Comments on Gold Medals, marijuana and the question nobody is asking

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Detective Tom White on February 15th, 2009 at 5:19 pm edit:

I just returned from Washington D.C. where I, along with Sheriff’s Corporal Steve Charles, met with other police officials from through-out the world, health professionals, elected public officials and others to discuss our problem with narcotics and the threat to America, especially to our youth.

I am concerned with the opinion of Mr. Hanstein regarding Michael Phelps and his indiscretion with smoking marijuana as an attempt to validate and lend creditability to a position to legalize a dangerous narcotic from an officer of the court.

Mr. Hanstein is misinformed and needs to understand that “any” mind-altering substance is detrimental to all people, especially our youth.

Marijuana (Tetrahydrocannabinol) is a mind-altering drug. Included in marijuana smoke are over 400 other chemicals present in the marijuana plant, which Mr. Hanstein fails to mention. Marijuana sold today is often ten-times more potent then in the 1970s. The effects are damaging to developing minds and bodies. Young people who chronically smoke marijuana have increased rates of anxiety, depression, suicidal ideation and schizophrenia. Schoolwork suffers, they lose interest and those who chronically smoke marijuana are dull, slow moving and often forget what was taught. The marijuana produced today is full of fertilizers, molds, bugs and other damaging components to the health. Will legalizing the production of “government” marijuana stop this? Of course this would not be the case.

I am concerned that Mr. Hanstein, who is now or in the past a coach of the youth, would ever advance his personal thoughts to this idea.

Jerry on February 16th, 2009 at 5:29 am edit:

Det White,

I’m curious, do you drink? How many chemicals are there to be found in beer? Over 1000.

The following is an easy Google search: Americans For Safe Access, a medical marijuana advocacy group, stated in its website article “Research: Definitions and Explanations” (accessed Dec. 7, 2006):

“…there are 483 different identifiable chemical constituents known to exist in cannabis. The most distinctive and specific class of compounds are the cannabinoids (66 known), that are only known to exist in the cannabis plant.

Other constituents of the cannabis plant are: nitrogenous compounds (27 known), amino acids (18), proteins (3), glycoproteins (6), enzymes (2), sugars and related compounds (34), hydrocarbons (50), simple alcohols (7), aldehydes (13), ketones (13), simple acids (21), fatty acids (22), simple esters (12), lactones (1), steroids (11), terpenes (120), non-cannabinoid phenols (25), flavonoids (21), vitamins (1) [Vitamin A], pigments (2), and elements (9).

The very most of these compounds are found in other plants and animals and are not of pharmacological relevance with regard to the effects exerted by cannabis preparations.”

…and I’m sure you could come up with more toward your point of view. Mr Hanstein isn’t talking about letting school children smoke pot. Yet, when ever I hear any law enforcement speak against legalization, it almost always comes to the children. Nobody want children smoking. This is an adult issue and should be kept at that level.

Ben on February 16th, 2009 at 8:45 am edit:

Detective, with all due respect, you should possibly research your position before stating it.

First of all, correlation does not equate to causality. Have you ever thought that people who are prone to increased rates of anxiety, depression, suicidal ideation and schizophrenia might be more likely to smoke pot to self medicate, much like many alcoholics?

Let’s look at safety margins. This is a number that is the effective dose as compared to the lethal dose. Heroin is a bad drug, without a doubt. Its safety ratio is about 1:6. (In other words you only need to use 6 times the effective dose to be lethal.) Alcohol, the old standby (and perfectly legal) is slightly safer with a ratio of 1:10. The demon reefer is an incredibly scary 1:1,000. Yes, that’s correct, you’d have to intake one thousand times the effective dose to OD. That’s equated to smoking a joint the size of a telephone pole by oneself in about fifteen minutes. If you feel you’d actually like to research this data (I know that police don’t like to think too much) you can find the relevant information in the paper Comparison of acute lethal toxicity of commonly abused psychoactive substances by RS Gable in the publication Addiction, volume 99.

