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February 15, 2014

America's Cigarette Problem as a Segue into Potential Legalization (of Cannabis)

No sooner did I observe in the last entry that,"cigarettes have never been banned despite being responsible for nearly a half million premature deaths a year," than a national Pharmacy chain announced plans to stop selling all tobacco products next October. I must say the decision caught me by surprise, but I also know that because CVS appears more profit driven than most, they wouldn't be making it if sales hadn't been declining. That the overall rate of chronic cigarette smoking in the US has declined to around 20% (as noted in the CNN video) is also good news to this former smoker.

To return to the uncredited benefits of chronic cannabis use, I have long maintained that it is beneficial self-medication for those who need it. For example, when people who drink too much start using cannabis, they tend to moderate their alcohol intake to safe levels. Likewise, those who smoke cigarettes every day begin reducing the number and many ultimately succeed in quitting completely, although many others remain stuck on a minimal number for years– and thus vulnerable to increase under stress. My own experience was similar: although I knew cigarettes were unhealthy and felt guilty because I couldn't quit, I smoked from the age of 13 (in 1945) until I was 43, when I quit for 2 full years; only to relapse while going through a divorce. I was unable to quit for good until 1993, following the death of my younger brother from lung cancer.

Of course, one can't become a repetitive user of any drug without first trying it, a phenomenon that's been labeled initiation (click "look inside") by the two medical specialties that were created by Nixon's CSA: Addiction Medicine and Pain Medicine, both of which are apparently now officially accredited Specialties.

A problem I have with the conventional notion of "initiation" is that it doesn't require that initiates experience the "high" associated with the drug in question. In the case of cannabis, the inhaled high is very complex and not experienced by all would–be initiates even after multiple attempts. Beyond that, the edible high is also very different for anatomic and physiologic reasons– a critical difference that seems to have escaped nearly all researchers.

The bottom line is examiners can only learn about those critical differences by asking about them, which causes me to wonder how many drug researchers have ever experienced the two (very different) marijuana "highs" they write about so knowingly.

In my own case, I realized– belatedly– that although I'd tried "weed" a few times between 1968 and 1971, my first high wasn't until '71 and it was the normally aversive "paranoid" reaction, (about which, more later). Likewise, my third or fourth "edible" high was a memorably incapacitating experience from which I also learned some valuable lessons. It- and those lessons- will also be described in a later entry.

All of which provides a providential seque into an exciting new development, one I found hiding in plain sight in a recent item on marijuana "legalization" in– of all places– The New York Times.

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at February 15, 2014 12:13 AM