Bummer Weed

Over at Slate, William Saletan points to a new pharmaceutical take on medicinal marijuana that allegedly provides all its medicinal value (relieving pain and spasms, etc) without the not-so-medicinal values (totally getting you high). The makers of the product suggest that their un-stoned version of the stuff — called “Sativex” —  is better for medicinal purposes, since among other things it takes the therapeutic parts of pot and provides it in standardized and measured form, taking the guesswork out of, say, how potent your weed is, and also eliminating what is in fact a really bad method of drug delivery (i.e., smoking).

I make no claim toward the effectiveness of this “Sativex” as regards its medicinal qualities, but assuming that in fact it does give all the therapeutic value of medicial pot without the actual fun of getting high, it does put an interesting inflection point in the drive to legalize marijuana use. To put it bluntly (heh), I’ve always thought a fair number of people who yammer on about legalizing pot wrap themselves in the relative piety of its medicinal qualities to mask the fact that the reason they want pot to be legal is simply so they can get stoned without hassle. If you ask them if they would support legalizing pot only for its medical uses they might say yes, on the grounds they could always fake a backache, but I wonder if you then said “fine” and then presented them with this non-fun version if they would change their minds. Myself, I would just like to see the expression on their dazed, eyeballs-not-quite-tracking faces.

Before you stoners get outraged enough to hoist yourself unsteadily off the couch to come at me, please to read my actual position on legalizing marijuana, which is, sure, why not. But I don’t really drag the medicinal aspect into it, because I don’t really think that’s why most people really want legalization. And I for one think that if you are going to use the stuff medicinally, getting it in a form where its medicinal qualities are maximized (and the side-effects, pleasant as they might be, minimized) is the way to go. Which is to say I hope this Sativex stuff will work as advertised, whether it bums out potheads or not.

66 Comments on “Bummer Weed”

  1. Altho, as I understand it you’d still be able to get high on drugs like Sativex, since the active ingredient is still THC. The only difference is you’d have to do so by deliberately exceeding the required dose. Which I guess people do with other prescription medication anyway…

  2. Nicely articulated. I agree. I don’t feel all that strongly about legalized pot one way or the other (although I might feel differently if my sons decide to light up), but we have a tremendous amount of QC/QA and FDA controls and recommendations about dosage and side effects and contraindications for drugs in this country–and the public in general is demanding a 100% safe drug, which probably doesn’t exist–so the argument that growing your own grass, rolling it, then smoking whatever amount makes you feel better under totally uncontrolled circumstances doesn’t make a lot of sense.

  3. What Jay said. What the Sativex people are saying is that you can avoid a dosage that will lead to ‘fun’ side effects.. which I assume means that if you want to you can easily use it to get high by upping the dosage.

  4. I too think that pot should be legalized, but I agree that the issue is very different from the issue of medical marijuana. Furthermore I have never had a condition where medical marijuana would have been useful, so my limited use has been recreational.

    On the medical aspect however, I feel that the best part of taking medication is the fact that I can get high from some of it. As far as I am concerned that is a feature, not a bug of some medications.

    Not everyone feels that way. I represent mostly clients with disabilities and they have to deal with the issues of constantly taking various medications that make them high. Not everyone wants that, and some won’t take medications that can help them because “they don’t want to do drugs”.

    So for me, I would prefer to take pot medicinally; I can really see how others would prefer Sativex.


  5. I think Coke Zero should be outlawed. I think there’s some video proof of karaoke on Coke Zero to be entered in as exhibit A.

  6. THC should just be legal period. Both the fun version and especially the straight up medical version.

  7. Reminds me of another situation.. in the days of the Playstation game console, you could install a modification chip that would allow you to A) play imported games, and B) play “pirated” games. (Discussion of the appropriateness of using a word that means “rape, murder, and pillage on the high seas” for referring to copyright infringement is left for another time.) Obviously everyone claimed they wanted to do A, while really using it for B. There are stories from a game store owner who offered to install mod chips, but had obtained a different type of chip that only allowed A and not B. (Since obviously installing chips that allowed B would be actively sabotaging his market.) People would come in and ask for the mod chip, saying they wanted A, he would install it for them, and then the customer got pissed when he realized it really did only provide A and not B.

    Actually this comes up re: copyright infringement a lot. Similar arguments come up about various peer-to-peer systems. “Oh, I want to use Bittorrent to download Linux distros,” or whatever, when everyone knows you’re just pulling down “pirated” movies.

  8. Okay, it helps control spasms and other tremors, but does it give you the munchies (actually an important side-effect for cancer and AIDS patients)?

    And this is mostly about a way to both regulate, trademark, and put an intellectual property stamp on the drug. You know, instead of everybody being able to grow their own relatively cheaply, we know can make them buy “ours” instead. Something the pharmaceutical industry has been trying to do to many of the herbals. I wonder what will happen to the argument that “cannabis has no medicinal properties” when they actually try to sell this?

  9. Well, there has been Marinol for years, a medicalized, pill form of marijuana. It has mixed results, though. Some folks do get all the bennies of pot without the side effects, and others got the side effects (fun!) without a lot of the medicinal effects.

