Pothead Nation

Pothead Nation

© David Burton 2018


Pothead: Someone who believes (1) any problem can be fixed by smoking marijuana, and (2) any activity is more enjoyable whilst stoned.” (Ref. 1)

     My home state of Massachusetts has often been a leader. Let’s not forget that it was in Massachusetts where the American revolution began. Massachusetts was dirst to draft and enact a statue protecting religious freedom for all. It was in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1636 that Harvard University was established as the first institution of higher education in the United States. It was the first U.S. state to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Perhaps of greatest significance, the chocolate chip cookie was reportedly invented in 1930 at the Toll House Restaurant in Whitman, Massachusetts. And it was in Massachusetts where Timothy Leary introduced the nation to that “harmless” mind-bending drug, LSD.

     But, after becoming the Pied Piper of psychedelic drugs, Leary had to admit that there was downside to the use of LSD. “In a complete reversal of his previous positions, Timothy F. Leary admitted . . . that ‘LSD may be creating a new race of mutants.’
     “In a talk at Manhattan Town Hall in New York, the former lecturer in Clinical Psychology said. ‘I am going to stop using the drug, and I am going to ask you to stop.’ “ (Ref. 2) It's not clear how serious Leary was when he made his disclaimer. But what did become abundantly clear was that LSD was neither a safe nor a" harmless" substance.

     Now, my home state of Massachusetts is a leader in still another context – it ranks among the first states in the nation to lead the rush to legalize that “harmless” mind-altering drug, marijuana. Nearly all proponents seem to deny or minimize its risks. Popular culture reinforces this view, portraying use generally as a risk-free endeavor. And big business looking to cash in on legalization is all too happy to propagate this claim. BUT, let’s be clear, marijuana is a “mind-altering” drug. People use if to get “high”, to get “stoned”, or whatever else describes the end result. People don’t use marijuana if there is no such effect. And this effect, in many cases, can be anything but harmless. “In fact, a scientific consensus exists that marijuana has serious health implications — even for casual users.(Ref. 3)

     In 2016, Massachusetts lifted the legal prohibition on pot. As a result, “adults 21 or older will be able to possess and use up to an ounce of marijuana. People can also grow up to a dozen plants per household.”
     “ ‘People can use it with temperance and not abuse it. Just like alcohol, everything is good in moderation,’ supporter Dan Africht told WBZ-TV. (Ref. 4)

     Yeah, right, “use it with temperance and not abuse it. Just like alcohol," LSD and a bunch of other mind-altering substances.

     Two years after marijuana was legalized in the Bay State, the first marijuana stores in Massachusetts opened their doors to a mad rush of eager buyers.

     Potheads and pot advocates open your eyes and see what that other legal recreational drug, alcohol, has been doing to America. The following facts come from 2018 Alcoholism Statistics You Need to Know[5] .

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), more than 80,000 people die from alcohol-related deaths each year in the United States. Alcohol-impaired driving accounts for more than 30 percent of all driving fatalities each year. More than 15 million people struggle with an alcohol use disorder in the United States, but less than eight percent of those receive treatment. Teen alcohol use kills 4,700 people each year. That’s more than all illegal drugs combined. Drunk driving costs the United States $199 billion every year.

     So if alcohol is so destructive, what about that other “harmless” substance – cannabis? To those of you who have bought into the myth that cannabis is medically harmless, listen up! Take the time and the trouble to learn the truth as reported in The case against legalizing marijuana (Ref. 6) and elsewhere !

