Where There’s Smoke…

govtprop.jpgHow much truth do we expect from the American government? What exactly are we supposed to believe in these days filled with scandal and revelation, and how much of an influence has our government had over the years in shaping our beliefs and opinions?
We all have ideas of right and wrong, good and bad, much of which has been influenced in no small part by the United States Government, through our leaders, public schools and public service announcements. Historically, government stamps of approval meant we didn’t have to think. Likewise, governments disapproval and warnings told us to stay away, there was danger. If you went to school in the 60’s and 70’s but have forgotten those scratchy black and white Super 8 films with the accent of a loud and overused projector, check out SOMETHING WEIRD . Their collection of classic school scare films (also available through Comcast On Demand Cable under the heading “The Cutting Edge”) will remind you of those important government sponsored teachings of the past, such as hiding under your desk in case of a nuclear attack or that masturbation can make you go blind. 

As we gained access to information and began questioning government policies we rarely dared to before, we saw Americans work to reverse oppressive civil rights policies such as illegal abortions and the lack of worker rights. Leaders and activists awakened us to the possibility that we may not be getting the whole truth from those we’d given power. People of integrity and strength forged alliances to demand truths be revealed, to create laws of fairness driven by the standards of the constitution, not personal opinion and prejudice. Once the veils of deception began to be  lifted, it seemed unthinkable that America could return to the days when information was siphoned off as the government saw fit. 
Slowly at first, and now with lightning speed, the Republican party and particularly the current sham of an administration, are intent on little or no truth being disseminated to American citizens, working diligently to swing America back toward opinion rather than truth,  separatism rather than unity, judgment and condemnation rather than acceptance and equality. Their goal is to dictate the boundaries of our lives rather than respect individual choices. They want a country of God fearing Christians who put aside logic in favor of mythology. Ironically, while spewing a dedication to the constitution and the Bible, Republicans now stand in direct opposition to both these documents, as well as openly violating the tenants of global conduct by waging an unprovoked and pre-emptive war based on incompetent intelligence.
The current conservative agenda is based on the idea that the clean and sterile version of America we were all force fed as children can be realized. They strive for an America where sexual abstinence is the standard until after marriage, where gay people are denied equal rights  , where we only ingest government sanctioned products and where truth can be sanitized in order to protect an elaborate and imaginative belief system that should make any thinking American roll their eyes. Not because these things are believed, since American freedom allows for that, but because this political party has decided that their opinions and imaginative beliefs should be legislated onto the rest of us. They simply don’t believe that freedom and equality applies to anyone not agreeing with the choices deemed acceptable by conservatives.
The Republican governor of South Dakota has signed a new law which would make  abortions illegal (except in the case of a life threatening situation to the mother) and will  take effect this summer barring legal challenges. Legal challenges, however, are exactly what they hope for, as their goal is to get this issue before the Supreme Court in the hopes of eventually overturning ROE V WADE . Several other states are considering similar abortion bans, while other states have already put into effect partial bans on abortions. Up to seven states are now attempting to make sex toys illegal, while some (Texas, Mississippi, Georgia, Louisiana and Kansas) already have statutes banning items they consider to be "obscene" . Homosexuality and gay marriage is under ATTACK with laws being proposed all over the country which would block equal civil rights for the LGBT community. There’s also a possibility that not only will gay marriage be blocked permanently in California by changes to our state constitution, but also that currently legal domestic partnerships in the state would be reversed.