    That said, in my work in health care, I’ve known a load of patients that have used marinol and had it be very beneficial to them. Patients with chronic pain and cancer/chemo side effects have used it effectively. Although many people still say the quick effects of inhaled (read: bong) pot are much better than marinol. I’ve also heard that it hasn’t been as effective for glaucoma, either. Hell, even my MIL was on Marinol for a while, but I don’t think she knew it was what it was. It was funny when we told her, she denied it outright, like taking it is any worse than taking a narcotic. I mostly did not notice any “effects” that were any worse than those with chronic issues taking something like Oxycontin or Dilaudid.

  10. Steve Buchheit @9:

    Maybe I’m feeling overly cynical today, but I have to agree with you on this one (regarding the pharmaceutical industry).

  11. I’m a Californian with several friends who have a prescription for marijuana (aka a “green card”). Of all of them, I’d say two legitimately need a prescription for marijuana for a legitimate ailment that is best treated with marijuana, as opposed to other treatments. The rest are habitual and/or recreational pot smokers who just want to lessen their chances of facing legal consequences for their addiction and/or hobby, and found a medical excuse for it. (And for those thinking “you can’t get addicted to pot!” I’m here to tell you that you absolutely can, and I have many friends and relatives who are…although I think it takes a pretty extended period — I’d say several years — of very consistent use to really get hooked, and your standard recreational college kid use isn’t going to result in addiction, at least not in a normal person).

    Personally, I have no issue with either justification for getting a prescription, whether legitimate or not, because I think the ends justify the means — that is to say, marijuana obviously ought to be legal anyhow, and so obtaining a prescription to make it individually legal for you is perfectly fine with me, whether or not you truly need such a prescription. I would also say that even if you don’t like the rampant abuse of the medicinal marijuana laws, it would be absolutely cruel and ridiculous to end medicinal marijuana in light of the (I will estimate) 5% or so of medicinal marijuana users who really do need it for a real medical purpose. So, I would say that I support medical marijuana laws, both for real reasons (there are people who legitimately need it, and there is no good reason to deny it to them) and pretend reasons (it’s a stepping stone toward outright legalization, which is, in my opinion, the right policy).

    Regarding “Sativex” (aka “boring weed”), my understanding is that there has long been something similar to this on the market called “Marinol,” which is essentially synthetic marijuana in pill form that greatly lessens the high, but also lessens the effectiveness. Friends of mine who legitimately need marijuana for real medical purposes liken Marinol to taking an asprin when what you need is morphine. So, I suppose this is why Marinol has never been thought to be a real alternative to medicinal marijuana.

    If “Sativex” is as advertised, it certainly could rain on the parade of those who use medicinal marijuana as a subtext for legalization. If it is truly equally effective, but less fun, then that would undoubtedly throw a monkey wrench in the agenda.

    Something that should be noted — those who I know who legitimately need marijuana are undoubtedly addicts at this point, apart from their medical needs…and I suspect that even if their marijuana were replaced with “Sativex” they would continue smoking marijuana, legally or otherwise.

    Another problem I see with “Sativex” is the expense associated with cultivating it. Given the high costs of medical care it seems a bit silly to me to tell people that, while they are perfectly capable of producing their own effective and safe drug (aside from the carcinogenic effects, marijuana is, in fact, perfectly safe, even in large doses, so long as you don’t attempt to drive or operate heavy machinery), they instead have to buy it from a company that uses an expensive process to ensure that your treatment plan isn’t enjoyable.

    Still, assuming “Sativex” really is effective for the same purposes as garden variety weed, it is hard to argue that this is not a reasonable compromise between those who need marijuana for legitimate medicinal purposes, and those who want to keep its use controlled and boring. However, if this “Sativex” stuff becomes more widely used and replaces the real deal as the standard marijuana-based medical treatment, it might have the benefit of forcing marijuana legalization advocates of being more intellectually honest — that is to say, it would force them to stop disguising their views as being based on “medical need” and start talking in real terms about the very real and very sensible reasons why using marijuana should not be a criminal offense in the first place.

  12. I didn’t realize there were that many people who actually used the medicinal arguement to justify full legalization. Sure, most of the ones who get on the news do, but that’s more likely because the media gets a kick out of showing little old ladies getting high smoking joints…

  13. Actually, to Kevin R @ 8 :

    “For electronic and audio-visual media, unauthorized reproduction and distribution is occasionally referred to as piracy (an early reference was made by Daniel Defoe in 1703 when he said of his novel True-born Englishman : “Its being Printed again and again, by Pyrates”[2]). The practice of labeling the act of infringement as “piracy” actually predates copyright itself. Even prior to the 1709 enactment of the Statute of Anne, generally recognized as the first copyright law, the Stationers’ Company of London in 1557 received a Royal Charter giving the company a monopoly on publication and tasking it with enforcing the charter. Those who violated the charter were labeled pirates as early as 1603.[3]”

    From Wikipedia

  14. Here in Canada the argument is usually framed as “not legalize, just decriminalize.” ie, minor drug-related infringements don’t go on your permanent record. That way a teenager caught with a joint doesn’t summarily end his chances of becoming a police officer or prime minister or some other equally important position later in life. Of course that’s just a hopskipnjump to all-out legalization, but… baby steps.

    “Before you stoners get outraged enough to hoist yourself unsteadily off the couch to come at me…” That made me lol.

  15. It’s definitely an interesting point. That said, it wouldn’t address what I believe to be three of the main benefits of legalization – tax revenue, knowing your dealer isn’t funneling money into a gang, and getting all those stupid kids out of jail.

