Friday, December 28, 2007

More ammonia, cyanide, nitrogen oxide present in pot than in cigarettes

More evidence that inhaling smoke created by burning dirty plants is not good for you:
Inhaled cannabis smoke has more harmful toxins than tobacco, scientists have discovered.

The Canadian government research found 20 times as much ammonia, a chemical linked to cancer, New Scientist said.

The Health Canada team also found five times as much hydrogen cyanide and nitrogen oxides, which are linked to heart and lung damage respectively.
Cigarettes were injected into the English world's bloodstream during the Crimean War, brought from the Near East by Ottoman soldiers who fought alongside British forces against Russia. Less than a decade-and-a-half later, before the American 'Civil War' had ended, cigarettes were being produced on this side of the Atlantic.

Although a London physician named John Hill had discovered a link between tobacco use and cancer (of the nose) in 1761, the negative health effects of cigarette smoking did not became common knowledge until the latter half of the 20th Century. Those who assert that toking up is benign are akin to those who, from the 1850s to the 1950s, claimed that cigarettes were harmless.

Scientific knowledge accumulates a little faster today. Marijuana, as a ubiquitous cultural item, has been around for less than half a century. Over the last decade, a range of detrimental effects have been discovered: It increases the risk of suffering from Schizophrenia-like symptoms, increases the risk of actually suffering from Schizophrenia, high THC levels (which are on average around five times higher in today's marijuana than they were in the sixties, and some pot has THC levels that run as high as 30% compared to 2% that was the standard in the days of Woodstock) jumbles thought processes by disrupting the way nerves fire in the brain, and regular use has a depressive effect on IQ of about 4 points (although this disadvantage seems to disappear once drug use has stopped), in addition to likely increasing the risk of heart and lung damage. I suspect that more damaging consequences of marijuana use will be discovered in the future.

In addition to those health risks, marijuana use carries with it economic negatives. Money is spent to cultivate, distribute, and purchase it, instead of being used more productively. Users forget to fulfill obligations they've made, like showing up for work.

Municipalities across the US have begun instituting public smoking bans due to the damage lighting up causes. Well, this too should inform the debate on pot legalization:
Dr Richard Russell, a specialist at the Windsor Chest Clinic, said: "The health impact of cannabis is often over-looked amid the legal debate.

"Evidence shows it is multiplied when it is cannabis compared to tobacco.

"Tobacco from manufacturers has been enhanced and cleaned whereas cannabis is relatively unprocessed and therefore is a much dirtier product.

"These findings do not surprise me. The toxins from cannabis smoke cause lung inflammation, lung damage and cancer."
If marijuana is potentially more dangerous than cigarettes are, it seems vertiginous to argue in favor of granting greater public access to pot smoking while simultatneously restricting public access to cigarette smoking.

Many libertarians will argue that even if cigarettes or alcohol were made illegal, their use would continue, just as people toke up in places where doing so is prohibited. But similar to the issue of illegal immigration, stricter enforcement and harsher punitions would reduce the number of people engaging in these activities.

Without getting too discursive, I'd like to see the enforcement approach modified. Instead of attempting to simultaneously punish both sellers and buyers, why not make the punishment for sellers extremely harsh while offering rewards (in addition to amnesty) for users who report sellers to authorities? Allow these buyers to do so in a way that keeps that protects their identity from being revealed to the public. Instead of encouraging the two sides to conspire, why not potentially turn everyone against the sellers?

Those in favor of legalization also argue that what a person does to himself is none of the government's business. But the ban on pot smoking is why it is so much less likely to be undertaken in public than cigarette smoking or alcohol consumption are. While banning pot doesn't stop people from smoking, it does make them less likely to do so where I will be exposed to it as I am out and about. And as the negatives associated with marijuana use pile up, that becomes increasingly important.

People engaging in alcohol consumption, cigarette smoking, and drug use present hazards to non-users in their vicinity. To protect those who choose not to self-immolate from those who do is the primary reason that I support public restriction of all of these activities.

