Cannabis’ Impact on Health Justifies Its Legalization, Not Its Criminal Prohibition

The theme of the November issue of the academic online journal CATO Unbound is “If Not Now, When? The Slow Rise of Marijuana Reform.”
I have the lead essay in the journal, which also features forthcoming contributions from NORML’s Executive Director Allen St. Pierre and other notable drug law reform advocates.
Below is an excerpt from my commentary, entitled, “Cannabis Impact on Health Justifies Its Legalization, Not Its Criminal Prohibition.”


via CATO Unbound
In July 2011, the Obama Administration rebuffed an administrative petition filed by a coalition of public interest organizations, including NORML, which sought to reassess cannabis’ Schedule I status under federal law. Yet little if any scientific basis exists to justify the federal government’s present prohibitive stance, and there is ample scientific and empirical evidence to rebut it.
… Ultimately, … none of the potential health risks associated with the adult, responsible use of cannabis in any objective way justify the substance’s present Schedule I prohibitive status or legitimize the use of state and federal force to restrict consumers from engaging in the plant’s production, distribution, or consumption. Nor do they justify the Obama Administration’s present heavy-handed attempts to interfere with the rule of law in states that have enacted policies that diverge from that of the federal government’s.
The concerns raised by federal lawmakers and the present administration regarding the potential health implications of cannabis do not validate the drug’s continued criminalization. Just the opposite is true. There are numerous adverse health consequences associated with alcohol, tobacco, and prescription pharmaceuticals – all of which modern scientific inquiry has determined to be far more dangerous and costlier to society than cannabis – and it’s precisely because of these consequences that these products are legally regulated and their use is restricted to particular consumers and specific settings. Similarly, a pragmatic regulatory framework allowing for the limited legal use cannabis by adults would best mitigate the health risks associated with the drug’s use and abuse. At a minimum, this framework would require federal lawmakers to reschedule cannabis from its archaic and unscientific Schedule I prohibitive status. At best, such a scheme would demand that cannabis be ‘descheduled’ and removed the from the federal Controlled Substances Act altogether.

You can read my entire essay here.
Continue to check back often to the CATO Unbound website as several other essays on the topic, including a commentary by LEAP‘s Norm Stamper, will be added to the site and discussed in the coming days.

40 thoughts

  1. It’s not a health issue with our country. It’s all the money our government makes on marijuana being illegal. Even if it means ruining peoples lives by arrest or worse.

  2. The intelligent few among our elected officials are very aware of the dangers (or lack thereof) of cannabis. They are the ones that have chosen to accept bribes in the form of lobbiest payouts in exchange for their greedy souls. They (people like Richard Nixon, John Boehner, and Lamar Smith… to name a few) have done more harm to this country than any terrorist organization has ever been able to do. It is an outrage that these cretins continue to wield power in a country like America! Them, and the sheep that cowardly follow them disgust me and other true Americans that believe in freedom and human rights.
    Thank you ever so much Paul for all your brilliant efforts to end the idiotic prohibition of the cannabis herb!

  3. All I know is these fucking DEA agents better sleep with one eye open! Those assholes should be raided and treated JUST the way they do to us pot smokers and growers. I mean from all possible ways that this is ABSOLUTE BULLSHIT our government harasses, oppress, suppresses, discriminates, imprisons, and even MURDERS us. There is no doubt pot is safer than alcohol. Just because we choose to use pot doesn’t mean we should be treated this way. Violence doesn’t appear to be the answer to anything, BUT IT SURE AS HELL GETS THE MESSAGE ACROSS. Are you ready DEA? An eye for an eye. You fuckers better be prepared to be treated JUST THE WAY WE WERE. Maybe there isn’t a hell, but we’ll surely make it hell on Earth for you fuckers!

  4. Since the Whitehouse loves their fear mongering through the olden days rants… lets go with that.
    Remember this line?
    “Marihuana influenced negroes to look at white people in the eye, step on white men’s shadows”
    Obama being a black man and has admitted to using MJ, is now looking all American Colors in the eye and not only stepping on their shadows, he is downright stomping on our Constitutional Rights like it is a shadow of the past.
    Time for you to go, not because your Black but because you are a very inept POTUS.

