The Office of National Drug Control Policy released an email invitation this past Friday for the first White House Drug Policy Reform Conference in history. The email contained a graphic with a quote from U.S. Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske that read, Drug policy reform should be rooted in NEUROSCIENCE – NOT POLITICAL SCIENCE. Now, MPP is asking the office to explain the meaning behind their contradictory statement, since actual neuroscience has shown that marijuana harms the human brain far less than alcohol does.
For example, in 2005, Researchers at Harvard University reported in the American Journal on Addictions that marijuana use was not associated with structural changes within the brain.
When compared to control subjects, [marijuana] smokers displayed no significant adjusted differences in volumes of gray matter, white matter, cerebrospinal fluid, or left and right hippocampus. ... These findings are consistent with recent literature suggesting that cannabis use is not associated with structural changes within the brain as a whole or the hippocampus in particular.
Furthermore, according to a 2004 report from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism:
Heavy drinking may have extensive and far–reaching effects on the brain, ranging from simple ‘slips’ in memory to permanent and debilitating conditions that require lifetime custodial care.
Studies that compare the effects of marijuana and alcohol side by side also find that alcohol is more damaging than marijuana. A 2009 study published in the journal Clinical EEG and Neuroscience found:
Abnormalities have been seen in brain structure volume, white matter quality, and activation to cognitive tasks, even in youth with as little as 1–2 years of heavy drinking and consumption levels of 20 drinks per month, especially if >4–5 drinks are consumed on a single occasion. Heavy marijuana users show some subtle anomalies too, but generally not the same degree of divergence from demographically similar non-using adolescents.
Mason Tvert, MPP’s Communications Director and coauthor of Marijuana is Safer: So why are we driving people to drink? outlines the Drug Czar’s hypocrisy:
Every objective study on marijuana has concluded that it poses far less harm to the brain than alcohol, The ONDCP has long championed laws that steer adults toward using alcohol and away from making the safer choice to use marijuana. If the drug czar is truly committed to prioritizing neuroscience over political science, he should support efforts to make marijuana a legal alternative to alcohol for adults.
To read more about scientific studies of marijuana and its effects on the human body, visit our Science, Studies, and Research page.
For Father’s Day, the Marijuana Policy Project created a video called “Dear Dad” in which a young man talks to his father about his preferences after a long day’s work. He explains how they're a lot alike -- they both work hard and have good jobs -- but at the end of a long day he prefers to use marijuana instead of having a drink.
It is these types of conversations that are going to build the support needed to end marijuana prohibition. This video is an opportunity to show your dad, granddad, or any loved one that enjoying marijuana can be a relaxing activity much like having a glass of alcohol. It is a way to bridge the gap between generations and their understanding of marijuana and its objectively safer effects.
You can also find MPP’s "Dear Mom" video that addresses the same issue between a daughter and her mother. Send these videos to those you love to let them know you’re ready to talk about the choices you want to make.
April is Alcohol Awareness Month, which in Portland means it’s time for the annual Spring Beer & Wine Fest. Locals may notice something different about this year’s festival: a massive sign reminding onlookers that marijuana is safer than alcohol.
MPP’s latest billboard, located at Southwest 13th and Alder Streets, features a glass of beer, a glass of wine, and a marijuana leaf below the words "Beer," "Wine," and "Safer."
"Our goal is to make this year's beer and wine festivals as educational as they are enjoyable," said Roy Kaufmann, MPP’s Oregon representative. "We know Oregonians are proud of our craft beer, wine, and spirits, but the objective fact remains that marijuana is less toxic and less addictive than alcohol, and it is far less likely to contribute to violent and reckless behavior.”
On September 7, a major new front opened up in the campaign for Proposition 19, the ballot measure to tax and regulate marijuana in California. On that day, the California Beer and Beverage Distributors made a $10,000 contribution to a committee opposing Proposition 19.
In response, MPP issued the following statement by Steve Fox, director of government relations for the MPP and co-author of Marijuana is Safer: So why are we driving people to drink?:
“Unless the beer distributors in California have suddenly developed a philosophical opposition to the use of intoxicating substances, the motivation behind this contribution is clear,” Fox said. “Plain and simple, the alcohol industry is trying to kill the competition. They know that marijuana is less addictive, less toxic and less likely to be associated with violent behavior than alcohol. So they don’t want adults to have the option of using marijuana legally instead of alcohol. Their mission is to drive people to drink.”
The alcohol industry is now working hand-in-hand with the law enforcement community to keep marijuana illegal. For example, the California Police Chiefs Association has given at least $30,000 to the “No on Proposition 19” campaign, while the California Narcotics Officers’ Association has chipped in $20,500 of its own. This partnership underscores the hypocrisy among law enforcement officials opposed to Prop. 19.