5 comments:

Dennis Mangan said...

The putative effects of pot re: schizophrenia are likely due to self-medication; schizophrenics are more likely to use pot.

As for "public restriction" of cigarette smoking, the laws in question prohibit *private* use, e.g. in restaurants and bars, which are privately-owned. It's no one's business but the owner's and patrons'.

Last, the effects of secondhand smoke have been, I believe, greatly exaggerated.

Fat Knowledge said...

Tobacco from manufacturers has been enhanced and cleaned whereas cannabis is relatively unprocessed and therefore is a much dirtier product.

But, if pot was legalized, wouldn't this problem go away? What I am thinking is that there will be a Phillip Morris of marijuana that emerges and they will mass produce marijuana cigarettes that are much cleaner than the hand rolled ones of today, just as manufactured tobacco cigarettes are much cleaner than the hand rolled ones.

You mention the economic costs of spending money on pot, but you ignore the economic costs of it being illegal (cost of incarceration, judges time, police needed to enforce laws). You might be correct that even when this is taken into account, it is better for the economy for it to be illegal, but that is not clear to me.

I still think we ought to legalize pot and then regulate and tax the hell out of it. I think we could have a safer product, reduce organized crime, increase tax revenues and lower the costs of the justice system. If you used part of that tax money to fund an effective anti-marijuana campaign (similar to the anti-smoking ones) you might even be able to lower the number of pot smokers.

Anonymous said...

Legalization of drugs in certain areas of Amsterdam has led to a "user" class permanently encamped in Denmark from all over Europe. I wouldn't want that to happen here.

Perhaps one state on the mainland could try it (Nevada?) and see what kind of people get drawn there. I think it would be a disaster truthfully for whatever state took the plunge.

Anonymous said...

The problem isn't so much "drugs" as it is the types of people that get into the regular usage and subsequent criminal and degenerate behavior. I'm not worried about the college kids at Evergreen in WA who smoke their highly resinated bud, I'm worried about the black crackheads and fucked up junkies who stick a knife in me for $5.
Dope is just another aspect of behavior that the low class/low IQ and minorities get into and can't control and we get to pay for.

Audacious Epigone said...

Dennis,

It's a chicken-and-egg question, beyond me to come to a certain conclusion. I've read a fair amount of opinion in your favor and against. Do you think that psychosis is not at all influenced by marijuana use?

Regarding the public restriction, I'm not sure I follow. There are hundreds--literally--of municipalities that have banned smoking in all restaurants, workplaces, parking lots, etc in the city, the opinions of the owners (or employerss, or automobile drivers) and their patrons be damned.

Second-hand smoke isn't something I want to breathe in. I'd like to live in a city where I'll never have to deal with it. Same with pot smoke. I'd also like to live somewhere dry. I favor laws that proxy for these things.

FK,

The current enforcement approach is definitely flawed. I do not see why users are jailed. They are not deriving their economic existence from the stuff, and may very well be productive members of society otherwise. Throwing them behind bars does strike me as costly. I'd rather a penalty only exist for sellers, and for it to be 'draconian' in nature.

Anons,

Yes, Amsterdam's libertine atmosphere is becoming more and more problematic. Much of that is due to demographics. Living in a dry, smokefree place would almost certainly be geographically 'eugenic', just as living near a bunch of strip clubs/brothels or casinos isn't good for property values.

Like so many other 'non-traditional' activities/lifestyles portrayed positively by the cultural establishment, the least intelligent and most impulsive stand to lose the most by buying into them. Those 115+ IQ college kids can smoke up, watch some Family Guy, act dopey as they go into the nearby c-store to buy old hot dogs and 1am in the morning, and then go to their biology class in the morning and work in the afternoon. The uneducated working poor living a marginal existence cannot afford to live in such a way, though, without serious negative consequences.