  5. Readers of this blog have to really love Obama’s Nobel ‘Piece’ Prize winning foreign policy agenda, his Not Cozying-Up to Lobbyists, his Transparency in Government, his stalwart Constitutional Law back-ground, and his ‘Science-Based Policy Making’ administration. LOLZ.
    All over the Internet, I read bloggers that make excuses for Obama, just because he is the ‘lessor of two evils’ (they claim) when it comes to supporting his re-election. I am not so certain that McCain would have gotten the USA into any more wars than Obama has, done anything more than Obama to support the TBTF Banksters & Crony (Monopoly) Corporations, or waged as strident a foreign & domestic ‘War Against People’ Drug War as Obama.
    Don’t get me wrong — I do not support the vast majority of the Neo-Conservative Republican agenda any more than I support the Neo-Liberal Democratic agenda. Both are evil, and both are Corporatist centric. Except for a (now) splinter of the Tea Party that represents populist, libertarian, anti-corporatist, and anti-prohibition ideals, it’s difficult to discern the differences between these two political parties. And I’m not taking about ‘campaign-mode populist ‘talking points’, but actual rubber-meets-the-road legislation (and Executive Orders).
    What this country needs is a vibrant, active, politically successful 3rd Party revolution that offers real populist small-‘d’ democratic alternatives to the Big Two Parties, both evil and corporatist. Don’t ping me on the few individual politicians of the Big Two Parties that are the exceptions, rather than the normal. The inmates are running the asylum and they are not doing a very good job of it, but surprise surprise, they are getting substantially richer, these ‘servants of the people’.
    Science-based foreign and domestic policy-making should have de-listed cannabis / hemp from the CSA Schedule of Narcotics nearly 50 years ago when the Shafer Commission Report came out. With the Federal government itself owning US Patent #6630507 issued in 2003 regarding cannabis as medicine, it should already have been a slam-dunk to re-legalize cannabis /hemp at that point. or at the very least de-criminalize & de-schedule these plants and their derived products. Honesty in government, and respect for democratic processes as detailed in the Constitution & Bill of Rights should have prevailed.
    Obama is a ‘place-holder’ CEO in Corporatist (Police State) Amerika who deserves not re-election but impeachment. I cannot even listen to the sound of his voice any more without the taste of bile in my mouth — I have to read his propaganda speeches instead. Do I have Voter’s Remorse, having voted for Obama in 2008? You betcha!

  6. Everyone knows the drawbacks are outweighed by the benefits all the way around. Even the Feds know that.
    Like with Penn State, the best way to avoid scandal is to keep everything hushed up the way it is. No one gets smeared as long as the dirt is kept under the rug, but as soon as legalization occurs all the shit everyone has sticking to them will see the light of day.
    Keep running the economy into the ground.
    It’s looking like we’ll have to have the double dip soon.
    It could be avoided if the supercommittee essentially recommends and follows through with cannabis legalization.
    Hold on, it’s gonna be rough sailing on the double dip.
    They asked for it!

  7. i like what brian said the shit is so true “it causes the white women to sleep with the negros” or “it makes the negros think they are as good as the white man” total bullshit from the getgo. harry anslinger was a total fagot who prob came home one night to find his wife smoking chron and getting reamed by a black dude and outlawing cannabis was his vengeance and what i just said is prob so true its scary…

  8. I voted for Obama because I wanted to end these wars and bring peace to America. I believed, like David762, that his “Prize winning foreign policy agenda, his Not Cozying-Up to Lobbyists, his Transparency in Government, his stalwart Constitutional Law back-ground, and his ‘Science-Based Policy Making’ administration” would create the change we all crave.
    But today, it seems like everything Obama promised was just a lie. Instead it seems he ramped up the wars, and of course he is turned out to be about as bad as Nixon on drug policy. I AM VOTING FOR ANYBODY BUT HIM!
    I am done defending Obama. I don’t believe in this man. I think he is nothing more than a lying son of a bitch. He could have been the greatest president in American history; he could have freed the slaves. But instead he gave all our money to the bank/corporate/wall street masters and spearheaded new wars for these slave masters.
    The whole two party political system is a scam. So why would anybody vote for the “lesser of two evils?”
    I am voting for (GOP or Independent) Ron Paul!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    P.S. If Ron Paul got elected President corporations like Goldman Sachs would have their stock prices fall off a cliff. The entire economic landscape would shift from greedy insiders to the people!!! Now that is change people can believe in!