In Massachusetts, where gay marriage was legalized, the Catholic Church, (who is also against laws requiring hospitals to distribute emergency contraception to rape victims) is in a battle with the state to exempt them from the new laws, since they no longer wish to place children who are up for adoption with gay families even though they’ve been doing it since 1987 . Even worse, there are outcries condemning the state for forcing the church to abide by the law. (Including rants by Tucker Carlson, a true moron over at MSNBC)  Evidently, as laws are passed granting equal rights to non-heterosexuals, we’re going to have to work just as hard to keep them in place, since laws supporting heterosexuals are written in stone and those supporting homosexuals can be written with disappearing ink.
In Fresno we’ve seen police operations targeting legal bar patrons in certain parts of town, while all but ignoring other, more affluent areas where customers leaving upscale restaurants step into their cars, legally drunk after a few cocktails or glasses of wine.  Texas policemen are arresting bar patrons still inside the bar for apparent intoxication, and in one case I witnessed, even arrested a woman in the bar of the hotel she was staying at. She wasn’t getting into a car (and not very intoxicated from what I could see), she simply had to walk back to her room. Alcohol, a perfectly legal substance, seems to be headed for the top spot on the list of easily attained income for law enforcement.
Over and over, conservatives have taken up the “protection” strategy in the hopes to diminish our civil rights. In order to protect someone, you’d think truth would be the primary goal. You’d want to know if something in the food aisle was dangerous, or if the death penalty worked to curtail crime. You’d want to know if the ozone layer was thinning and why, or if the air you were breathing in was toxic. The government, regardless of party affiliation, should at least be trusted to provide us with the facts. At least, that’s what they’ve been telling us for decades. We were told that equality and fairness were the doctrines of the nation while we witnessed violations of civil rights. We’ve been told our government would never act like some of the countries around the world we declare to be barbaric, and then we watch our own military torture foreign citizens. Torture not for information, but amusement, and resulting in no consequence to commanding officers, just soldiers with little defense.
So which facts can we believe and how much trust can we have in any administration that hides truth, regardless of the subject matter, in favor of opinion? One of the longest standing deceptions of the American government is the truth about marijuana. The marijuana propaganda our government stands by to this day is no longer about kids smoking a joint after school. Now it’s succeeded in blocking proven medical benefits of the drug to those who need it. The lie has always been the same, but now a choice has been made to protect that lie rather than help American citizens in pain. When you understand what’s happening right now in America, you may wonder what other information our government is choosing to keep from us. Science and the current administration, particularly GW Bush, are now at polar opposites when it comes to things like global  warming , evolution  (Bush doesn’t believe in this scientifically proven fact and is even promoting an imaginary theory “Intelligent Design” be taught in public schools, another way to weave Bush’s personal religious beliefs into the minds of children),  human sexuality  and marijuana. Remembering that science is based on fact, what does that say about our government, if they are in opposition to it?
I recently read an article about the legalization and distribution of medical marijuana in California. Apparently Fresno has found a way to block local dispensaries that would be used to obtain and provide marijuana to those who need it for medical reasons. This, despite the passage of  Proposition 215 in 1996, which approved medical marijuana, and regardless of the Health & Safety Code 1362.5, which encouraged the state and local governments to implement a plan for safe and affordable distribution.
This issue is a picture perfect example of our government and conservative population pushing lies as truth. Regardless of your stance on the legalization of marijuana, or at the very least medical marijuana, looking at the facts might make you re-think certain  principals established long ago by a trust in American government.
That said, here are some of the facts.
There isn’t a single documented death in America or anywhere else attributed to marijuana.
When examining the medical affects of marijuana use, the National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse concluded, "A careful search of the literature and testimony of the nation’s health officials has not revealed a single human fatality in the United States proven to have resulted solely from ingestion of marihuana. Experiments with the drug in monkeys demonstrated that the dose required for overdose death was enormous and for all practical purposes unachievable by humans smoking marihuana. This is in marked contrast to other substances in common use, most notably alcohol and barbiturate sleeping pills. The WHO reached the same conclusion in 1995.
Source:  Shafer, Raymond P., et al, Marihuana: A Signal of Misunderstanding, Ch. III, (Washington DC: National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse, 1972); Hall, W., Room, R. & Bondy, S., WHO Project on Health Implications of Cannabis Use: A Comparative Appraisal of the Health and Psychological Consequences of Alcohol, Cannabis, Nicotine and Opiate Use, August 28, 1995, (Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization, March 1998).
No evidence exists which supports marijuana as a gateway drug
The following is from a study by the Institute of Medicine in Washington, DC
The Institute of Medicine’s 1999 report on marijuana explained that marijuana has been mistaken for a gateway drug in the past because "Patterns in progression of drug use from adolescence to adulthood are strikingly regular. Because it is the most widely used illicit drug, marijuana is predictably the first illicit drug most people encounter. Not surprisingly, most users of other illicit drugs have used marijuana first. In fact, most drug users begin with alcohol and nicotine before marijuana, usually before they are of legal age.
IOM Study 
Smoking marijuana does not encourage violent or criminal behavior
When examining the relationship between marijuana use and violent crime, the National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse concluded, "Rather than inducing violent or aggressive behavior through its purported effects of lowering inhibitions, weakening impulse control and heightening aggressive tendencies, marihuana was usually found to inhibit the expression of aggressive impulses by pacifying the user, interfering with muscular coordination, reducing psychomotor activities and generally producing states of drowsiness lethargy, timidity and passivity."
Source:  Shafer, Raymond P., et al, Marihuana: A Signal of Misunderstanding, Ch. III, (Washington DC:National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse, 1972).
The United States Department Of Justice Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has stated:
“Marijuana is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man”
They also state that marijuana is not addictive and poses absolutely no health risk.
The DEA’s Administrative Law Judge, Francis Young concluded: "In strict medical terms marijuana is far safer than many foods we commonly consume. For example, eating 10 raw potatoes can result in a toxic response. By comparison, it is physically impossible to eat enough marijuana to induce death. Marijuana in its natural form is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man. By any measure of rational analysis marijuana can be safely used within the supervised routine of medical care.
Source:  US Department of Justice, Drug Enforcement Agency, "In the Matter of Marijuana Rescheduling Petition," [Docket #86-22], (September 6, 1988), p. 57.
The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA)  has put out their own propaganda on marijuana in their article Marijuana – The Myths That Are Killing Us
The article, which is filled with anecdotes and specious reasoning, relies on emotional hot buttons, particularly with parents, as illustrated in the following passage, chock full of empty supposition and sadly humorous reasoning..
For those of you who patrol streets and highways, you know that the consequences of marijuana-impaired driving can be tragic. For example, four children and their van driver-nicknamed Smokey by the children for his regular marijuana smoking-died in April 2002 when a Tippy Toes Learning Academy van veered off a freeway and hit a concrete bridge abutment. He was found at the crash scene with marijuana in his pocket.
Secondhand smoke from marijuana kills other innocents as well. Last year, two Philadelphia firefighters were killed when they responded to a residential fire stemming from an indoor marijuana grow. In New York City, an eight-year-old boy, Deasean Hill, was killed by a stray bullet just steps from his Brooklyn home after a drug dealer sold a dime bag of marijuana on another dealer’s turf.

