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Still Making A Hash Of Things
We all know that marijuana is less harmful than booze or cigarettes. In the face of incontrovertible evidence, why do Irish politicians continue to insist otherwise?
Eamonn McCann, 01 Feb 2012
Health Minister Roisin Shortall says of marijuana that, “The Government’s chief concern related to the physical and mental health effects of long-term use, which was associated with lung and throat cancer.”
How exactly did she come to that conclusion?
The largest study ever undertaken of the effects of marijuana on health has just been published in the US. It concludes that, “Marijuana doesn’t do the kind of damage tobacco does.”
The results of the federally-funded study have just been published in the Journal Of The American Medical Association. 5,000 young adults, randomly recruited in Birmingham, Chicago, Oakland, and Minneapolis, were interviewed at regular intervals over 20 years (1985 – 2005) about marijuana and tobacco use. Each had several tests for lung function along the way. The conclusions confirmed the findings of previous smaller-scale studies: “While marijuana contains some of the same toxic chemicals as tobacco, it does not carry the same risks for lung disease... Cigarette smokers’ test scores worsened steadily during the study. Smoking marijuana... was not linked with worse scores.”
Good news, surely. A substance which many had believed was deadly dangerous turns out not to be particularly dangerous at all. But the reaction of the authorities is blindly to persist in crude scare-mongering.
Meanwhile, there’s been another outbreak of toxic nonsense about marijuana sky-rocketing in strength. A silly article in the Irish Times’ Saturday review earlier this month tossed out the old canard about new varieties of marijuana being many times more powerful than the weed which used to make us mellow.
Of course, there are varieties of weed around much stronger than the stuff we used to crumble into rizlas in the lane behind the Boom Boom Room. But even back then, there was weed, if you knew where to find it, as strong as anything now on the market. Claims of marijuana 20 times stronger than 20 years ago are the equivalent of noting that more young people now drink shorts, comparing the pint of plain to tequila shots and concluding that the concoctions being drunk today are 50 times stronger than in the ‘60s.