saddened by the ignorance of the comments on this issue. I’ve learned a lot about addiction and cannabis since my child became addicted, more than I ever wanted to know. I never knew it could happen and the worst thing is the denial that it exists. Treatment is mandated by law enforcement for all kinds of addictions because people don’t willingly go into treatment for addiction. My child was diagnosed with addiction (I call it obsessive-compulsion) to mj but refused to go to treatment despite begging, tough love, etc. until caught in school and legal system forced him into treatment. The withdrawal symptoms were also horrible–my child became a wreck for weeks–nightmares, sleeplessness, rages, diarrhea. It’s an ongoing struggle. Another issue you probably won’t want to deal with is the high correlation between early mj use and use of other drugs. As a parent it is pretty scary. It is not Reason to deny evidence just because it doesn’t fit your mindset. A 10% addiction rate (higher for younger users) is not trivial if you know that alcohol has a 15% rate and tobacco a 32% rate (no it is not 100%). Volkow is an addiction expert, but I guess you wouldn’t want to consider her experience valid either.

    1. Also Lynn, this year with all the cut backs, there is almost no inpatient treatment for anyone anymore and the cuts came out of drug court. Forced or not. Drug court is all but over. The only option for the poor is jail.

  40. “I never knew it could happen and the worst thing is the denial that it exists.”

    Rank bullshit. No one denies that addiction exists. You’re either dishonest or an idiot.

    Presumably you advocate reinstituting alcohol prohibtion. There are plenty of people who cannot control themselves in that regard either, but that in no way means that billions of other people should be prosecuted if they drink a glass of wine.

    Your kid’s lack of self-control means nothing more than your kid lacks self-control. Deal with it and leave others in peace.

    And by the way, correlation is not causation. Take a basic logic course.

  41. Lynn your kid was taking H. He didn’t get diarrhea from quitting MJ. A methodone treatment could have made withdrawl go a lot easier. The anger, sleeplessness, … That’s part of being a young male. Your kid could have been self-medicating for problems that are now unteated. He should talk to his doctor about lower impact treatments (such as Xanax).

    1. People overdose on Methodone all the time. You may as well use heroin. And Methodone is just as difficult to kick as heroin. And the concept that the kid should go on Xanax is simply the stupidest thing I have ever heard. Xanax is one of the most addictive drugs on the planet. The people on this thread have to be high right now or the comments wouldn’t be so, crazy stupid. Learn something before you talk.

  42. Hurry Joyce, if you move quick enough you can sue McDonald’s as well for the obesity problem you developed from eating their food. What a great world we live in, “I” don’t have a problem, it’s everything and everyone else around me that’s the problem. Have some self control idiot. Anyone who claims that they are “addicted to cannabis” has to be the biggest f’ing tool in the world.

  43. The withdrawal symptoms were also horrible–my child became a wreck for weeks–nightmares, sleeplessness, rages, diarrhea.

    That ain’t marijuana withdrawal. Something else going on, there.

    Another issue you probably won’t want to deal with is the high correlation between early mj use and use of other drugs.

    I don’t deny it. I just think that use of any drugs is necessarily a problem, and that abuse of any drugs is a symptom of some underlying problem. I expect someone who abuses one drug to use/abuse a wide variety of drugs, in fact.

    And none of this has anything to do with whether people should be subjected to the powers of the police state because of their use/abuse of any drugs.

  44. Should be:

    I just think that use of any drugs is not necessarily a problem,

  45. When you look at the Marijuana Laws today, you need to take a look at the history of Stevia in this country and big business being worried about profits. (You May have to Google STEVIA) Since December of last year, Stevia was pretty much illegal to sell. Stevia is a natural plant who’s extract is three hundred time sweeter than sugar and with multiples other benefits, too numerous to mention, all because of Bad science and with some corrupt hands in it. That is to keep the artificial sweetener company making money.

    Today with over 70 plus years of our treasury wasted and with drug wars on are border and million in prison or in the system. And Police department with their own eyes on the bounty from forfeitures. Makes one think of the old adage if it aint broke don’t fix it well it is broken and the way we look at it need to change and Government needs to stop violating our CONSTUTIONAL RIGHTS not to mention our BILL OF RIGHTS to these misguided laws and bad science. Just imagine if we had over the past 50 plus years built Hospital and trained Doctors and heath care people. Would we be in the health care dilemma today?
    As a diabetic I have lost over 30 lb since I have started using stevia and I no longer have to poison my body with those artificial pink ,yellow or blue sweeteners. I just go for the green box now and I even have some Stevia growing in my garden that I use for to sweeten my tea and cooking. It’s hard to believe that Stevia was pretty much illegal before 12/31/08. This Was Bushes Gift to Coke Cola and Cargill before he left office. (Please Do Google Stevia this is a wonderful plant that in many ways shares the DIRTY HISTORY of BAD GOVERNMENT and SCIENCE)

    I have and old friend who is in his sixties now and has been smoking cannibis when available and he could afford it for over 40 year. He mention to me that for $35 he bought 5 cannabis seeds from Canada and grew them in his closet and no longer drink alcohol He can now sleep better does not have back pain and spasms any more. And no longer has to choose between buying medicine or food and heat.

    We can only hope that are polition will take the right step and see the Damage these lobbist have done to are country form there greed.

    Take for instance, in a time when most stocks are at a historic lows, China and Japan are subsidizing a little know dirty secret, and investing in PRISON BONDS AND PRISONS FOR PROFIT. When you look a person convicted of selling two ounces of pot. You need to look at who financially benefits, you have to start with the arresting officer to the local court system and this is money to them. But the real money comes from the selling of prison bonds and it’s very had to find any info on it. But when a Marijuana Felon is sentenced to mandated a sentence, which is far greater that some one who robbed and shot a victim that lived. Once his social security number is in the system and he is marketed. A marketable bond can be worth Tens of million of Dollars in his incarceration. When you look at it how to we are carry on two wars and a drug war in a stagnant economy. Are we selling war bond today or having victory garden we are selling prison bonds over seas to foreign investors. We have more people in prison today than any body else. Maybe we should call cannabis Felons political prisoners and compare ours with Chinas rather than Have them laughing at us trying to hold the morel ground.

    The list goes on from drug company to prison there is too much money in it to make it legal.
    Matt C

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.