Guest Editorials

Studies show marijuana use not bad for health

Australian Study: No significant impact on health from marijuana use

On February 17 of this year, the Australian National Drug and Research Centre conducted a study of the physical and psychological effects of long-term marijuana use (averaging 19 years) on 268 subjects. Conclusion: There seemed to be no significant impact on health. According to chief investigator David Reilly, "The results seem unremarkable -- the exceptional thing is that the respondents are unexceptional."

Kaiser Permanente Study: No significant impact on mortality from marijuana use

In the April edition of The American Journal of Public Health, Dr. Stephen Sidney writes about a long-term (12-year) study undertaken by Kaiser Permanente, a medical insurer/provider, and therefore an entity with a fiduciary interest in the integrity of the results, into the mortality rates of marijuana smokers. The study population comprised 65,171 subjects aged 15 through 49 years. Conclusion: Marijuana use had little effect on non-AIDS mortality in men and on total mortality in women. (Am J Public Health. 1997;87:585-590)

Leading US Physicians Speak Out

On July 9, 1997, 37 leading physicians including Dr. Joseph B. Martin, the new dean of Harvard's Medical School, Dr. Lonnie Bristow, past president of the American Medical Association, Dr. David C. Lewis, director of Brown University's Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies, and several former Reagan and Bush administration health officials, announced the formation of Physician Leadership on National Drug Policy. Declaring that "the current criminal justice-driven approach is not reducing, let alone controlling, drug abuse in America," they called for the U.S. to explore "harm reduction" approaches to substance use and abuse which rely more upon medical science and public health than on public hysteria and incarceration.

Swiss Study: Heroin addicts healthier, better citizens with drugs

On July 10, 1997, researchers at the Institute for Social and Preventive Medicine at the University of Zurich released the final report on Switzerland's 3-year heroin prescription trial. (On the web at Conclusion: The carefully supervised provision of heroin to long-term addicts with a history of failure in other treatment modalities resulted in a significant decrease in crime, mortality, disease transmission, treatment failure, and unemployment, at a substantial savings over other, less successful treatment methods.

Mainstream news media silent. Why?

These four events have much in common beyond their subject matter. Each is of international significance. Each represents, in unambiguous and scientifically sound terms, a challenge to the very underpinnings of prohibitionist drug policies. Yet, most importantly, each of these stories was virtually ignored by nearly every major U.S. news source.

Why has the mainstream press, which chomps at the bit to put every new drug scare on page one, burying this news?

The fact is that today's media is owned, nearly totally, by a small (and shrinking) group of mega-corporations whose financial holdings extend far beyond newspapers and television stations. These entities have much to gain by currying favor with a government addicted to bloated Drug War budgets and campaign contributions from Drug War profiteers. (See The Netizen in the current issue of WIRED for a discussion of Big Media's lobbying efforts.) It would also be interesting to know whether and exactly how much financial interest these media conglomerates have in the industries that profit from the Drug War...but that is another matter for another day.

In any case, it has become clear that "All the news that's fit to print" is a very subjective standard. That leaves it up to those of us who understand that the War on Drugs is both morally and intellectually bankrupt to tell the truth. Whether this means pressuring major media outlets through letters and such, exchanging and disseminating information via the Internet, informing and supporting responsible alternative media sources, or simply carrying forth our message in the human interactions of our daily lives, it is imperative that we take responsibility for educating our fellow citizens. Recent experience shows that we cannot rely on Big Media to investigate or expose the big lies behind the War on Drugs. Because as long as they can maintain the appearance of credibility while playing the game, the New York Times might just find the that the truth doesn't quite "fit."

Drug Czar Distorts Facts To Malign Dutch Drug Policies

July 16, 1998, Washington, D.C.:

Statistics flaunted by Drug Czar

Barry McCaffrey regarding alleged Dutch homicide and marijuana usage rates are purposely misleading and inaccurate, NORML Foundation Executive Director Allen St. Pierre charged today.

"It is unacceptable for a high ranking U.S. official to stoop to using such tactics to malign the Netherlands' drug policies," St. Pierre said.

Earlier this week, McCaffrey claimed that the Dutch murder rate is more than twice that of America's. He further purported that three times as many Dutch youth admit trying marijuana than do their U.S. counterparts. McCaffrey said that liberal drug policies were to blame for the higher Dutch figures.

In fact, however, both Dutch homicide rates and prevalence of youth marijuana use are far lower than those in America.

"There is a very disturbing trend of blatant misinformation coming from Barry McCraffrey, which seems to indicate that he is woefully uninformed about key parts of the very policy he is paid to represent and enforce," said David Borden of the Drug Reform Coordination Network, an Interet-based information center on drug policy.

Official data from the Dutch government's Central Planning Bureau put the country's murder rate for 1996 at 1.8 per 100,000 people. That figure is 440 percent lower than the current U.S. murder rate of 8.2 per 100,000. McCaffrey falsely claimed that the Dutch murder rate was 17.58 per 100,000.

McCaffrey also alleged that Dutch youth experiment with marijuana in greater numbers than U.S teens. However, 1996 data recorded by the University of Michigan's Monitoring the Future project determined that 45 percent of America's high school seniors admit they have tried marijuana. By comparison, research compiled by the National Institute of Health and Addiction in the Netherlands found that less than 21 percent of Dutch adolescents have experimented with the drug. McCaffrey falsely stated that only 9.1 percent of American teens had ever tried marijuana.

"The Dutch overwhelmingly approve of their current marijuana policies," St. Pierre remarked. "Those policies seek to normalize rather than dramatize marijuana use, and separate marijuana users from the hard drug market. If McCaffrey believes that America's marijuana policy of arresting and jailing more than 12 million users since 1965 is more effective than the Netherlands', then he should find no need to distort the facts and lie to the American people."

For more information, please contact either Allen St. Pierre or Paul Armentano of the NORML Foundation @ (202) 483-8751. David Borden of DRCNet may be reached @ (202) 293-8340.

NORML is the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

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