    “…outraged enough to hoist yourself unsteadily off the couch to come at me…” almost made me snort latte out my nose, by the way.

  16. What Steve @ 9 said. If Sativex is cheaper and as effective than hash brownies then maybe you’ve got half an argument here.

    Personally, I think condemning sick people to live (or die) in pain to avoid the horrible possibility that someone somewhere might be having fun is at least as worthy of mockery as the pothead on your mind’s couch.

  17. I have a rare neurological syndrome. There is some evidence marijuana can help with the crushing pain of the high cranial pressure spikes when they occur. But I won’t smoke it. Not interested in illegal drugs. Not interested in smoking something. I am lucky in that my pain is fairly manageable most days so I don’t need pain medication. I just deal with it. But most are not so lucky and need narcotics to be able to be able to have any small standard of life.

    If this pill were available for people who live in crushing pain constantly, that would be fantastic. Expense? Heck, the drug I take to keep my brain from killing me costs almost $800 a month. $400 for the generic. How much could a weed pill cost?

    It may seem silly to some to have it in pill form when it can just be smoked, but I’m not going to compromise more of my health for pain relief. Why force me to?

  18. The tannins in red wine have claimed medicinal value to one’s cardiovascular system. We just need to get rid of that nasty alcohol component that makes you loopy. No more claiming you drink it just for your health.

    KevinR@8 says: “Oh, I want to use Bittorrent to download Linux distros,” or whatever, when everyone knows you’re just pulling down “pirated” movies.

    Uh, downloading linux distros is actually the only thing I use bittorrent for.

  19. Deron Meranda:

    “The tannins in red wine have claimed medicinal value to one’s cardiovascular system. We just need to get rid of that nasty alcohol component that makes you loopy. No more claiming you drink it just for your health.”

    Inasmuch as I don’t drink at all, I see no problem with this.

  20. Speaking as someone who was in a clinical trial of Sativex, let me confirm that you do not get high on it in regular doses…

    …you get bombed out of your fuckin’ mind.

  21. Politicians set the rules of the game and the rules of the game are political. The folks pushing for legalization on the grounds of the medicinal value of marijuana are just playing the game, so I don’t really begrudge them their tactics. Anything that moves the ball towards decriminalization is a good thing since, well, we have lots and lots of evidence that prohibition not only doesn’t work, but creates wholly new problems.

  22. And I’ll have to somewhat disagree on the red wine thing too. While the tannins are no doubt beneficial, that doesn’t mean they’re the only beneficial part of red wine. In a high stress world–for some of us anyway–the relaxing (read: depressant) quality of alcohol can have its own benefit.

    I’m not recommending getting smashed for health reasons, but a glass of red wine a day doesn’t seem like a particularly terrible idea.

  23. WC @ 20 — “If this pill were available for people who live in crushing pain constantly, that would be fantastic. Expense? Heck, the drug I take to keep my brain from killing me costs almost $800 a month. $400 for the generic. How much could a weed pill cost? It may seem silly to some to have it in pill form when it can just be smoked, but I’m not going to compromise more of my health for pain relief. Why force me to?”

    This is a great point, but not quite what I was trying to get at. Sativex may be a great treatment option for those who would benefit from marijuana but, for various reasons, choose not to use it. Maybe people are concerned about the adverse health impacts of marijuana (although, it should be noted that the purported adverse impacts are rather exaggerated in the minds of the general public). Maybe people don’t like the psychological impact — we have been characterizing it as “fun” but some people just don’t like it. And maybe some people don’t want the stigma associated with being a “pot smoker” or are otherwise concerned with the fact that marijuana is technically “illegal” — even in states where medicinal use is legal, it’s still a federal crime to possess and use it. Those are certainly fair and legitimate concerns, and it would be great to have an equally effective drug on the market that does what marijuana does without the “side effects” for people with such concerns.

    My concern is with the suggestion that Sativex may be suggested as a replacement for marijuana for everyone presently using marijuana for medicinal purposes. The problem is that, with medical expenses already far exceeding anything reasonable in America, I worry about a policy that would disable people from producing their own medical treatment at home in favor of forcing them to buy something produced, at significantly greater expense, by a drug company. However, something like Sativex could be a great treatment option for a person like you, who could benefit for marijuana but for your own reasons prefer not to use it.

    BTW, you should know the compromise to your health from smoking marijuana regularly is rather marginal, particularly if you filter it through water. You can also bake it into brownies, banana bread, or whatever, if you are concerned with the impact of inhaling smoke into your lungs. Very few medical treatments are without any compromise to other aspects of your health — tylenol, for example, can be murder on your liver and kidneys if used regularly. So it is likely that whatever treatment you are on now has some sort of side effect that compromises your health in some manner. What the relative risk of your present treatment is compared to marijuana, I don’t know. Nor do I know whether you live in a jurisdiction where medicinal marijuana is legal. Obviously this is all your personal choice, and maybe you have considered all of this, and obviously these are issues that you should discuss (and probably have discussed) with your doctor, not with an anonymous person on a blog. I completely respect your personal choice — I just don’t want people reading your post and unduly worrying about marijuana as a potential treatment for themselves.

  24. #watercolor@20:
    Can’t help that marijuana isn’t an option for you because it’s an illegal drug where you are, but you *don’t* have to smoke it to get the anti-pain/anti-spasmodic, etc., effects. Vaporizers are a great alternative, and there are lots of ways to ingest it: tinctures, raw leaves (allegedly works as an anti-inflammatory), lozenges, and yes, Alice B Toklas brownies.