In attempting to convince readers of the possible second hand smoke danger of pot, the DEA provides no evidence of any second hand danger, while instead pointing out the very real danger of second hand cigarette smoke, a perfectly legal drug.
Myth: Smoking marijuana harms only the smokers  Reality: Marijuana use harms nonusers
We need to put to rest the thought that there is such a thing as a lone drug user, a person whose habits affect only himself or herself. Drug use, including marijuana use, is not a victimless crime. Some in your communities may resist involvement because they think someone else’s drug use is not hurting them. But this kind of not-my-problem thinking is tragically misguided. Ask those same people about secondhand smoke from cigarettes, and they’ll quickly acknowledge the harm that befalls nonsmokers. Secondhand smoke is a well-known problem, one that Americans are becoming more unwilling to bear. We need to apply the same common-sense thinking to the even more pernicious secondhand effects of drug use.
Here’s an incredible passage in which the DEA  admits this teenager died from a reaction to the drug Ecstasy, coupled with the inaction of her or friends to call for help, yet they still manage to make marijuana the demon:
APR 26–When 14-year-old Irma Perez of Belmont, California, took a single ecstasy pill one evening last April, she had no idea she would become one of the 26,000 people who die every year from drugs. Irma took ecstasy with two of her 14-year-old friends in her home. Soon after taking the tiny blue pill, Irma complained of feeling awful and said she felt like she was "going to die." Instead of seeking medical care, her friends called the 17-year-old dealer who supplied the pills and asked for advice. The friends tried to get Irma to smoke marijuana, but when she couldn’t because she was vomiting and lapsing into a coma, they stuffed marijuana leaves into her mouth because, according to news sources, "they knew that drug is sometimes used to treat cancer patients."

Irma Perez died from taking ecstasy, but compounding that tragedy was the deadly decision to use marijuana to "treat" her instead of making what could have been a lifesaving call to 911. Irma was a victim of our society’s stunning misinformation about marijuana-a society that has come to believe that marijuana use is not only an individual’s free choice but also is good medicine, a cure-all for a variety of ills. A recent poll showed that nearly three-fourths of Americans over the age of 45 support legalizing marijuana for medical use.
(By the way, the source for the statistic of 26,000 deaths from drugs comes from the  Centers For Disease Control. I’ve pasted the exact section of the report  the DEA takes this statistic from below. Notice that the 26,000 deaths are for all drugs, legal and illegal, and includes poisoning from medically prescribed and other drugs. Even more telling is that the 26,000 does not include any unintentional injuries, which I would think this case falls into, making it not even part of the 26,000 in the first place)