     From (Ref. 6), here’s what the actual medical research shows - from scientists and not lobbyists, business people who want to sell it, and the political hacks who want to tax it:

  1. The research does not show that marijuana is harmless or OK.
  2. Researchers at the University of Mississippi’s Natural Center for Natural Products Research have found that marijuana available today may be up to five times stronger than the stuff available back in the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s. Comparing “hippie pot” to today’s pot is like comparing beer to a bottle of vodka.
  3. Medical researchers at Columbia University found that drivers who had used marijuana were more than twice as likely to have a car crash.
  4. Researchers at the University of Queensland in Australia, Carleton University in Canada, Boston City Hospital, and the University of Pittsburgh found that children born to mothers who smoke pot are subject to all sorts of additional health risks, ranging from low birth weight, worse academic performance in school, higher risk of depression, and greater behavioral problems in adolescence.
  5. Researchers at Duke University, King’s College, London, and the University of Otago in New Zealand found that long-term cannabis use — notably among those who started as adolescents — leads to long-term and probably permanent decline in mental abilities, including reasoning and memory. MRI scans conducted by researchers in Melbourne, Australia found that prolonged, heavy use of marijuana caused permanent, physical damage to the brain.
  6. Medical researchers in Sweden, Holland and New Zealand found that people who used marijuana for a long time were more likely to suffer medical psychosis or schizophrenia. A recent survey of all the medical literature concluded that regular use of cannabis actually doubled your risk of psychosis.
  7. Researchers at the U.S. National Cancer Institute, the University of Southern California, the New Zealand Department of Public Health, the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, and the University Hospital in Poitiers, France have all found that cannabis dramatically raises the risk of getting cancer, including lung and testicular cancer.
     So you decide: Will you believe the snake-oil salesmen or reputable scientists and researchers?

     As a general rule, we should let people make their own choices — and their own mistakes. BUT, there’s a balance between freedom and common sense. That’s especially true when bad choices and bad health have bad consequences for everyone else — from stoned driving to psychotic neighbors to the costs of treating needless cancer.

     For 50 years, we have been waging a battle to save people’s lives by restricting tobacco use and excessive alcohol consumption. Isn’t it totally irrational and bizarre that we should now add a health hazard that may be even worse?

     I can personally relate to the dangers posed by a “harmless” recreational substance - alcohol. Several years ago, I was very friendly with a co-worker and his family. He had an alcohol problem that eventually developed into full-blown alcoholism. He had been a captain in the U.S. Air Force, but had a medical discharge as a result of losing sight in one eye in a car accident, most likely caused by excessive drinking. I watched as his drinking problem worsened and caused him to lose his job and have his family life fall apart. I spent one Saturday night at the emergency room of a Boston hospital, waiting to find out the result of a 3-story fall down the stairwell of a building because he was drunk. Amazingly - or because he was totally sloshed – he “only” suffered a broken back with no paralysis. I then had the very unpleasant task of having to go and tell his wife and children what had happened. As my friend’s alcohol problem worsened, I got to accompany him to AA meetings and visit him when he was locked up in the alcoholic ward of a 19th century Boston area mental institution. Believe me, there are very serious consequences to the improper use of “harmless recreational drugs” such as alcohol – or marijuana - and not just to the drug abuser!

     Ah, but the use of marijuana will be different. It won’t be abused. There will be no harmful effects. Hunger will end. Global warming will cease. There will be no more war on earth and the lion will lay down with lamb! Halleluyah!!!

