Election season is upon us, don’t let the candidates dodge the important questions about marijuana legalization, especially as it pertains to health. These are great questions to pose to elected officials already in office too!
Marijuana Health Question No. 1: Cannabis and Cancer
In the United States, cancer is the second most common cause of death with over one-half million deaths a year. With all the research showing the cancer prevention and even curative powers of cannabis, why has there not been any population based studies comparing cancer rates in cannabis consumers to non-cannabis consumers and would you support such a study?
There has been a virtual avalanche of medical studies over the last few years demonstrating the ability of cannabis to prevent and cure cancer. Research conclusively demonstrates the uniquely singular ability of the cannabinoids in cannabis to both slow the spread of cancer cells and to outright selectively kill them while leaving non-cancerous cells undisturbed.
In 2006, Dr. Donald Tashkin conducted a groundbreaking population-based study on lung cancer which found a small, but still statistically significant, decrease in the development of lung cancer in people who used cannabis compared to people who did not use cannabis. A more astounding study released in 2009 by seven collaborating researchers from major universities found that moderate to heavy users of cannabis who had been smoking it from 10 to 20 years had a phenomenal 62 percent less likelihood of developing head and neck cancers than people who did not smoke cannabis.
Marijuana Health Question No. 2: Cannabis and Suicide
Why do we spend more fighting the War on Drugs than we do for suicide prevention, when marijuana is shown to reduce suicide rates, and what do you think should be done about it?
Programs and the resources to prevent suicides are minimal at best. It is difficult at best to estimate the amount of money that goes into suicide prevention programs as they are intertwined with many mental health programs, but let’s be generous and choose $1 billion a year. That works out to about $27,000 expended per death. To prevent deaths caused by illicit drugs, the Drug Policy Alliance estimates this country spends $51 billion annually on the War on Drugs. Using the high estimate of 20,000 deaths due to illicit drugs works out to about $2,500,000 expended per death. $27,000 vs. $2,500,000! Even though the number of deaths is similar, why do we spend so little on suicide prevention and so much on illicit drug use prevention?
In 2009, there were 36,909 deaths by suicide in the United States. In that same year there were 39,147 deaths caused by legally obtained prescription drugs and illegally obtained illicit drugs. For reasons best understood by law enforcement agencies and pharmaceutical corporations, it is hard to gleam from the statistics how many of these deaths are from legally prescribed drugs as opposed to illegally obtained drugs, but the number of deaths from illicit drugs appears to be somewhere between 10,000 and 20,000.
Suicide rates would actually fall if we stopped fighting the war on marijuana. A group of researchers from the University of Colorado, San Diego State University, and Montana State University looked at suicide rates before and after the passage of medical marijuana laws and found a dramatic drop in states that legalized medical marijuana as opposed to those that didn’t, especially for men. Their research found that over all suicide rates dropped by 5%. For males aged 30 to 39 the rate dropped 9%, and for 20 through 29 year old men the suicide rate dropped a whopping 11%!
I suspect the answer to this question has something to do with the fact that cops, lawyers, judges, prison guards and the associated drug war/industrial complex rake in $51 billion a year unsuccessfully preventing illicit drug deaths and no one is making much money preventing suicides.
Marijuana Health Question No. 3: Cannabis and Recovery
Why have there been no placebo-controlled double-blind studies of the success of cannabis as a substitute for people with alcohol or drug dependence when studies show that cannabis is proven far more effective than traditional addiction therapies and what do you intend to do about it?
In the first, and so far only, study to calculate spending by all levels of government on problems caused by alcohol, tobacco and illegal drug use, the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse reported in 2005 that $468 billion dollars was spent treating, preventing and dealing with substance abuse.
Most spending went for health care, law enforcement and incarceration. Around two percent of the total went to prevention, treatment and addiction research.
The paucity of spending on addiction treatment is only matched by the dismal success rate, usually in the teens, of addiction treatment programs.
Cannabis on the other hand is very effective in treating the addiction to any drug, but especially alcohol and the opiates. Dr. Tod Mikuriya in his seminal treatise Marijuana in Medicine traced cannabis’ use to treat opiate addiction as far back as 1889.
In a 2012 study published in Addiction Research and Therapy, a team of investigators from Canada and the United States reported that cannabis is an effective substitute and exit drug for patients experiencing problems with alcohol, prescription pharmaceuticals and illicit drugs.
The reported success rate for cannabis treatment of addiction to alcohol and drugs is not just dramatically better; it is sensationally better than any other addiction treatment program.
WARNING: Don’t hold your breath waiting for answers.