  9. @8. David762: “What this country needs is a vibrant, active, politically successful 3rd Party revolution…”
    — the problem being this country has a federal election system based on a Captive Primary round where the law requires you to choose one, only one party list of candidates to choose among. To give any 3rd party a fair chance you need to push for a system where there is a general first round, with redistribution of votes from a lost candidate to the voter’s second (third etc.) choice, and a final run-off round between top two candidates.
    @4. Don: “They (people like Richard Nixon, John Boehner, and Lamar Smith… to name a few) have done more harm to this country than any terrorist organization has ever been able to do.”
    I think, insdtead of giving in to rhetorical disgust and anger as above, you should focus on finding out operable information about what is actually happening. Since you mention Boehner (only two gunshots from world power), let’s start with finding out more about his relationship with John H. Fish, Vice President for Legislative Affairs at R. J. Reynolds, and Brucde Gates from Philip Morris. What are those guys telling Johnny to do about cannabis legalization?
    Rather than be angry at Boehner (or Obama), what scientific facts can we offer them to supporrt their telling Big 2WackGo to get lost and stop using cannabis prohibition to head off cannabis legalization which could destroy their profitable hot burning overdose 700-mg $igarette format?

  10. To all my fellow vets,,I am glad you are here to celebrate this day and hope all your friends made it home,,for the ones that didn’t make it home,,you were taken before your time and I hope your sacrifice will be acknowledged for long after the war that took you is over and forgotten.
    For my brothers that can’t,I will be having my annual shot of cognac in front of the only federal building in my town,,the post office,,at the flag pole,,at noon,,fellow veterans may join me there or at their local federal building at noon today,,,thank you all for your service.

  11. If we are waiting on Obama to get something passed we are in a world of hurt.
    Obama couldn’t pass the dressing at Thanksgiving dinner!!

  12. We can end this you know. They want votes right? Until they actually listen to the common American, I’m not voting for any “political party” member and I believe everyone in America should follow suit. WE THE PEOPLE need to change government, not vote for someone who “says” they’ll help us.
    It’s time we stand up for our civil and human rights. We’re all human. Love and prosperity for everyone should be the main goal of any nation yet here we are, working long hours, maximizing productivity, and for what…giving that big corporate boss his six,seven, eight figure wage he so gladly accepts.
    Limit government and change the entire outlook of our society. We need to survive and as it looks right now, we’re losing.

  13. You said it best, Paul .It’s great knowing that you have expressed my thinking exactly then put it into words .Cannabis should be descheduled & taken completely off the list of dangerous drugs . On another note, its been said Alcohol is twice as bad as Marijuana . Marijuana is not bad at all and therefore is no comparison to Alcohol .
    Number four has got it right –
    They are the ones that have chosen to accept bribes in the form of lobbiest payouts in exchange for their greedy souls. They (people like Richard Nixon, John Boehner, and Lamar Smith… to name a few) have done more harm to this country than any terrorist organization has ever been able to do. It is an outrage that these cretins continue to wield power in a country like America!

