Prompted by “New DEA Leader Admits Pot ‘Probably Not’ As Dangerous As Heroin”: http://www.hightimes.com/read/new-dea-leader-admits-pot-probably-not-dangerous-heroin
“This is not a matter of opinion,” Dan Rifle, director of federal policies for the Marijuana Policy Project, explained. “[Marijuana is] far less harmful than heroin and it’s encouraging that the DEA is finally willing to recognize that.”
Now of course, everyone in drug policy reform is popularly criticizing the DEA head for his ugly expressions deeply misaligned with sanity and justice, but out here at the reason frontier, I have a different joint to respectfully pick as part of our Respect Cannabis campaign.
As much as I appreciate the ample work done by MPP, those words “far less harmful” need proper addressing for accuracy.
Many years ago, another drug policy reformer used the phrase, “While we know marijuana isn’t harmless…”
I thought to myself, “We do?” I then tried to find any science concluding (not suggesting) harm from cannabis use (not abuse), and while I found some suggestive (but questionable) research concluding “heavy use” (and abuse) may/can (not does) cause harm, the following statement should ring true in our efforts to respect cannabis.
The fact is there is no experimental science proving any harm in moderate cannabis use. Moderate in this case means any use during which no objectively proven harm occurs.
Communication obviously matters in social interaction, so word selection is crucial, especially during public expression.
The scientific method is strictly precise when corruption is avoided. Any cannabis “science” to date deserves those mocking quotes in this phrase of this sentence, because three critical factors are not even close to scientifically measured — intake method differential (the effects of smoking versus vaporizing, etc.), intake amount precision (instead of crudely measuring that amount in “joints”, or such), and strain differential (e.g. psychological effects from different strains can vary dramatically).
I understand prohibition is destructive — and that includes standing in the way of fixing those problems for many scientists working their best with those unavoidable (though thankfully decreasing) limits. All suggestive research I found (usually cited from prohibitionist websites) included a disclaimer stating that much more research is needed to solidify study conclusions. So in addition to powerfully conflicting with tough-talking affirmations of the harms of cannabis (actually ironically revealing the harm in publicly allowing those affirmations to ruin the lives of roughly millions of non-violent people for several decades and counting — i.e. scientifically concluded mass harm), the highly premature state of cannabis research also conflicts with “far less harmful”.
However, actual scientists’ stance should be, “We cannot properly apply the scientific method to cannabis research, because prohibition prevents accuracy demanded by the rigor of the scientific method. Results under these circumstances would be terribly weak and unscientific.”
Of course, those “scientists” abusing their position pitifully to secure grant money to find cannabis harm would never honorably step back from the total (scientifically concluded) charade called Cannabis Prohibition ironically against public safety.
That stance should match the judicial stance stating, “We cannot ban cannabis, because there is no objective (so fair, and therefore just) science outright condemning its use in the ‘land of the free’ where liberty is fundamentally an unalienable right automatically granted to citizens.”
We need to fix the science, law, and education for maximal healthy impact — and our Respect Cannabis campaign serves that need.
Are you in?