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

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director November 10, 2011

    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 responses to “Cannabis’ Impact on Health Justifies Its Legalization, Not Its Criminal Prohibition”

    1. Cat Cassie says:

      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.

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    3. Don says:

      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!

    4. Fed up Phil says:

      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!

    5. Brian says:

      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.

    6. David762 says:

      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!

    7. TheOracle says:

      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!

    8. john williamson says:

      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…