  14. Most major contributors to politicians .
    Found at ;
    Romney,Obama, Cain & the Texas Governor ( forgot his name )
    are the worse of the worse but typical in American politics .
    Health Professionals
    Hospitals/Nursing Homes
    Health Services
    Pharmaceuticals/Health Products
    Miscellaneous Health
    Lawyers/Law Firms
    Lobbyists/Public Relations
    Miscellaneous Business
    Business Associations
    Food & Beverage
    Beer, Wine & Liquor

  15. Paul, you have stunned me with your brilliance & i agree with you 101% However, i wanted to add this ;
    According to Wisconsin campaign finance filings, Walker’s gubernatorial campaign received $43,000 from the Koch Industries PAC during the 2010 election. That donation was his campaign’s second-highest, behind $143,125 in contributions from pharmaceutical groups in Wisconsin. The Koch’s PAC also helped Walker via a familiar and much-used politicial maneuver designed to allow donors to skirt campaign finance limits. The PAC gave $1 million to the Republican Governors Association, which in turn spent $65,000 on independent expenditures to support Walker. The RGA also spent a whopping $3.4 million on TV ads and mailers attacking Walker’s opponent, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett. Walker ended up beating Barrett by 5 points. The Koch & pharmaceutical money, no doubt, helped greatly.

  16. Paul, your essay is impressive. It is so clear, so straightforward, so lucid, and so full of truth! I give obeisance to you. Those government agents will be quaking in their jackboots when they realize that this travesty is ending, and that they must respect our Constitution.

  17. #11 Jeedi
    I have never voted for a Republican, excepting once in an open primary in VA to screw up their candidate roster. Obama has put the ‘final nail in the coffin’ of my voting Democratic Party. No longer will I consider political party alignment as a precursor to voting for any individual politician. I myself would consider voting for Ron Paul in 2012 if he ran as an Independent.
    #12 Anonymous
    You are correct about 3rd Parties being largely locked out of the States political selection processes, as well as blocking viable ‘non-Corporate vetted’ candidates of the Big Two Parties. Getting to the point of Instant Run-Off Voting, as well as public-only financing of political campaigns will take a prolonged and concerted effort by citizens to overturn this current status quo.
    I see several methods which when combined might wrest away electoral power from these Corporatist politicians:
    (1) a grass-roots organization of collecting exit poll data from our polling places;
    (2) a network of volunteer monitors at all our polling places during the voting process and any subsequent vote re-counts;
    (3) making extensive use of Absentee Ballots, which bypasses the nearly ubiquitous electronic voting machines; and
    (4) use of our citizens’ right to Write-In on our Absentee Ballots our choice of candidates.
    Organizing and educating voters to use these basic tactics of citizen activism are as important to restoring our democratic republic as the use of Grand Juries to pursue political corruption, Jury Nullification to correct unjust laws, and States’ RICO statutes to ‘break the bank’ of Corporate ‘Person-hood’.
    Ultimately, mountains of campaign cash from vested commercial interests cannot buy a single vote of an educated voter. When a corporate executive board can be put in prison, or a corporation can be ‘put to death’ — only then should corporations be allowed to unduly influence elections, not before that point.

  18. Then in the lawsuit make sure you point out all the pac money flowing to policy makers. Make it a point to show how their decisions on cannabis is fueled by money and not science and compassion.

  19. Our fault is in our discord. Those in power are in agreement.
    Conversely, we have the numbers to garner a majority over the opposition if most agree.
    The stakes are high, apparently our freedoms versus enslavement (and don’t fool yourself, I’m sure many favored slaves have lived in relevant luxury).
    Pick a side and honor it. Educate when able or pity those subject to the lies.

  20. Sorry, but no. There is no reason at all to be nice to these people pushing for a criminal marijuana policy.
    They know the science. They know the truth that marijuana is harmless. They are thieving assholes who are mis-directing our police just like what happened during slavery. Ordering the police to break the law which is exactly what both slavery and marijuana prohibition are–illegal statues designed to denigrate a minority population of citizens. Since only about 10% of US folks safely use marijuana we belong in jail anyway. It doesn’t make any sense–it is a cruel mis-application of government resources that is and has been damaging our country.
    End the War on Drugs now, or get the hell out of the way.

