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September 15, 2004 - The Naples Daily News (FL)

The Drug War Is A War Against Truth

By Paul Campos, Scripps Howard News Service (Note: Paul Campos is a law professor at the University of Colorado)

Return to Drug War News: Don't Miss Archive

TORONTO -- The University of Toronto has just played host to an important conference, titled "The Politics of Obesity," at which scholars from various academic disciplines examined the claim that North America is facing a health crisis because of increasing weight.

The consensus was that we are not: a conclusion that will only surprise those who rely on diet doctors, rather than social scientists, for information on the topic.

America loves to export health hysteria, as illustrated by the comments of U.S. drug czar John Walters, who is upset by signs that Canada is implementing a rational policy in regard to marijuana.

"The kind of marijuana coming from Canada is the crack of marijuana," Walters says. "It is dangerous. It is destructive."

Referring to recent Canadian legislation that has decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana, our drug czar fumed that "the political leadership in Canada has been utterly unable to come to grips with this. They're talking about legalization while Rome burns."

Rome is burning, according to Walters, because the marijuana being sold today is vastly more potent than that of a generation ago -- as much as 30 times more powerful. "This isn't your parents' marijuana" (i.e., the kind smoked 20 years ago by a large proportion of the government officials who now prosecute the drug war), Walters warns our ever-vulnerable children.

Even by the abysmally low standards of truthfulness employed by public health officials in regard to drugs in general, and marijuana in particular, these statements are remarkable for their dishonesty.

The claim that today's marijuana is 30 times more powerful than the schwag once enjoyed by our current leaders is true only in the Clintonian sense that it isn't 100 percent false.

This figure was produced by comparing the most powerful marijuana now available -- which, because it is both extremely rare and extremely expensive, will only be smoked by a tiny handful of marijuana users -- with the lowest-grade pot seized by police agencies 30 years ago: weed far weaker than that smoked by the average bell-bottomed Led Zeppelin fan.

The truth is that the average THC content of marijuana today (THC determines the drug's strength) is about 4.5 percent, as compared to about 3 percent a generation ago.

Thus the claim that today's marijuana is 30 times stronger than the product Bill Clinton claims not to have inhaled exaggerates the situation by approximately 1,500 percent.

Even this understates the dishonesty of our drug warriors.

There is no evidence that stronger marijuana leads those who use the drug to ingest more THC, or that it increases the very modest health risks associated with its use (indeed, the biggest health risk -- smoke inhalation -- is lessened by stronger marijuana, because it requires less smoking to produce the same effect).

Last week, the academic year got off to an all-too-familiar start when Samantha Spady, a 19-year-old Colorado State sophomore, was found dead in the lounge of a campus fraternity.

She apparently drank herself to death -- something that almost anyone can do with a bottle of vodka, and a fate that will befall many other college students before the year is done.

By contrast, an "overdose" of the "crack of marijuana" --the extremely rare and expensive stuff smoked by almost no one --will cause those who smoke it to fall asleep, and wake up a few hours later with a headache.

Tens of thousands of Americans are in prison today because we treat a drug that has never killed anyone as if it were far more dangerous than a drug that kills tens of thousands of Americans every year. Truth: the anti-drug-war drug.

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