    “the drug I take to keep my brain from killing me costs almost $800 a month. $400 for the generic. How much could a weed pill cost?”
    It is my sincere hope that you have insurance to help out with this. Many people, however, don’t. Some meds are impossible for low-income people to get. I wouldn’t wish to make it *more* difficult to get low-cost alternatives.

    And, yeah, there are definitely people who use medical marijuana laws purely to get high (or make a buck.) Many of the folks I know, however, want access to pot solely to get the functionality back that health problems took away from them. For those people, getting stoned is a nasty side-effect.

  25. A few points:

    1) I’ve yet to hear a good rational for why weed should be illegal. The “gateway drug” thing is NOT a good reason, it is nonsense. In any free country there should be a logical rational for laws that limit our freedoms. That the burden for proving why something should be legal falls on the citizens is both troubling and counter intuitive. The question is NOT why should weed be legal, the question is why it should be illegal.

    2) If you are worried about the harmful side effects of smoking as an intake method get a vaporizer. The problem with the pill, as I understand it, is that it takes too long to take effect. Not so with a vaporizer. The best bet for the money, imo, is the Vapor Brothers Hands Free Unit. You can buy it online for around $150.

    3) Prohibition didn’t work for alcohol and it doesn’t work for weed. All prohibition does is make criminals of otherwise law abiding citizens and fund up drug cartels.

    4) Several recent studies find it is easier for kids to get weed than it is for them to get alcohol. If your main concern is your children becoming potheads you would be better served by full legalization and regulation than you would be by ciminalization.

    5) Our last three Presidents have admitted to using weed, or at least done the political tool’s version of admitting to it. I’d bet they were not the first American Presidents to use it either, they were probably just the first to cop to it. My point being that marijuana is as mainstream as it can be and regardless of what laws we pass it is not going away.

    6) Enforcement of anti-marijuana laws is as expensive as it is futile. If the governement really wants to throw money at a non-problem might I suggest they throw it my way? I’m sure I could find a use for the billions they are wasting.

    7) Once fully legal we can tax it. Big money baby, big money.

  26. Tom @15: Yeah, I know the use has a long history, I still don’t really like it. ;)

    Deron @21: Well, yes. I’ve only used Bittorrent for a Linux distro and some other large program updates (an MMORPG I used to play used Bittorrent for their bimonthly content updates). And some people really want to play strange Japanese games, and some people really care about marijuana only for medicinal use. I’m just saying it’s obviously the type of argument that is a) strictly accurate, but b) used disingenuously most of the time.

  27. I don’t have a problem with folks who want to occasionally use some chemical or other to relax and/or get silly.

    But I’ve never met a pot-legalization crusader who was one of these. Almost all of them are hardcore users who have a permanent buzz and want that state to be legally sanctioned.

    This is not to say that I’m not in favor of legalization. I am. I’d like to see it legalized, its production regulated to keep out foreign agents and standardize strength and its distribution limited in both quantity and customers (probably by giving adults a photo ID ration card that allows them to buy a certain quantity each month.)

    I just don’t have any sympathy for the jobless burnouts who have made legalization their main crusade, over every other possible type of political activism. No, you baked idjit, I really don’t care about your campaign if you can’t be arsed to also fight against poverty, war and bigotry. Put down the spliff and go march for same-sex marriage or universal health care and maybe I’ll sign your petition then.

  28. I was diagnosed with Hodgkins Disease at the age of 21 while attending college. The course of treatment started with chemotherapy and finished with radiation. The side effects from my first round of chemotherapy were absolutely horrible and really crushed my spirit and ground my optimism away as I fought nausea, headaches, loss of energy and hundreds of smaller maladies.

    The anti-nausea medication that I was prescribed worked, but it also caused my listlessness to increase and generally put me to sleep in much the same way benedryl or similar antihistamines. My goals, other than to survive, where to not miss any more college then I had to and to maintain as much “normality” as I could. After my second round of chemo, I moved back to an apartment at my college, an hour away from home, and started back to class. The first week, and this was summer term with accelerated schedules, almost doomed me.

    I had experimented with marijuana in high school, but when a good friend of mine with whom I had worked until my diagnosis came over after hearing about all the physical problems I was having from chemo. He brought two bags with him; one was marijuana and the other was a bunch of homemade food that all my other co-workers had made for me as a welcome back present.

    From that day forward, I was able to function more normally, eat regularly and without the hanging fear of vomiting, and a lot of the “little things” that had come with the chemo were minimized. I didn’t take another dose of the anti-nauseau medication again.

    There are a lot of people who misuse medical marijuana. There will always be people that abuse anything they can get there hands on. I can honestly say that without marijuana, I would have had a much harder road back and I might not have been able to do things like becoming editor in chief of the college newspaper less than 2 months after finishing radiation or never loosing my hair. It is amazing to say, but attitude has a great bearing on recovery and something as simple as being able to eat can be as important to your outlook as it is to your energy-level.

    Just thought I would share a real life story. And yes, I would have preferred the pill form to the other way if no other reason then to less than risk to myself and my friends when purchasing or ingesting my “meds”. My diagnosis was 17 years ago, so there was no real discussion of Merinol, even though I think it was around even then.