     Marijuana advocates have been pushing their agenda to legalize pot for decades now, in spite of common sense, in spite of previous experience with the negative effects of the mind-altering weed and in spite of the ever-mounting evidence of the harmful consequences of its use. In 2017, Colorado, which had legalized the recreational use of marijuana reported: “The number of drivers involved in fatal crashes in Colorado who tested positive for marijuana has risen sharply each year since 2013, more than doubling in that time, federal and state data show. A Denver Post analysis of the data and coroner reports provides the most comprehensive look yet into whether roads in the state have become more dangerous since the drug’s legalization.
     "Increasingly potent levels of marijuana were found in positive-testing drivers who died in crashes in Front Range counties, according to coroner data since 2013 compiled by The Denver Post. . .
      - - -
     “The trends coincide with the legalization of recreational marijuana in Colorado that began with adult use in late 2012, followed by sales in 2014. . .
      - - -
     “Marijuana is figuring into more fatal crashes overall. In 2013, drivers tested positive for the drug in about 10 percent of all fatal crashes. By 2016, it was 20 percent. [Emphasis mine]
    - - -
     {As in other states that have rushed to legalize pot,} Colorado has chosen not to measure the outcomes of legalized marijuana, paying more attention to the commercialization. . . People have referenced this as the grand experiment, . . . and the only outcome they measure is the tax revenue, and that’s shameful and a disgrace.
      - - -
     “Unlike alcohol, which offers decades of scientific research and traffic data toward an understanding of its impact on a person’s ability to drive, marijuana’s effect is still a mystery. No one’s really sure how it impacts the cognitive functions necessary to drive a car safely, or how much is too much for different people. [Emphasis mine]
     “The trends in {Colorado} appear nearly identical in Washington state, where recreational marijuana was legalized at about the same time. . . [Emphasis mine]
     “What Washingtonians have been seeing is starting to be revealed here: ‘Drug-impaired driving is now eclipsing alcohol, and that’s frustrating,’ said {the} director of Washington’s Traffic Safety Commission . . .” (Ref. 7)

     This year, the most recent report about the increasingly harmful effects of marijuana on Colorado’s highways was published. “Car crashes were up as much as 6 percent in states where the recreational use of marijuana has been legalized, said two studies. [Emphasis mine}
     “According to research from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the Highway Loss Data Institute, the frequency of collision claims filed to insurers were higher in four states where marijuana is legal: Colorado, Nevada, Oregon and Washington.
     “The studies were presented Thursday {18 October 2018} at the Combating Alcohol- and Drug-Impaired Driving summit.
     “The Highway Loss Data Institute study focused on collision claims between 2012 and October 2017, and compared against four control states where marijuana remains illegal: Idaho, Montana, Utah and Wyoming.
     “A separate study conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety focused on police-reported crashes before and after retail marijuana was allowed found Colorado, Oregon and Washington saw a 5.2 percent increase in the rate of crashes per million vehicle registrations, compared with neighboring states.” (Ref. 8) Despite the difficulty of isolating the specific effects of marijuana impairment on crash risk, the evidence is growing that legalizing its use increases crashes. Clearly, the recreational use of marijuana is having negative and fatal consequences on Colorado’s highways.

     Unfortunately, too many people have long refused to accept the truth about marijuana. Plain and simple, marijuana is a mind-altering drug. Altering the human brain is dangerous. Those who say otherwise are stupid, dishonest, callous, or all of these. Marijuana advocates should be honest enough to admit it is likely harmful to the user and to society. Let them admit that they favor marijuana legalization because, (a) they are users themselves, (b) they want the money being made on marijuana to go into the public coffers, (c) they don’t give a damn about the harm it causes, and/or (d) they don’t have the common sense to understand that getting ”high” or “stoned” means having one’s brain funtion affected.