Drug-induced mortality
In 2002 a total of 26,018 persons died of drug-induced causes in the United States. The category ‘‘drug-induced causes’’ includes not only deaths from dependent and nondependent use of drugs (legal and illegal use), but also poisoning from medically prescribed and other drugs. It excludes unintentional injuries, homicides, and other causes indirectly related to drug use.
Now look at the statistics from the same CDC report regarding alcohol related deaths. Alcohol is perfectly legal and yet it had a death rate of 19,928 people.
Alcohol-induced mortality
In 2002 a total of 19,928 persons died of alcohol-induced causes in the United States. The category ‘alcohol induced causes’’ includes not only deaths from dependent and nondependent use of alcohol but also  accidental poisoning by alcohol. It excludes unintentional injuries, homicides, and other causes indirectly related to alcohol use as well as deaths due to fetal alcohol syndrome.
The following passage from the DEA claims the Institute of Medicine conducted a study which concluded virtually no medical benefits of marijuana. This is completely false and based on the misleading manipulation that marijuana is not "medicine".
In 1999 the Institute of Medicine (IOM) undertook a landmark study reviewing the alleged medical properties of marijuana. Advocates of so-called medical marijuana frequently tout this study, but the study’s findings decisively undercut their arguments. In truth, the IOM explicitly found that marijuana is not medicine and expressed concern about patients’ smoking it because smoking is a harmful drug-delivery system. The IOM further found that there was no scientific evidence that smoked marijuana had medical value, even for the chronically ill, and concluded that "there is little future in smoked marijuana as a medically approved medication." In fact, the researchers who conducted the study could find no medical value to marijuana for virtually any ailment they examined, including the treatment of wasting syndrome in AIDS patients, movement disorders such as Parkinson’s disease and epilepsy, or glaucoma.

You can read the actual report by the IOM here IOM Marijuana Report

The DEA argues again and again that marijuana is not medicine. This statement, as with virtually every claim the DEA makes, is used to be purposely misleading. “Medicine” is an official branding of a particular drug for medical use. The only reason that marijuana cannot be officially labeled as “medicine” is because the government has not allowed the clinical trials necessary to classify it, despite overwhelming scientific and medical evidence which supports it.

 In the same report by the Institute of Medicine, there are clear reasons stated which  explain why marijuana has not been used appropriately in clinical trials. Simply put, the US government doesn’t want it to happen.
The data on the adverse effects of marijuana are more extensive than the data on its effectiveness. Clinical studies of marijuana are difficult to conduct: researchers interested in clinical studies of marijuana face a series of barriers, research funds are limited, and there is a daunting thicket of regulations to be negotiated at the federal level (those of the Food and Drug Administration, FDA, and the Drug Enforcement Agency, DEA) and state levels. Consequently, the rapid growth in basic research on cannabinoids contrasts with the paucity of substantial clinical studies on medical uses.
The best example I could find which illustrates how the government is purposefully blocking clinical testing on marijuana can be found  on the MAPS website.  It details the court battle between MAPS (Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies) and the DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency). MAPS is trying to get what is necessary from the government to do an extensive clinical study on marijuana. The DEA has blocked them at every turn (Case is still tied up in court). Reading the transcripts and documentation of this ongoing case is more than anyone should need to prove the US government prefers fiction to fact.
At Drug War Facts , you can read these and many other facts about marijuana, as well as the startlingly high arrest record of the American population. Here you’ll find other studies which state that marijuana has no long term effects on memory, IQ or neurocognitive functioning.  
Visit Drug Sense to see an up to the minute cost in taxpayer dollars to fund the astronomical failure of the government’s drug war.
At Drug Policy Alliance you can find virtually all the truth behind the debate on marijuana.    

