More reefer mad­ness

Pot has gone main­stream, but the de­bate over it is just be­gin­ning

The Washington Times Daily - - EDITORIAL -

Mar­i­juana has gone main­stream, its rep­u­ta­tion hardly rec­og­niz­able from the 1930s when a pop­u­lar movie called “Reefer Mad­ness” de­picted in melo­dra­matic fash­ion the dan­gers of smok­ing cannabis. “Reefer Mad­ness” por­trayed high school stu­dents driven mad by the ad­dic­tive pow­ers of the drug, rocking from au­to­mo­bile ac­ci­dents to rape and sui­cide.

Now 28 states and the Dis­trict of Columbia have le­gal­ized mar­i­juana med­i­cal use, with no doc­tors’ pre­scrip­tion needed, and 7 states and the Dis­trict have ap­proved pot for “recre­ational use.” A Marist Univer­sity sur­vey finds that more than half of Amer­i­can adults have tried mar­i­juana at least once, or say they have, and 55 mil­lion adults say they have used it within the past year.

Pot­heads, and par­tic­u­larly the grow­ers of mar­i­juana who think they’re about to make mil­lions on sell­ing the weed to up­scale le­gal users, are alarmed that U.S. At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions may be­gin en­forc­ing fed­eral law against grow­ing and sell­ing the weed. Pres­i­dent Trump’s views are not clear. He once praised the le­gal­iza­tion of the weed, but since he was elected he has tem­pered his im­plied views. Mr. Ses­sions, how­ever, is a long-stand­ing foe of le­gal­iza­tion, and said in a speech to the U.S. Se­nate just be­fore his ap­point­ment as at­tor­ney gen­eral that “you can’t have the pres­i­dent of the United States [mean­ing Barack Obama at the time] talk­ing about mar­i­juana like it is no dif­fer­ent than tak­ing a drink. It is dif­fer­ent. It is al­ready caus­ing a dis­tur­bance in the states that have made it le­gal.”

Pot in Amer­ica has al­ways been as­so­ci­ated with high times and Hol­ly­wood. Robert Mitchum was busted in the home of a star­let named Lila Leeds in the Lau­rel Canyon neigh­bor­hood of Los Angeles in 1949, a decade be­fore “Reefer Mad­ness,” and he thought he was fin­ished. “Well,” he told the ar­rest­ing de­tec­tives, “this is the bit­ter end of ev­ery­thing, my ca­reer, my mar­riage, ev­ery­thing.” His ca­reer sur­vived and he went on to movie fame and for­tune. Lila Leeds was not so for­tu­nate. Her bud­ding ca­reer cratered and she be­came a trivia question.

Mar­i­juana has a tax con­stituency now, and of­fi­cials in state gov­ern­ments see it as a source of tax rev­enue, and will give it up re­luc­tantly. Iron­i­cally, to­bacco cig­a­rettes have lit­tle so­cial and health ac­cept­abil­ity now, and mar­i­juana smoke has many of the same tox­ins of to­bacco smoke, in­clud­ing those iden­ti­fied as a key fac­tor in lung can­cer. This toxin is found in smoke tar, and the tar in one mar­i­juana joint con­tains more than four times the tar found in a ci­garette.

Re­searchers have found a sur­pris­ing num­ber of pot smok­ers among those with lung can­cer and can­cers of the mouth, phar­ynx and lar­ynx. Some med­i­cal re­searchers sug­gest that pot is at the root of some men­tal dis­or­ders, in­clud­ing bipo­lar dis­or­der, psy­chosis, schizophre­nia and panic at­tacks, which in fur­ther irony, is one of the con­di­tions mar­i­juana is some­times pre­scribed to treat. Men­tal dis­or­ders as­so­ci­ated with the use of pot now has its own cat­e­gory in the Diagnostic and Sta­tis­ti­cal Man­ual of Men­tal Dis­or­ders pub­lished by the Amer­i­can Psy­chi­atric As­so­ci­a­tion.

If the Jus­tice Depart­ment moves vig­or­ously to en­force fed­eral law, it will set off a spir­ited de­fense by the pot­heads and those who sell mar­i­juana to them. Reefer mad­ness is so 20th Cen­tury, but po­lit­i­cal mad­ness over reefers is prob­a­bly just be­gin­ning.

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