A study released by the American Medical Association is getting a whole lot of attention this week, as it rightly should. This study, which shows that people who smoke marijuana exhibit little to no harmful pulmonary effects from their use, pokes a gigantic, gaping hole in one of the most often-employed attacks against marijuana reform.
According to the 20-year study, those who used marijuana occasionally (2-3 times a month) did not show any decrease in lung functioning and, in some cases, actually showed improvements. This is in glaring contrast to cigarette smokers, who displayed significantly less breathing ability at the end of the study. Even some heavy marijuana users showed no decrease in function.
Of course, this is antithetical to what prohibitionists and scaremongers have been claiming about marijuana for decades. One of the most commonly used arguments against marijuana reform is that it is too dangerous to be used as a medicine because of the lung damage caused by smoking (even though many patients prefer vaporizing or eating their medicine). By this logic, making marijuana legal for recreational use is out of the question because of the threat to public health and the associated costs that would be incurred.
The American Medical Association just invalidated that argument. This is the latest in what appears to be a trend of science exposing the lies in the major prohibitionist talking points.
Take teen use, for example. The drug czar has repeatedly tried to blame medical marijuana and reformers on the increase in teen marijuana use, saying that it “sends the wrong message” to young people. By looking at the available data for medical marijuana states, however, MPP was able to show that in most of those states, teen use actually decreased after the implementation of medical marijuana laws. It appears that the message reformers are sending teens is that marijuana is not as glamorous when being used by a cancer patient. That is quite a bit better than the message being sent by the government, which is that teens cannot handle hearing legitimate policy debates and that it is worth lying to them and arresting them to stop others from using marijuana in the future (a tactic we can see has failed by comparing our continuously high arrest rates with the increasing rate of teen and adult use).
Another point, brought up most often by law enforcement, is that if more people are using marijuana, the roads will become more dangerous. They conjure images of stoned drivers and bloodstained pavement and complain about lack of effective tools by which to judge marijuana impairment. This argument was similarly refuted by a recent study that showed traffic fatalities also decreased in states that allowed the medical use of marijuana. Apparently, access to marijuana leads to a drop in alcohol sales, particularly among people who may self-medicate with alcohol for painful conditions. This, combined with the fact that driving while under the influence of marijuana is far safer (yet still potentially dangerous; no one should drive impaired on any substance), leads to a marked decrease in fatal car accidents.
(As a side note, there is a time-tested and proven way of determining impairment caused by any substance or condition. It is called Standardized Field Sobriety Testing and has been in use since there have been cars on the roads. In recent years, this tool has become much more accurate through research and increased training protocols.)
The vast majority of arguments against reform tend to be based on emotion. They have little to do with facts. As more and more research becomes available that disproves the propaganda, hopefully more people will see through the smokescreen of lies and fear. When they do, our nation will make great strides toward enacting rational marijuana policies.