Given the facts, we’re left with the question, why? Why is the US Government so intent on misleading the public about this one particular drug? If it’s safe for humans and has many therapeutic medicinal applications, what are they stamping their feet about? I found one opinion on the internet.
You ask yourself, why does the U.S. government need for drugs to remain illegal? Because legalization would remove the need for billions of dollars in law enforcement and prison budgets.  With Legalization, the price of illicit drugs would be drastically reduced causing the estimated 200 BILLION dollars a year laundered through our banks to dry up, and that 200 BILLION supports Wall St. & many powerful special interests there. 
Still, while that may be an argument regarding the financial end, we have to wonder if there’s another reason, some motivation to deceive Americans about this drug. It does appear that liberals are less uptight about this issue than are conservatives. I’ve been told by more than one conservative that even if I could prove there was no harm in marijuana and that it might help sick people, they would still never vote to legalize it. Why? There was no reason given, they just “felt” it was wrong. Not that all those prescription drugs that were responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths were wrong, but marijuana was.
At the site for The Family Council On Drug Awareness I found an interview with Dr. Robert J Melamede from the University of Colorado. He explains that there are CB1 & CB2 receptors in the brain which are for receiving cannabanoids, which are in marijuana and which occur naturally in almost all living things with the exception of insects. After experiments on mice to study these brain receptors, a supposition is proposed for humans…
Mice lacking the CB1 receptors don’t like any changes. If they are moved to another part of the cage they act upset and when they are put back to the original spot in the cage they relax, but if then put into another part of the cage they get upset again. Comment: I wonder if people, especially drug warriors, had their CB1 receptors blocked then they would resist change and the ones of us that have unblocked CB1 receptors enjoy the benefits of cannabinoids are a lot more relaxed and not paranoid about or over change. Interesting thought. It turns out that that thought is absolutely correct. Many people’ brains are not capable of a good connection to the CB1 CB2 receptors. Activity in the evolutionary advanced areas of the brain is increased in cannabinoids receptors and promotes higher consciousness levels.
While I’ve long pondered this, smiling to myself at the irony, it’s something I could toss around that might explain the reluctance of conservatives to adapt to change, or to revise their opinions given new evidence. It’s not an easy argument to enter into without sounding condescending or egomaniacal. But could it be that  we’re genetically predisposed to either accepting change and evolving or not?
The war on drugs, in particular marijuana, was set into high gear under President Richard Nixon in the early 1970’s. Nixon commissioned a study on the drug which is the most extensive and comprehensive study ever conducted in the United States (click on the "evidence" link below). Thanks to declassified tapes, it was learned that the commission came back with evidence that marijuana was virtually harmless, and not responsible for any of the dangers the government claimed. The commission also recommended the decriminalization of the drug. Nixon was adamant in his opposition to the findings, and sparked a war on the drug so aggressive that after only a year arrests for marijuana increased by 100,000 and according to the FBI Crime Report, jumped to over 730,000 by the year 2000. To read the report go to Common Sense Drug Policy Report  
Why would our government choose to hide the truth about a completely harmless substance? Given the amount of prescription drugs swallowed every day in this country, many of which have terrible side effects and others which are recalled because they caused deaths, it’s strange why the government is working so hard to maintain this deception. We’re currently buried under a mountain of legal pills in this country for diseases none of ever heard of a few years ago. We can’t have condom ads on television but try missing the commercials for Viagra, Cialis and the rest of the new drugs to give men a 36 hour erection.  America’s food supply is often more dangerous than many of our drugs. High fructose corn syrup, cheap and easily produced, with a strong lobby behind it, has invaded almost all our food products and is directly linked to our skyrocketing obesity rate. Yet when was the last time the government warned us about something as prevalent as this, which we’re consuming on a daily basis? The dangers of legalized substances in this country is staggering.
Drug Death Tolls
Tobacco. 165,000 annual deaths
Alcohol. 75,000 annual deaths
Prescription Drugs. 100,000 annual deaths
Marijuana0 deaths in all of recorded time
Think about the last time you discussed abortion with someone absolutely opposed to it. The opinions tend to be “I believe abortion is murder”. I never hear the appropriate follow up sentence, which would be “I understand, however, that it’s my belief, and in America, we don’t legislate personal beliefs.” This is the critical key to many current debates that somehow alludes conservatives. We’re all entitled to our opinion, but we’re not entitled to inflict restrictive laws on other American citizens in order to support our opinions. I find it strange that any woman would support making abortion illegal, because believe me, if men could get pregnant not only would abortion be legal, but there’d be a drive through window.
Belief is not truth. It does not carry any of the weight that truth does, and by it’s own definition is nothing more than an idea, a concept. Our truths are the barometer of our respect for ourselves and others. When truth can be created and manipulated, all lines blur. American truth has always been based on a collective agreement among a majority of citizens. Our devotion to comfort and control through interpretation of the truth has proven to be powerful and persuasive enough to sustain any idea or concept. When we’re forced to make an occasional concession regarding the truth in any given situation, we tend to overlook our own participation while laying blame on any roster of charges, a list constantly shifting in and out of public acceptance. We claim to be a country formed and based on truth and yet even in 2006 there’s hardly any truth to be found. We cannot and will not evolve or mature as a nation as long as we continue to hold the truth in such low regard.
"The difference between a policy and a crusade is that a policy is judged by its results, while a crusade is judged by how good it makes its crusaders feel."
Thomas Sowell
"Prohibition will work great injury to the cause of temperance.
It is a species of intemperance within itself, for it goes beyond the bounds of reason in that it attempts to control mans appetite by legislation, and makes a crime out of things that are not crimes.
A prohibition law strikes a blow at the very principals upon which our government was founded."
Abraham Lincoln


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