  21. marijuana is never going to be legal because cannabis gives people “non-ordinary” psycho-spiritual pleasure, and pleasure is a kind of power. and we know how the rulers of governments feel about power. they want all of it, and us with none or little of it.
    by the way, i still believe that referring to cannabis as marijuana is a mistake. im not racist (i myself am partly hispanic-latino and christian/catholic) but the word marijuana has hispanic-latino christian/catholic origins, and that seems to me an inappropriate label for a plant that already has a proper name in the literature.
    it is also interesting to note that tobacco is an arabic word and alcohol is an arabic word. and the word for cannabis in early us history was referred to also by the arabic word ‘hashish’.
    having said that, i can understand the motive behind the marijuana banner, as that was the name under which cannabis was first attacked, when it was seen in use by the hispanic-latino and african-american populations.
    but in the 21st century, i think we should keep to the technical name, which is cannabis (another word of generally middle-eastern origins)

  22. by the way, if anyone has issue with use of the word psycho, keep in mind that psychology is psycho-logy, and psychotherapy is psycho-therapy, etc.
    also, i think i should add an additional prefix to psycho-spiritual, and that prefix is bio-, for bio-psycho-spiritual pleasure/power.
    what the institutions, businesses and governments need to understand is there’s no threat from a high segment of the population. all the social effects are known already.
    what it would do is catalyze an adaptation of culture around a new experience, that is as manageable as any drug experience to an intelligent culture and sensitive society. institutions, businesses, and governments simply would have to adapt to emergent behaviors. and that’s what cultural development is all about.

  23. I just read the essays at CATO-Unbound from Norm Stamper and Allen St.Pierre. Both are excellent! I wish that I could attend that conference on Nov 15.

  24. Jeedi you just hit the nail on the head man. Vote Ron Paul lets send a message to the money grabbing, lying, assholes. Weed does not need to be decriminalized it needs to be LEGALIZED!!! IT is absolutly nuts what the two faced idots running this country are trying to shove down our throats. PRIVATE Prisons OMG stop the bull. I don’t want a single dime of my tax money going toward enforcing pot laws period. Rise up people send your state and federal reps your opinion

  25. I found this, and had to post it,
    as it made my eyes water.

    When my 86 year old father was dying of cancer, nothing seemed to help his nausea. I finally convinced him to inhale a few puffs of marijuana to see if he might get some relief. He had smoked three packs of cigarettes for years, but he was afraid of breaking the law by smoking marijuana. Finally he tried it. The results were instant, and he smiled for the first time in months. He was also able to eat, and keep down, his favorite food-a grilled cheese sandwich,. He thanked me with tears in his eyes, and at the same time he said “I guess I am now a criminal.” As he was a law abiding citizen, this make him feel bad. This man had served his country in WW2 and Korea. He worked his entire life. And yet, at the end of his life he could have been arrested for getting some relief for his cancer. So thank you Briana, for standing up for what is right. My father had to become a criminal for just wanting, and getting, some relief from the pain and nausea. Marijuana was the only thing that did that for him also allowing him to function. Hopefully, this will change for others and they will finally get the help that they deserve.

    it is from this article:
    and the poster was:
    Lorri Greene · Cardiff-by-the-Sea, California

  26. Our Govt should be made to realize that cannabis can be of huge benefit for psychological problems as well as physical one. Case in point – myself! I believe the only reason I didn’t kill myself roughly 25 years ago is because of the relief I found by smoking cannabis. I was very depressed for various reasons and ending my life was a serious possibility for me. However, after smoking cannabis, I began to see life a bit differently and to consider alternatives that I hadn’t considered before. It helped to relieve the stress and depression from which I suffered and got me through it.
    Today, I am doing just fine both physically and mentally; no thanks to our Govt’s idiotic policies against cannabis!

  27. adding on to what Don said…
    …not to mention, there are several articles, and studies I would expect, about the attempts of individuals attempting to clean their systems. These methods, such as drinking bleach, are FAR more likely to cause harm than any amount of cannabis would.
    FIRST PART – the symptom is ‘you had metabolites in your piss’
    SECOND PART – long-term incarceration-
    why the fuck isn’t that considered extreme?!
    What is the cost for a trial?
    what is the cost of incarceration?
    what is the cost in lost taxes because another tax-payer is in a cell, and lost his job?

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