  29. John, I have a different viewpoint on this. Having been rather immersed in the cancer community in recent years, and having known people suffering *horribly* from the disease, I can tell you that the medical marijuana movement is definitely about palliative care and not about getting stoned. I know people who have used medical marijuana for medicinal purposes who would never in a million years want to get stoned.

    Some points to ponder:

    1. Instead of saying that Sativex has all of the medicinal benefits of marijuana, without the altered mental state, let’s say that Sativex has all of the *money making potential* of marijuana, but in a proprietary, IP-protected form. Hm, now that’s interesting, isn’t it? Because you can’t patent a natural product, but you sure can patent a drug, yessiree.

    2. It’s very possible that the mind-altering properties of pot are an inseparable part of its therapeutic effect in the case of chronic pain and cancer. In fact, I really wonder if Sativex retains the “munchies” property of marijuana, because that is one of the reasons that MJ is good for cancer patients. It helps a lot with the nausea and encourages eating. As well, the risks of marijuana are pretty well characterized, but Sativex is nothing but a brand new drug on the market which may or may not kill some people in its first year out, and may or may not have weird long-term effects.

    3. You can take MJ in non-cigarette form. A lot of people do brownies. It would be trivial to package the stuff in non-cigarette form, without puritanically stripping it of its pleasant side effects.

    4. What is wrong with getting stoned anyway? I am not a user myself, and am not interested in it, but it looks like the science shows that this particular altered state is not dangerous and not particularly addictive. I will note, however, that MJ can increase the risk of psychosis and mental illness in susceptible individuals, so I do NOT recommend it for recreational use. Do. Not. That said, I am not going to get bent out of shape about some people getting stoned. There are much worse recreational highs out there.

    5. And one final soap box comment–the state of pain management in modern medicine is no better today than it was in the year 1000. Our very best medicine for pain is the opium poppy. The pharma industry would like you, instead, to use NSAIDS, aka COX2 inhibitors, which have bad side effects and serious risks such as heart attacks for a minority of users. (And not only VIOXX, which got pulled from the market, but the whole COX2 family.)

    Personally, I want to see people who live with chronic pain get help, and I am not that worried about people possibly abusing those pain medications, as addiction seems like a relatively lesser evil than the terrible suffering I have seen from uncontrolled pain.

  30. “But I’ve never met a pot-legalization crusader who was one of these. Almost all of them are hardcore users who have a permanent buzz and want that state to be legally sanctioned.”

    Hello, nice to meet you.

    Now you have.

  31. Catherine Schaffer:

    “I can tell you that the medical marijuana movement is definitely about palliative care and not about getting stoned.”

    I’m not sure where I said that the medical marijuana movement is exclusively based on people wanting to get stoned, or even that it’s a majority position; I said it was a “fair number” — which is meant to suggest “some, not all.”

  32. I’m a little bothered by the continuing stereotype of people who use pot as wobbly, red-eyed, loopy-headed losers. There are plenty of us who smoke marijuana responsibly (just like we drink alcohol responsibly) who hold down steady jobs, support families, and are perfectly respectable, productive members of the community. There are doctors, lawyers, and teachers who smoke pot. Even Barack Obama, hardly a shiftless, unmotivated type, used to indulge.

  33. ‘I’m not sure where I said that the medical marijuana movement is exclusively based on people wanting to get stoned, or even that it’s a majority position; I said it was a “fair number” — which is meant to suggest “some, not all.”’

    I didn’t say “exclusively” and I didn’t say that you said “exclusively,” so I’m glad we’re clear on that. :-)

  34. One of the problems that the legalization movement has is that MANY of us who would like to see it legalized would lose our jobs if we stood up and said so. This may be hard to believe but there are doctors, lawyers, CPAs (quite a few CPAs, don’t ask me why or how I know, but trust me on this one,) and other professionals that smoke weed. Heck, we are afraid to donate money to NORML and other such organizations because our names might get on a list that ends up on our boss’ desk. Do some of us hide our desire for total legalization behind medical marijuana legalization efforts? Yes, we do, what choice do we have? We like our smoke, but we don’t want to be unemployed.

  35. nisleib@28 —

    “In any free country there should be a logical rational for laws that limit our freedoms. That the burden for proving why something should be legal falls on the citizens is both troubling and counter intuitive.”

    That’s a nice theory, but the reality is vastly different. There are literally hundreds of “blue laws” still on the books. For example, Wikipedia tells me that liquor sales and hunting are both prohibited on Sundays in Connecticut. (When two great things that go together so naturally are prohibited for even one day, you know the State has taken away too much freedom!) Similarly, car sales are prohibited on Sundays in Illinois. (Which may have contributed to our current economic problems. I blame Obama.)

  36. Nick from the O.C. – Good point, many states have the equivilant of “blue laws” and few of those laws make much sense. But, and it is a big but, those laws are State laws and therefore secondary to Federal laws. Furthermore many blue laws are rarely if ever enforced. Since Federal laws supercede State laws they should, in my opinion, be based more on logic and less on whatever the heck most blue laws are based on. (Aren’t most blue laws closely tied to religion?) Many pro-legalization people would be very very happy if the federal government let the states decide their own marijuana laws. Well, I suppose I should say we would be happy if there were no federal marijuana laws. Obama has already, in a little noticed move, sent a memo to the justice department saying they should respect states rights (this is a departure from Dubya who had his justice department raid California medical marijuana clinics), but the next president could be more in Dubya’s mold (anti states rights) and we don’t want to go there.

