War on Drugs

This Is How the Army Talks to Soldiers About Marijuana


While the rest of the nation is slowly but surely relaxing its stance on marijuana, the U.S. Army is here to remind soldiers that the ultra-conservative never goes out of style with a pamphlet titled Marijuana: Stone-Cold Stupid. It's just one of many alarmist offerings from Prevention & Treatment Resource Press that is sure to make you nostalgic for your last midnight screening of Reefer Madness.

Here's a typical passage that shows the lengths the writers have gone to demonize a substance that 50 percent of Americans believe should be legal:

Marijuana's effects can be unpredictable. The effects that abusers are seeking include relaxation and giddiness. Pot smokers laugh at anything—funny or not. Many users become dizzy, have difficulty walking, and have red, bloodshot eyes. Terrible thirst—"cotton mouth"—and hunger—"the munchies"—are typical. Some people fall asleep when they use pot. Others experience anxiety or paranoia every time they use the drug.

There are also bullet lists of unsupported claims and cherry-picked factoids. For example:

  • Marijuana is the most commonly abused illegal drug, but it is not as common as you might think: About 80% of young people never use it.
  • Being in a room with marijuana smoke can cause a "contact high" from just breathing.
  • In one study, 33% of arrested reckless drivers tested positive for marijuana.
  • Possession of marijuana is illegal. Charges carry high fines and jail time.

I question that 80 percent figure in bullet one. The Organization of American States reported in 2008 that more than 102 million Americans over the age of 12 have used marijuana in their lifetime. That's 41 percent. And the study that the writers mention in bullet three failed to factor in all the reckless drivers who were clearly intoxicated by alcohol, skewing the percentage towards marijuana.

It's a good thing, however, that the pamphlet highlights the fact that marijuana is illegal. That alone is what makes marijuana more dangerous to use—by the publishers' own admission—than legal drugs like alcohol and tobacco. Marijuana's listed short term effects can't hold a candle to those of alcohol (tough to beat coma and death!), and its long term effects are no worse than what a long-time cigarette smoker can expect.

The U.S. Army spends between 19 and 33 cents on each one of these pamphlets (there are tables overflowing with them at every base), and all they do is insult the intelligence of those men and women who have chosen to serve their country.

[Disclosure: The writer is a proud member of the U.S. Army Reserves.]