“Members of law enforcement have argued against Proposition 19 by asserting, ‘We have enough problems with alcohol, we don’t need to add another intoxicating substance to the mix,’ implying that marijuana is just as bad as alcohol,” Fox continued. “But the truth is that a legal marijuana market would not add another dangerous intoxicant to the mix; rather it would provide adults with a less harmful legal alternative to alcohol.”
“In their campaign to defeat Proposition 19, members of law enforcement and the alcohol industry have joined together under an umbrella group calling themselves ‘Public Safety First.’ Sadly, by fighting to keep marijuana illegal and steering adults toward alcohol instead, they are putting public safety last,” said Fox.
For all of us who have always hoped to see a mainstream politician have the courage to unabashedly call for an end to marijuana prohibition, our days of waiting seem to be over.
Last night on The Colbert Report, former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson – who is widely considered to be a likely candidate for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination — dedicated the entirety of his appearance to explaining why prohibition is a waste and new policies are needed.
“I think that marijuana should be legalized,” Johnson began. “I think 90 percent of the drug problem today is prohibition related.” And it just got better from there.
Watch the clip below, and you won’t be disappointed:
|The Colbert Report||Mon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c|
In January, Johnson was a featured speaker at MPP’s 15th anniversary gala in Washington, D.C.
For anyone who hasn’t yet read “Marijuana is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People to Drink?” tomorrow is your chance.
In recognition of 4/20, Chelsea Green Publishing will be offering free downloads of this important book, which examines the relative harms of marijuana and alcohol and asks why our nation’s laws seek to punish people who make the sensible choice to use the less harmful substance: marijuana. April also happens to be National Alcohol Awareness Month.
“Marijuana is Safer” is co-authored by MPP’s Steve Fox, Paul Armentano of NORML, and Mason Tvert of SAFER. The book will be available for free download on www.scribd.com April 20 from 12 a.m. to April 21, 12 a.m. EST.
MPP director of state campaigns Steve Fox will be interviewed on Fox News’s “The O’Reilly Factor” tonight about the recent offer that an MPP-backed Nevada group made to former Alaska governor Sarah Palin.
Following Palin’s speech in Las Vegas this week to the national convention of Wine & Spirits Wholesalers, Nevadans for Sensible Marijuana Laws offered the possible 2012 G.O.P. presidential contender $25,000 to make a similar speech to supporters of a regulated marijuana market. “Such a speech would convey a simple message,” Steve wrote this week on Alternet. “If we can defend and even celebrate the individual freedom to use alcohol, we should certainly allow individuals the freedom to use marijuana, a substance objectively less harmful than alcohol.”
Steve will discuss the offer, as well as the relative harms of marijuana and alcohol, with guest host Laura Ingraham at 8 p.m. ET tonight. Keep in mind that TV schedules are often subject to last-minute changes if there’s breaking news.
Talk about seeing the error of his ways.
John J. Dilulio, Jr., the man who once co-authored a book with two former drug czars that described America’s drug war as “the most successful attack on a serious social problem in the last quarter-century,” has now reversed course, writing in the journal Democracy that it is “insane” to “expend scarce federal, state, and local law enforcement resources waging ‘war’ against [marijuana] users.”
Specifically, Dilulio, who served for eight months in 2001 as director of President George W. Bush’s White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, listed making medical marijuana legal as one of “six steps to zero prison growth,” along with removing all federal mandatory-minimum drug sentencing policies. He also said the United States should “seriously consider decriminalizing [marijuana] altogether” because marijuana arrests have “close to zero” effect on crime rates and there is “almost no scientific evidence” showing marijuana to be more harmful than alcohol or legal narcotics.
This is coming from the same guy who in 1996 co-authored a (now out-of-print) book that was subtitled “How to Win America’s War Against Crime and Drugs,” with former directors of the Office of National Control Policy Bill Bennett and John Walters.
I would love to know what got Dilulio to change his views of drug policy—and how we could make other former prohibitionists see the light as well.
Here is the complete excerpt of Dilulio’s article that discusses marijuana policy:
“Sixth, legalize marijuana for medically prescribed uses, and seriously consider decriminalizing it altogether. Last year there were more than 800,000 marijuana-related arrests. The impact of these arrests on crime rates was likely close to zero. There is almost no scientific evidence showing that pot is more harmful to its users’ health, more of a "gateway drug," or more crime-causing in its effects than alcohol or other legal narcotic or mind-altering substances. Our post-2000 legal drug culture has untold millions of Americans, from the very young to the very old, consuming drugs in unprecedented and untested combinations and quantities. Prime-time commercial television is now a virtual medicine cabinet ("just ask your doctor if this drug is right for you"). Big pharmaceutical companies function as all-purpose drug pushers. And yet we expend scarce federal, state, and local law enforcement resources waging "war" against pot users. That is insane.”