  37. I can only speak as someone who scored pot for my Mother who was dying of lung cancer and was helped by the brownies we baked for her. If this new drug works for those patients who cannot tolerate toking up, fantastic!

    This new drug may not work the same way for everybody, much like pot doesn’t always get you high. But more options are always preferable to fewer.

  38. Ok, I actually have a medical pot ID, and what I mainly use it for is to buy cannabis tincture that I use to control spasming and help me sleep. No loopiness involved, sorry. (Although I do use the vaporizer on weekends, mainly to help get the office out of my head for awhile.) But I think Steve (#9) nailed it — this is really about putting a logo on something that the pharmaceutical folks aren’t currently able to soak us for.

  39. #27 Isa

    “ ‘the drug I take to keep my brain from killing me costs almost $800 a month. $400 for the generic. How much could a weed pill cost?’
    It is my sincere hope that you have insurance to help out with this. Many people, however, don’t. Some meds are impossible for low-income people to get. I wouldn’t wish to make it *more* difficult to get low-cost alternatives.”

    Yes, I do have insurance. So my monthly drug costs for all the drugs I need are roughly the same as what I pay in rent. And people wonder why I don’t buy a hous or a really nice car….. oy.

    The problem with most heavy pain treatments, is that they alter my mental capacity. If I can’t think, I can’t work. If I can’t work, I don’t have insurance. If I don’t have insurance, I can’t afford the drugs. Can’t afford the drugs, I die.

    I was hopeful this new pill could attack the pain without the side effect of dumbing down the brain like most narcotics do. Sounds like that is not the case which is bone crushingly disappointing.

    See, I can think in great pain. I can still do my job and learn coping skills to ignore that my head feels like it is being crushed by a vise. When I can’t anymore, and we can’t control it with the giant orange pills and periodic lumbar punctures, I’ll have brain surgery. And maybe won’t be able to work. And lose my insurance. And thus it all ends.

    So I *need* companies to research these plants to extract their useful qualities into drugs. I need them to do this research and try to find a way to use the good and get rid of the side effects. Many many of us need this desperately. Our lives and livelihoods depend on it. So it sounds good to talk theoretically about the big bad companies making a buck off a weed plant as being stupid, but for me, the research is valuable. I can’t afford to be stoned. I have to work while on a drug. I have to be able to think. I need clarity of thought. I won’t even drink if I know I need to be able to think because it takes so little to muddle my very stressed brain. I’ve had maybe three glasses of wine this year so far. That’s how serious this is for me.

    I need this research to be done. My future depends on their discoveries. I live in terror of what will be without them.

  40. Come on folks, Big Pharm isn’t any more evil than Big Anything. Without Big Pharm we’d pretty much not have any New Pharm at all, since developing new drugs is so hideously expensive (for mostly obviously good reasons). Reminds me of folks who want a “simple” mid-evil life…….

  41. Pot should be legalized because it’s no more dangerous than ciggies or alcohol. I know, as I’ve been stoned, drunk, and both at the same time. There’s no reason for pot to be illegal except for political ones, of course. The majority of the negative affects of pot that are bandied about exist only because it’s illegal.

  42. Probably one of the best reasons to legalize pot, is to start killing the DEA and its policies.

    It would be helpful to know what percentage of drug arrests are related to pot. My own guess would be a large percentage.

    The War on Drugs has been little other than a War on Non-White Youth. As a war, it is an even worse failure than the military ones we’ve fought recently, Vietnam, Iraq etc.

    I had my first toke in 1959. I was 15. I partook of the weed until I had a really bad experience with PCP laced stuff. That pretty much turned me off. Like John, my own family does not have very good experience with addicting substances, mainly booze. So, that kept me quite wary of anything stronger than pot.

    Legalize it for all the good reasons noted so far, but most of all to push the nation to acknowledge the failure of that obscene “War on Drugs”.

  43. #watercolor@43

    I don’t know that we’re really on different sides here. We both want people with disabilities, including ourselves, to have the best quality of life possible.

    I’ve no issue at all with there being *more* options. I do fear, as others have said, that the powers that be will use new money-making products to take away low-cost (or free) options that work for some people, but I certainly do not object to new drugs on those grounds. There are people, many of them, whose (positive and productive) futures depend on having access to marijuana, the drug that happens to work for *them*. That access is always under threat. None of this is theoretical. We are all different with regard to the state of our bodies/minds, our reactions to drugs, our ability to work, or pay for the necessities of life, and we cannot wisely form policy solely on individual experience.

  44. I believe the following:
    1) Marijuana should be legal, and regulated, perhaps along lines similar to the more dangerous and more addictive drug Alcohol.

    2) Some people apparently benefit greatly from medical marijuana.

    3) A whole lot of people who get medical marijuana do so without any good evidence that marijuana is effective for their complaint. Medical marijuana is not well integrated into our health system, and some of its users may be unaware of other remedies that might be more effective for their particular condition or might be covered by their insurance. In part because so many providers are evangelists for marijuana, and so few are knowledgeable medical professionals, the incentives are all fouled up.

    4) A whole lot more people get medical marijuana with no actual complaint at all. The number of “medical marijuana” licenses in California (which I’ve seen before but am having difficulty in finding right now) is just staggering.

