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Marijuana Laws Ruin Lives, Legalize Cannabis, Say US Activists

by Gopalan on  October 2, 2007 at 12:36 PM Drug News   - G J E 4
Marijuana Laws Ruin Lives, Legalize Cannabis, Say US Activists
Over eight hundred thousand Americans were arrested for violating marijuana laws last year, according a report released by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
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Of those arrested, 89 percent of those were charged with simple pot possession -- the highest annual total ever recorded and nearly three times the number of citizens busted 15 years ago.

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As per figures released by the Office of Applied Studies (OAS) 2006 National Survey on Drug Use and Health less than 2 percent increase in pot users was recorded from '05 to '06. But pot arrests jumped more than five percent. Activists and blame it all on the "zeal" of enforcement officials.

The bottom line: Since 1990 over 10.4 million Americans -- predominantly young people under age 30 -- have been busted for pot. Thousands have been disenfranchised, tens of thousands have been unnecessarily sent to "drug treatment," hundreds of thousands have lost their eligibility for student aid, and perhaps an entire generation (or two) has been alienated to believe that the police are an instrument of their oppression rather than their protection. These are the tangible results of the government's stepped up war on pot -- results that go beyond the FBI's record numbers, and it's high time that politicians and the general public began taking notice.

The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) is campaigning in a big way supporting "the right of adults to use marijuana responsibly, whether for medical or personal purposes," it says.

All penalties, both civil and criminal, should be eliminated for responsible use. Further, to eliminate the crime, corruption and violence associated with any "black market," a legally regulated market should be established where consumers could buy marijuana in a safe and secure environment.

According to the American Chronic Pain Association, one in three Americans lives in persistent pain. Isn't it time to grant these patients legal access to a non-toxic alternative that can help them alleviate their pain and suffering? Paul Armentano, a senior policy analyst with the NORML asks and suggests that cannabis could be that option.

In 12 states, including New Mexico, patients now can use cannabis therapeutically under state law. Many of these patients use cannabis for pain relief.

Investigators at San Francisco General Hospital and the University of California's Pain Clinical Research Center assessed the efficacy of inhaled cannabis on HIV-associated sensory neuropathy. Neuropathic pain, colloquially known as nerve pain, affects an estimated 1 percent of the world's population and is typically unresponsive to both opioids and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications.

Researchers reported that patients who smoked low-grade cannabis three times daily experienced, on average, a 34 percent reduction in pain. Assessing the use of cannabinoids as analgesics has demonstrated that they also can alleviate the neuropathy associated with multiple sclerosis, diabetes, cancer and rheumatoid arthritis. Canadian health regulators just approved the use of an oral cannabis spray for the treatment of cancer pain.

Survey data from numerous studies also indicates that medicinal pot users typically require fewer pharmaceutical drugs than their non-using counterparts. In June, investigators at Columbia University reported that HIV patients who used cannabis therapeutically made fewer requests for over-the-counter medications, such as pain relievers and anti-nausea drugs, than subjects administered a placebo.

Evidence also demonstrates that cannabis has an adequate safety profile, particularly when compared to other pain medications. For instance, long-term use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen and naproxen, is a leading cause of stomach ulcers and stomach bleeding, with some reports estimating that their use contributes to more than 100,000 hospitalizations and 16,500 deaths annually in the United States.

The use of narcotic painkillers such as oxycodone (OxyContin) to treat chronic pain also poses serious health risks, including death by overdose and addiction. Recently, a federal judge in Virginia ordered OxyContin-maker Purdue Pharma L.P. and three of its executives to pay more than $634 million in fines for misleading the public about the drug's risk of addiction.

By contrast, few users of cannabis, less than 10 percent, according to the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine, ever become dependent on the drug, and no human case of fatal overdose has ever been attributed to cannabis, argues Armentano.

Source: Medindia
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