     Back in 2012, the administrator of the Federal Government’s Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) stated the obvious to all but the mentally impaired when she said that there is no difference between the health effects of marijuana and those of any other illegal drug. “ ‘All illegal drugs are bad for people,’ she told Congress in 2012, refusing to say whether crack, methamphetamines or prescription painkillers are more addictive or physically harmful than marijuana.
      - - -
     “. . . the potency of {then current types of marijuana could} produce a serious dependency, and constant use would interfere with job and school performance. {by 2018, available marijuana had become still more potent.}
     “. . . the damage caused by alcohol and tobacco is higher because they are legally available; if marijuana were legally and easily obtainable, . . . the number of people suffering harm would rise.
      - - -
     “{While} marijuana isn’t addictive in the same sense as heroin, from which withdrawal is an agonizing, physical ordeal, . . . it can interact with pleasure centers in the brain and can create a strong sense of psychological dependence that addiction experts say can be very difficult to break. . .
     “The American Society of Addiction Medicine . . . issued a white paper in 2012 opposing legalization because ‘marijuana is not a safe and harmless substance’ and marijuana addiction ‘is a significant health problem.’
    - - -
     “{Marijuana is brain altering!} . . . The brain undergoes active development until about age 21, and there is evidence that young people are more vulnerable to the adverse effects of marijuana.
     “A long-term study based in New Zealand, published in 2012, found that people who began smoking heavily in their teens and continued into adulthood lost an average of eight I.Q. points by age 38 that could not be fully restored. A Canadian study published in 002 also found an I.Q. loss among heavy school-age users who smoked at least five joints a week.
     “. . . {A} review by experts at the National Institute on Drug Abuse concluded that adults who smoked heavily in adolescence had impaired neural connections that interfered with the functioning of their brains. Early and frequent marijuana use has also been associated with poor grades, apathy and dropping out of school . . .
     “. . . Colorado merchants are selling THC, {marijuana’s) active ingredient, in candy bars, cookies and other edible forms . . . Experience in Colorado has shown that people can quickly ingest large amounts of THC that way, which can produce frightening hallucinations.
     “Although marijuana use had been declining among high school students for more than a decade, in recent years it has started to climb. . . Marijuana was found -- alone or in combination with other drugs -- in more than 455,000 patients visiting emergency rooms in 2011. Nearly 70 percent of the teenagers in residential substance-abuse programs run by Phoenix House, which operates drug and alcohol treatment centers in 10 states, listed marijuana as their primary problem.” (Ref. 9) So, is marijuana really harmless?

     The argument is made by some, that because alcohol is more harmful that marijuana and alcohol is legal, then so marijuana use should be legal. According to these marijuana legalization proponents, because we have one mind-altering drug that is responsible for alcoholism, (alcohol addiction), crime, family breakdown, absenteeism, traffic injuries and deaths, violence, etc., we should add to these problems by making a different mind-altering substance legally available. We as a society are stuck with the problems of alcohol. Do we want to add to our problems? Do we really want to make another segment of our society legal drug users and abusers?

     These pot advocates argue that we don’t prohibit people who use alcohol responsibly from having legal access to it , so why should we deny responsible marijuana users the right to imbibe in weed? What these people won’t say is that there are far too many people who don’t use alcohol responsibly and the resultant societal cost is incalculable. If they used their common sense, they would have to admit that the same result will occur as marijuana is legalized and the stigma associated with its use is removed. We’re stuck with the problems created by the improper use of alcohol. We don’t need to add to our woes!

     Another argument against cannabis legalization – backed by actual data, rather than hearsay and opinion - has to do with making it readily available. “. . . fully allowing recreational marijuana use would make pot far too accessible and, as a result, expand its use and misuse.
     “The major concern is that letting for-profit businesses — ‘Big Marijuana’ — market and sell cannabis may lead them to market aggressively to heavy pot users, who may have a drug problem. This is similar to what’s happened in the alcohol and tobacco industries, where companies make much of their profits from users with serious addiction issues. Among alcohol users, for instance, the top 10 percent of users consume, on average, more than 10 drinks each day.
     “Marijuana users exhibit similar patterns. In Colorado, one study of the state’s legal pot market, conducted by the Marijuana Policy Group for the state’s Department of Revenue, found the top 29.9 percent heaviest pot users in Colorado made up 87.1 percent of demand for the drug. For the marijuana industry, that makes the heaviest users the most lucrative customers.” (Ref. 10)

     There are some who claim – with no validation whatsoever - that marijuana should be legalized in order to stop criminals from profiting from the cultivation, transportation, and sale of the drug. They posit that making pot legally available will put these criminals out of business. If only life were so simple! Here in Massachusetts, “an eighth of an ounce of weed . . . {would} start out around $60 to $70 — compared to an average of around $50 on the black market . . . sales will also be subject to a combined tax by the state and local governments of up to 20 percent.” (Ref. 11) This means that the total cost of an eighth of ounce of legal marijuana would be around $80, compared to $50 for illegal weed. Even the simple-minded among us understand that basic economics dictate that such a price discrepancy will not end the illegal trade in cannabis! Yes, the price for legal marijuana will likely come down. But, illegal cannabis will never have to bear the costs of mandated quality control, government regulation, and taxation that legal marijuana does. Marijuana legalization will not eliminate the underground market for marijuana. The well-established illegal drug trade has every incentive to remain. Criminals can always make money off of weed and there will always be a market for illegal cannabis!