    5) The ignorance in point 3 and the fraud in point 4 reflect a serious muddling between genuinely medical provision of marijuana and recreational marijuna, including a fair number of people who are at best disingenuous in their support for “medical marijuana”.

    6) I strongly suspect that the ability of comfortable middle-class people in California to get their pot by legal (if fraudulent) means actually reduces the pressure to legalize or decriminalize pot, and thereby leaves teenagers and poorfolks who lack their advantages to remain at serious risk of our country’s insanely punitive drug laws, which in any case tend to be applied in a highly discriminatory fashion.

  45. Our very best medicine for pain is the opium poppy. The pharma industry would like you, instead, to use NSAIDS, aka COX2 inhibitors, which have bad side effects and serious risks such as heart attacks for a minority of users.

    Of course, opium has its own risks, like physical dependence with the accompanying withdrawal symptoms that are potentially deadly. Marijuana may not be addictive, but opium and its derivatives absolutely are.

  46. I used to date someone in the Oregon medical marijuana initiative, and she and all her co-workers supported this kind of research. Reliable potency was their biggest concern – you don’t want to mess with damaged immune or respiratory systems or anything else if you can avoid it, through either over- or under-dosing. But they would also have liked to decouple the medical side from the general usage issue. They were unanimous about it.

  47. As long as cigarettes are legal, which was absolutely the hardest habit I ever had to kick out of a rich and varied, if moderate, experimental phase of my youth, I’ll be pro -legalization. I barely drink liquor these days, and the hardest drug I regularly take are those tiny caffeine bomb pick-me up drinks I toss down whenever I’ve got to drive somewhere further than a couple of hours away from the house, so I’m hardly some red-eyed stoner.

    I’ve known plenty of those people though, who were no more abusive of the drug than most alcoholics with much, much less impact on their livelihood, their temperament, and the people around them. Except for a few cats I guess, which can’t have been helped from chilling out too close to the pot smokers.

    Really I’d just rather we legalized and regulated everything. Big Pharm might be pushing evil in this pot pill, but I’d much rather they were the ones cooking up all of the Crystal Meth in the world in a nice big building next to the Fireworks and Rat Poison factories. Legalization and regulation is the only way we’re ever going to encourage enough research to maybe get past little quibbles like horrible cycles of addiction while still getting the people who get off on that sort of thing the rope to hang their brains with.

  48. The proof of God’s non-existence is the fact that he hasn’t saved us from the righteous and the dipshit laws they pass.

  49. yeah, some stoners say they want medicinal marijuana just so they can get high. They might even lie to fake some medical condition to get the script.

    And some people who don’t want marijuana to be legal will lie and make wild claims about vast numbers of people killed by abusing the drug, when the truth is far less dangerous. Or maybe they’ll lie and say it’s horribly addictive. Or they’ll use logical fallicies and group it in by association with other drugs that are actually dangerous and addictive like heroin. Or they’ll use slippery slope argumetns and say if we legalize pot, then the next thing will be coke.

    I personally have no interest in pot (I drink two beers and I want to go to sleep. I completely kicked caffeine about a month ago.), but I think keeping it illegal only encourages prohibition-style crime.

    But yeah, some pot smokers are lying just so they can get high. The damage of that lie seems to be rather small. Some folks are lying about how dangerous pot is and how the world will end if we legalize it, and the damage to that seems to be the never ending war on drugs, which is a waste of money and lives.

  50. #20 Watercolor

    You can get a vaporizer. Instead of burning the weed and creating the lung damaging smoke, it vaporizes it instead. Cuts down the smoke and smoke related hazards to a considerable degree. Google “Silver Surfer Vaporizer” or “Volcano Vaporizer” You can also bake with it.

  51. I think Steve at #9 has the bottom line on the issue.

    Time to listen to “Copperhead Road” again.

  52. Just a couple of pharmacological nitpicks:

    Catherine Shaffer: It’s incorrect to say “NSAIDs, a.k.a. COX-2 inhibitors” as if they’re the same thing; COX-2 inhibitors are just one subclass of NSAID, much less widely used than others like ibuprofen. And although the manufacturers of Vioxx etc. certainly would’ve liked those to catch on, they were found to be often unsafe as you pointed out, and are in no way displacing opioids as a standard of care. They wouldn’t have anyway, at least among doctors who know anything at all about pain management; they treat different kinds of pain in different ways.

    Mnemosyne: Withdrawal from opium/morphine/heroin/etc. is very unpleasant, but will not kill you (except very rarely through indirect effects of stress, e.g. if you have heart problems). Benzodiazepines and alcohol are the ones where cold turkey can be fatal.

  53. Keep in mind that marijuana is California’s largest cash crop despite being illegal, which ensures jails filled with non-violent criminals (more than 50% of Cali inmates) and neglected tax revenue worth millions upon millions. These laws also prevent the non-psychoactive uses of marijuana in the paper products industry, among others. This use is the original motive for criminalizing marijuana. William R. Hearst, the namesake of Hearst castle, and the turn of the century robber baron of the Newspaper industry, also owned the paper plants producing the vector for the spread of “Yellow Journalism”. Hemp was a much more efficient source for paper and grew much quicker, which ultimately doomed it in an era of monopolies and collusion.

