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Radical Rant: Why ‘We Need More Research’ On Cannabis Is Bullshit

Russ Belville

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medical marijuana, MMJ

Yesterday, activists with NORML gathered at George Washington University for a day of training on lobbying. Today, those activists are headed to Congress to talk about marijuana law reform with our federal elected officials.

The first speaker for the day was NORML’s Deputy Director Paul Armentano, a man who I have admired ever since I began reading his work. There is probably nobody else on the planet who has read more of the scientific and medical literature about cannabis than Paul.

Paul’s presentation was entitled, “We Don’t Know Enough About Cannabis? Really? Think Again.” That was the politically correct title he had given the talk, he told us.

“What this is really,” he said, “is it’s 2016; what the fuck else would our opponents need to know about marijuana to stop locking people up for it?”

Right out of the gate, Paul pierced the opposition talking point (and, even the talking point of presidential candidate Hillary Clinton) that we just don’t have enough research on marijuana to make informed decisions.

Paul told everybody about the federal government’s PubMed.gov database, which contains all the medical research papers from around the world on nearly every drug, disease and topic.

“A keyword search on the word ‘marijuana,’” Paul explained, “yields over 23,450 scientific journal articles in the peer-reviewed literature.”

For contrast, Paul illustrated that commonly-known, FDA-approved drugs have far less research.

“Tylenol brings up 19,554 papers,” he continued, “which is a lot, but still not as much as marijuana.”

He went down the list—ibuprofen had 11,837 papers, Ritalin had 7,834, hydrocodone had 863 and Adderall had 188.

Paul then attacked the idea that marijuana hasn’t been proven to be safe. He told the audience how that’s a diversionary tactic, because it is not the standard that other drugs have to meet.

Paul explained how drugs approved by the FDA have to demonstrate what is known as their LD50.

“LD50 is the dose at which half of the laboratory animals die from the drug,” he said. Cannabis has no known LD50, he told us, and there is not a single instance in worldwide medical literature where someone has been known to die from cannabis poisoning, according to the World Health Organization.

Paul then told us how drugs also have to show the FDA their therapeutic ratio.

“That’s the ratio between the ED50, or effective dose, versus the LD50, or lethal dose,” he said. Paul showed how cannabis has an infinite therapeutic ratio, since while a certain amount will be effective and get you high, no known amount can kill you.

But a drug like alcohol, he taught, has a 1-to-10 ratio, or 1-to-9 for women.

“That’s why someone can line up 21 shots of whiskey on their 21st birthday and die from alcohol poisoning,” he explained.

The third thing the FDA has to show is the likelihood of dependence on a drug.

Marijuana, Paul mentioned, has an accepted dependence rate of about nine percent, or about one in 11 people who use marijuana will become dependent on it at some point.

But that’s well within what we tolerate for other drugs, like alcohol, with its 15 percent dependence rate, or cigarettes, with their 30 percent dependence rate. And unlike those drugs, dependence on marijuana can’t kill you.

If you haven’t availed yourself of the science library at NORML.org and the work of Paul Armentano, get studying! Nobody knows more on cannabis science, drug testing, and marijuana and driving than Paul.

(Photo Courtesy of Herb.co)

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