Time To Take Another Look at Marijuana

Patient Care Magazine, April 30, 1978
By: Bruce Frazer

    This article helped change the nation’s culture. Originally published in Patient Care magazine, it was reprinted by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, Interpol, Scotland Yard and the Congressional Record as well as numerous newspapers.

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    A 26-page booklet entitled “How To Keep Your Child Safe From Marijuana” partially based on the above article, was developed for Mr. Ross Perot and his organization, Texan’s War on Drugs. Approximately 100 thousand additional copies were distributed to parent anti-drug organizations by Citizens for Informed Choices on Marijuana (CICOM).

Commentary

    Marijuana is the most politicized drug in history. The burden of proof has been upon those who would prove it dangerous rather than those who would prove it safe. There were few studies of marijuana’s effects on humans prior to the early 1970s, and those that were conducted were biased and lacked credibility. A handful of doctors from the Harvard Medical School faculty nevertheless touted the limited and flawed research as proving "pot" was as harmless as mother’s milk. Their beliefs were widely disseminated by the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML).

    Scientists and clinicians who questioned the safety of marijuana were vilified, and NORML, while trivializing its adverse health effects, raged against penalties for its use. Aided and abetted by sympathetic media, NORML gained credence in government agencies and organizations throughout the country. Many considered NORML the authority on the health effects of pot as well as overblown alleged civil injustices.

    The marijuana NORML was promoting so vigorously in the ‘50s and ‘60s was much weaker than pot in use today. The delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content 3 percent then and now is as high as 10 percent – roughly a 350 percent increase!

    In the late ‘70s, marijuana research findings from all over the world indicated that indeed, it was a very dangerous drug, especially for children. These were the data referenced in the Patient Care article, and they strongly suggested it certainly was "Time To Take Another Look at Marijuana."

    The White House had Bruce Frazer act as liaison with anti-drug groups that felt the Carter administration was considering policies that might lead to the legalization of marijuana. The press conference Mr. Frazer conducted at the National Press Club was well publicized, and defused the situation.

    Beginning in the late ‘90s, hundreds of healthcare professionals and most major newspapers sponsored full page ads warning the public about the dangers of marijuana among children. The battle was joined, but it is not won.


THURSDAY, JULY 16, 2009

The Herald-Sun ∣ DURHAM, NORTH CAROLINA

PAGE A9


FORUM

Too many overlook health hazards of marijuana

BY BRUCE W. FRAZER
Guest columnist


    The Herald-Sun recently ran a page of articles for and against legalizing marijuana. But there wasn't a word about its health effects.

     One of America's prominent senators once told an audience "Marijuana is as harmless as mother's milk." Nothing could be further from the truth. But why is "pot" the most politicized drug in history? Why is the public's attitude toward it ho-hum? There are many reasons, but principally, it's the lack of drama.

     The outward effects of most mind-altering drugs such as heroin, ecstasy, PCP, methamphetamine and even alcohol are all too often noticeable - bizarre, violent behavior, paranoia, hallucinations, slurring words or falling down. Marijuana's near term effects are, for the most part, unrecognizable by others in a social or workplace context. Most people feel "it's no big deal." But it is.

     Marijuana smoke contains 50 to 70 percent more carcinogenic hydrocarbons than tobacco smoke. And marijuana users usually inhale more deeply and hold their breath longer than tobacco smokers do, which further increases the lungs' exposure to carcinogens. THC (delta 9 - tetrahydrocannabinol) is marijuana's mind-altering ingredient, and today's "pot" contains more of it than ever. The University of Mississippi found the average THC content rose from 2.83 percent (1985) to 9.96 percent (2008). The average THC content for the extra-strong "sensimilla" is approximately 12 percent.

     Scientific studies and accident data about marijuana were few and far between until the mid-7Os, but, since then, studies from all over the world have shown it is dangerous to the user and others.

     Harvard University researchers report the risk of heart attack in the hour after smoking marijuana is five times higher than usual.

     In a study conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a moderate dose of' marijuana alone was shown to impair driving performance; moreover, the effects of even a low dose of marijuana combined with alcohol were markedly greater than for either drug alone.

     The National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) note research indicating marijuana is the most prevalent illegal drug detected in impaired drivers, fatally injured drivers, and motor vehicle crash victims.

     Research also shows marijuana use can lead to dependence, and adolescents are most susceptible. They are three times more likely than adults to develop dependency. In 2003, more young people between 12 and 17 entered treatment for marijuana dependency than for alcohol and all other illegal drugs combined.

     As cited in "What Americans Need to Know about Marijuana," Office of National Drug Control Policy, October, 2003, marijuana is a "gateway" drug, a precursor to abuse of other drugs. For example, adults who were early marijuana users were five times more likely to become dependent on any drug, eight times more likely to use cocaine, and 15 times more likely to use heroin in the future.

     Columbia University's National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse reported that teens who have used marijuana at least once in the last month are 13 times likelier than other teens to use another drug like cocaine, heroin, or methamphetamine, and 26 times likelier to than those teens who have never used marijuana.

     Dr. Robert Dupont, founder of NIDA says: " ...marijuana combines the worst effects of alcohol and tobacco and has other ill effects that neither of these two have" He adds, "In all of history, no young people have ever taken marijuana regularly on a mass scale. Therefore our youngsters are in effect making themselves guinea pigs in a tragic experiment. Thus far our research clearly suggests we will see horrendous results."

     Despite such strong words and an ever-growing body of knowledge, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) has been relentlessly trivializing research indicating marijuana's harmful effects. This well-funded organization has succeeded in framing the debate so that, unlike any drug in history, the burden of proof is with those who would prove marijuana harmful rather than safe.

     Yet the FDA and virtually all professional medical associations agree smoked marijuana is dangerous and certainly not suited for treating any condition or disease. Marinol, an FDA approved synthetic formulation of THC, possesses all the benefits of an antiemetic and an appetite stimulant without the harmful effects of smoked marijuana.

Bruce Frazer was an Army Aviator, a demonstration pilot for Bell Helicopter, and, later, was president of Citizens for Informed Choices on Marijuana. A commercial pilot, he currently flies recreationally and writes articles for aviation magazines.

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