    As a final note, let me borrow from evolutionary biology. Scientist measure all drugs lethality using a ratio known as the “Therapeutic Index.”[TI] Basically it is the lethal dose divided by the effective dose. The TI of alcohol is about 5. That means it only takes 5 times the amount that causes a buzz to kill. The TI for marijuana is infinite, because there has never been even one verified overdose death. Marijuana is the only trug i am aware of for which this is the case. The unprecedented safety of marijuana is likely a result of co-mingling evolutionary pathways which benefited the survival and reproduction of not only the cannabis plant, but humans as well. Modern marijuana growers have put the plant’s evolution into overdrive by using “survival of the fittest” for many generations very quickly.

  54. Keep in mind that marijuana is California’s largest cash crop despite being illegal. . .

    Not as such. That’s an urban legend based on some guy pulling a number out of his hat for the amount of pot grown in a specific area in California, which was then extrapolated to all of California, and then converted into dollars by the magic of “who the fuck knows?”

    Keep in mind California produces $3 billion of grapes a year. Grapes, for the love of gawd! NORML (generously) estimates that LEGALIZED marijuana would produce only $3 billion in sales in California. So, yeah, it’s hard to see the numbers to show Marijuana being California’s “largest cash crop.”

  55. Eli@57, I didn’t know about Hearst, but it makes sense.

    What I did know was that the fanatical obsession with the evils of marijuana was actually a finance-industry-led ploy to do in Henry Ford and his friends in the Grange movement. Henry wanted to see industrial hemp grown on a megalodonian scale. He was one of the first to see the potential of composite plastics, and hemp was the perfect source for oil and fiber.

    But Henry hated bankers and Jews. He equated one with the other. It was an ignorant position he held, and he wanted to spread it through farmer politics.

    Henry’s opponents killed his hemp industry initiative as a means of strangling his political ambitions and equating them with Reefer Madness. Boy, did it work. It’s still working.

  56. L2P @ 58 —

    Further complicating matters is that people have become entirely comfortable with growing and selling marijuana on the “black market” — and there’s little reason they would discontinue doing so to permit the government to collect taxes on their sales. Why buy something that is easy to grow myself, and/or easy to obtain from this-guy-I-know-who-grows-it? I have never been a big believer in the virtues of marijuana as an economic stimulant, other than the fact that enforcing marijuana laws unnecessarily is a costly drain on resources, and spending that money on something of value would be nice.

  57. Lots of people have tomato plants in their backyards and gardens and such.

    And tomatos are still for sale in teh supermarket. And lots of people buy them.

    So, I don’t think the “easy to grow” argument automatically means that no one will buy it in a store.

  58. GL @ 61 — “Lots of people have tomato plants in their backyards and gardens and such. And tomatos are still for sale in teh supermarket. And lots of people buy them. So, I don’t think the “easy to grow” argument automatically means that no one will buy it in a store.”

    I’m not saying nobody — I’m just saying there is a presently existing network of black market sources for marijuana, as well as significant self-production. Some people grow tomatoes, but most people are not accustomed to obtaining tomatoes from illegal sources, or growing it themselves. (Also, the customer base for tomatoes is a bit more broad than the customer base for marijuana). If marijuana were put on the market subject to taxes (and thus presumably higher prices) and other restrictions, I find it hard to believe that most people would stop growing it themselves and/or relying on their present sources in favor of getting it from a licensed commercial dealer. You’d get sales, of course, but I doubt that marijuana sold in a manner subject to sales tax would be even half the amount actually consumed. I’m just saying — there are a lot of good reasons for legalization, but I’m not buying this particular one.

  59. LB@62,

    Perhaps the grow-it-yourself market won’t switch to bought marijuana, (barring crop failure!) but a market could definitely open up amongst those who might be interested, but currently put off by the need to break the law as it stands to indulge.

  60. pam @ 63 — I think you are right — but the problem is the relative size of the “wow, it’s legal now, let’s give this weed thing a try!” market is going to be pretty small compared to the already established “I grow my own stuff” market, and “I get my stuff from this guy I know” market.

  61. To echo clussman above, the difference between marijuana and Sativex is that there is potentially much more going on in medicinal marijuana use than just the THC intake. By virtue of being a plant, pot contains many chemical compounds which might affect the body. (Of course, as the intoxication factor proves, this isn’t necessarily all good.) Sativex is factory developed to have two active components.

    One benefit to legalizing marijuana even in the wake of Sativex would be opening up more research opportunities to discovering uses for other compounds which might otherwise go ignored.

  62. LB: I’m just saying there is a presently existing network of black market sources for marijuana, as well as significant self-production.

    All driven by the fact that the cost is irrelevant to something that is illegal to purchase. A person who wants pot considers (1) spending N dollars on a UV light or (2) not having pot, they go with (1).

    If your argument were to hold up under history, then we’d find that after prohibition was repealed and booze was made legal that all the bootleggers and moonshiners would hold a significant market share as compared to, say, Budweiser, just so they could avoid the taxes on alcohal.

    I know plenty of people who brew their own beer, but it’s as a hobby. As far as I know, home-brewed booze is a small, small percent of total alcohal consumed.

    If they legalized pot tomorrow, people with the equipment would continue to grow it. Some would morph into commercial producers, and some would dwindle into hobbyists, and when their equipment breaks, they’d likely not replace it.

    If pot is legal, the decision becomes (1) spend a lot of time and money buying equipment and growing my own pot or (2) go down to the store and buy it ready to go. And like beer, most will eventually steer towards (2).