A There’ve been some studies, like one conducted by Hartford Hospital and the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine (published in the March issue of the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, and reported on by the Hartford Courant June 7, 2010). Drivers who already admitted to smoking marijuana in the past month (no newbies) were given a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial in which some were given real pot to smoke, and others were given a placebo. They drove down a simulated country road in uneventful scenarios and in collision-avoidance situations in which sudden actions needed to be taken. It was found that there was no significant difference in the reaction times of the two groups in these situations. In another part of the experiment, drivers were given math problems to solve while driving to gauge how easily-distracted they would be. The real-pot-smokers decreased their speed more than the fake-pot-smokers, overcompensating for their impairment. Overcompensation, however, doesn’t imply safer driving, but a failure to benefit from previous driving experience. The gist of the results are that while some elements of driving are not affected by pot smoking at all, others are, and more exhaustive research is needed before we can even talk about getting into the driver’s seat on real-life highways while stoned. Researchers still don’t really know what’s going on in a marijuana-laced brain, and until that’s better understood, no definite conclusions can be made. In the meantime, if you never take a drug when there is potential to cause harm, then no one gets hurt. In a driving situation you’re potentially putting yourself and others at risk, so it’s best to sit in the passenger seat and wait for long-repressed weed science to catch up before taking any bold leaps of faith.
Q How did Marijuana end up getting outlawed in the United States? It seems that it is harmless enough. What on EARTH could the government see as a valid reason to criminalize its use/possession/sale?
A For a thorough telling of the tale, pick up a copy of The American Disease: Origins of Narcotic Control by Yale professor David Musto (originally from 1973, 3rd edition pub. 1999), a go-to reference on the subject. Here’s a brief synopsis: In the 1920s, marijuana was closely associated with Mexican immigrants who openly enjoyed toking up. Employers welcomed the cheap labor, but feared the immigrants as a source of crime, which was rampant in the southwestern states. Once the Great Depression hit in 1929, foreign labor was no longer welcome. The Southwest states cried out for help to get rid of the laborers, the crime and the drug, which were all lumped together as one evil. Harry Anslinger was named the first Commissioner of Narcotics in 1930, and he was a prohibition-enforcing hardass who was in charge of responding to their pleas. Hearings were held before the House. Doctors were questioned, and if they stated that cannabis was non-addictive and no worse than alcohol (as Dr. Walter L. Treadway did), they were brushed aside.
“The Treasury Department collected and considered scientific and medical opinion prior to the Tax Act hearings, but the desire to present a solid front when the department appeared before the committees of Congress caused the officials to ignore anything that qualified or minimized the evils of marihuana,” writes Musto.
The Marihuana Tax Act was passed October 1, 1937 as a means to control the drug, but it effectively led to total prohibition. Horror stories were compiled and spread as propaganda. This is all documented and real. There are transcripts to prove it. Look ‘em up.
Send your weedy questions to firstname.lastname@example.org