     While some argue that legalization would eliminate criminal problems, that the state would collect its sales tax, and that marijuana users would be happy, the reality is that, “as with alcohol, the use of marijuana will create costs in excess of the sales tax revenue. It has been predicted that costs associated with treatment, injuries, loss of work, and damage to property are likely to run millions more than the income gained through taxation.” (Ref. 12)

     Today, society receives about $1 in alcohol and tobacco tax revenue for every $10 lost on the social costs of those two legal drugs. [13] Increased drug use - such as the increased use of marijuana - means increased costs to all of us - and not just in dollars and cents.

     America has problems with alcohol abuse. It has a worsening problem with hard drugs that have led to an epidemic of drug overdose deaths. And, we still have too many illnesses and deaths resulting from the use of tobacco. We don’t need to add an army of stoned potheads to this list of problems!

POSTSCRIPT (Without comment)

22 November 2018:The first day of recreational marijuana sales {in Massachusetts} raked in more than $400,000 for the two businesses that were first to get the green light.(Ref. 14)

29 November 2018:Five 12-year-old children . . . were taken to a local hospital Thursday {28 November 2018} after ingesting what . . . school officials described as a 100 mg ‘block’ of gummy candy laced with tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, the active ingredient in marijuana. A sixth child was taken to the hospital by her mother. She was also 12. . . 'We believe a student brought some candy to school and the candy contained THC . . . It was consumed by a number of other students that began feeling the effects from that’ . . . A 12-year-old seventh grader shared the gummy candy with six classmates during second-period gym, including four girls and two boys. The child who provided the edibles did not eat any himself.(Ref. 15)

  1. pot head, Urban Dictionary, Accessed 28 November 2018.
  2. Leary Says He'll Stop LSD Use, Warns of 'New Race of Mutants', The Harvard Crimson, 23 April 1966.
  3. The case against marijuana legalization, Richard Berman, The Washington Times, 1 August 2016.
  4. Marijuana Legalized In Massachusetts: What Happens Next, Lana Jones, 4 WNZ CBS Boston, 9 November 2016.
  5. 2018 Alcoholism Statistics You Need to Know, Patti Richards, Talbott Recovery, Accessed 28 November 2018.
  6. Opinion: The case against legalizing marijuana, Brett Arends, MarketWatch, 7 November 2016.
  7. Exclusive: Traffic fatalities linked to marijuana are up sharply in Colorado. Is legalization to blame?,
    David Migoya, The Denver Post, 25 August 2017.
  8. States with legal marijuana see rise in car crashes, studies find, Brett Molina, USA Today, 19 October 2018.
  9. What Science Says About Marijuana, Philip M. Boffey, The New York Tims, 30 July 2014.
  10. The case against marijuana legalization, German Lopez, Vox, 14 November 2018.
  11. How expensive will legal marijuana be in Massachusetts when retail stores open?,
    Nik DeCosta-Klipa, boston.com, 14 May 2018.
  12. 1A Pharmacist Makes the Case Against Legalizing Marijuana, Robert L. Mabee, RPh, JD, MBA, Drug Topics,
    13 March 2018.
  13. Marijuana: A case against legalization, James A. Baker, Baker Institute Blog, 25 September 2012.
  14. First day of recreational marijuana sales in Massachusetts rakes in more than $400,000, Drew Karedes,
    Boston 25 News, 22 November 2018.
  15. 5 Children Taken To Hospital After Eating THC Candy, Paul Scicchitano, patch.com, 29 November 2018.

  6 December 2018 {Article 343; Suggestions?_15}    
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