It’s not possible to OD on pot. As a police officer, I’m sure you’ve responded to a few ODs in your time. Ever found anyone actually OD’d on pot? No, you haven’t.

Now for another statement you make.

. . .I . . . met with other police officials from through-out the world, health professionals, elected public officials and others to discuss our problem with narcotics and the threat to America, especially to our youth.

Police, with the possible exception of the prison industry, have the largest interest of any group in the United States in keeping pot illegal. There is no argument here. Police have a massive vested interest in the illegality of marijuana.

Health professionals are not allowed to research marijuana due to its (egregious) classification as a Class 1 narcotic. Everything they say is based on research that is 50+ years old or, worse, based wholly on hearsay.

Elected public officials have their jobs to worry about. They are not allowed to say what they think, because people, even though the general public supports decriminalization of pot, the crusaders (and that’s what they are) shout the loudest and make it impossible to have an intelligent discussion about drug policy in this country.

Face it, sir, the War on Drugs™ is a failure. The United States has the highest per capita incarceration rate of any country in the civilized world. We are doing something wrong and the War on Drugs is a major part of that.

Basically, you’re wrong, sir.

From The Bulldog’s Desk: Gold medals, marijuana and the question nobody is asking
By Woody Hanstein

When an athlete’s exploits go from the sports page to the front page it’s usually never good. Just ask Michael Phelps. He is, of course, the famous Olympic swimmer with the eight gold medals who was recently photographed apparently in the act of smoking marijuana at a college party in South Carolina.

If you subtract the eight gold medals from the equation, the “bong hit” enjoyed by young Mr. Phelps (he’s 23) really wouldn’t have made much news. But due to his notoriety we’re reading about it everywhere.

The first folks to weigh in were the businesses that pay the swimmer millions to endorse their products. A swimsuit company said it could live with the indiscretion and would keep Phelps on, but his days as a Wheaties pitchman are now over for good.

Just this morning I read that law enforcement officials in South Carolina have already arrested some of the other pot-using party-goers in an effort to tighten the prosecutorial net around Mr. Phelps. That seems to me like a lot of work and expense wasted on a misdemeanor marijuana charge, but then I’m not on the ballot in the next sheriff’s race down there either.

And if you’re interested in opinions, you can go online and read a whole batch of them from columnists weighing in on just how much Mr. Phelps has besmirched his role as a national role model. But nobody yet that I have seen has asked the question I want to see explored. It has nothing to do with Michael Phelps’ advertisers or with his judgment.

It’s about the marijuana he was smoking.

First, accept the inarguable premise that Michael Phelps is one of the most incredibly conditioned, dedicated athletes of all time. Then, even though it may be a little less certain, accept the fact that this probably wasn’t the first time he has ever smoked marijuana.

If both of these facts are true, shouldn’t we at least question how perhaps the fittest athlete of our generation could also, during at least some times in his life, recreationally use marijuana to apparently no ill effect. If marijuana is the “evil weed” might this not be a good time to ask just how evil it really is?

We test athletes for steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs as well we should. Using those drugs is cheating and they all cause well-established, long-term health problems. Similarly, we know enough about many harder drugs to understand how addictive they are and how damaging they can be both physically and emotionally to people who use them.

But marijuana, it seems to me, is in a category all its own. It, like alcohol, can certainly be abused, but are we so sure Michael Phelps’ bong hit was more damaging to him than the alcohol he could have consumed instead.

At a time when our economy is in shambles, the only people making a dime off Maine’s marijuana harvest are criminals willing to break the law. And it’s the same in the other 49 states, even Alaska. I’ll leave it to someone who knows what he’s talking about to do the math, but I have no doubt that if marijuana was regulated and taxed by federal and state governments that a substantial amount of revenue would be raised.

Of course we shouldn’t make a dangerous drug legal to balance the budget. At the same time though, we shouldn’t be shy about rethinking any of our laws as new evidence confronts us.

I’m sure that smoking a little marijuana isn’t going to help anyone make the next Olympic team, but just maybe it might not do them any harm either. 


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