Why I Would Vote No On Pot

Maybe it’s because I was born a couple of months after Woodstock and wasn’t around when marijuana was as common as iPods are today, but I’m constantly amazed that after all these years–and all the wars on drugs and all the public-service announcements–nearly 15 million Americans still use marijuana at least once a month. California and 10 other states have already decriminalized marijuana for medical use. Now two of those states–Colorado and Nevada–are considering ballot initiatives that would legalize up to an ounce of pot for personal use by people 21 and older, whether or not there is a medical need.

What do voters need to know before going to the polls?

The first is that marijuana isn’t really very good for you. True, there are health benefits for some patients. Several recent studies, including a new one from the Scripps Research Institute, show that THC, the chemical in marijuana responsible for the high, can help slow the progress of Alzheimer’s disease. (In fact, it seems to block the formation of disease-causing plaques better than several mainstream drugs.) Other studies have shown THC to be a very effective antinausea treatment for people–cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, for example–for whom conventional medications aren’t working. And medical cannabis has shown promise relieving pain in patients with multiple sclerosis and reducing intraocular pressure in glaucoma patients.

But I suspect that most of the people eager to vote yes on the new ballot measures aren’t suffering from glaucoma, Alzheimer’s or chemo-induced nausea. Many of them just want to get stoned legally. That’s why I, like many other doctors, am unimpressed with the proposed legislation, which would legalize marijuana irrespective of any medical condition.

Why do I care? As Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, puts it, “Numerous deleterious health consequences are associated with [marijuana’s] short- and long-term use, including the possibility of becoming addicted.”

What are other health consequences? Frequent marijuana use can seriously affect your short-term memory. It can impair your cognitive ability (why do you think people call it dope?) and lead to long-lasting depression or anxiety. While many people smoke marijuana to relax, it can have the opposite effect on frequent users. And smoking anything, whether it’s tobacco or marijuana, can seriously damage your lung tissue.

The Nevada and Colorado marijuana initiatives have gained support from unlikely places. More than 33 religious leaders in Nevada have endorsed the measure, arguing that permissive legalization, accompanied by stringent regulations and penalties, can cut down on illegal drug trafficking and make communities safer.

Perhaps. But I’m here to tell you, as a doctor, that despite all the talk about the medical benefits of marijuana, smoking the stuff is not going to do your health any good. And if you get high before climbing behind the wheel of a car, you will be putting yourself and those around you in danger.

Sanjay Gupta is a neurosurgeon. Check out his podcast at cnn.com/health

– Article from TIME Magazine, October 29, 2006.

Comments

7 Comments

  1. Anonymous on

    Yes there is a stoned and driving charge. I live in Ohio and I got an OVI for driving under the influence of Marijuana. Licsense susspened for 1 year. Legalize it soon so this b/s dosn’t happen any more.

  2. Anonymous on

    I bet this same doctor prescribes dangerous pharmaceuticals with side-effects which include possible seizures and death. But are these drugs questioned? No. There’s lots of legitimate money to be made in pharmaceuticals. You will almost never hear a doctor speak out about the dangers of the drugs THEY push on a daily basis which are causing far more harm to the general public than marijuana. The bias is sickening. Let’s not forget that alcohol is very damaging to the brain, read the latest research.

    Oh and by the way, marijuana is addicting, come on guys admit it, not like crack, but its addicting in its own way and any pot head who smoked daily for years and then quit knows there are mild physical withdrawal symptoms. I’m all for decrim but let’s at least get real here people. Pot smokers can be very naive about the consequences their daily smoke sessions have. Like I said, I am pro pot, but just don’t kid yourself.

  3. Anonymous on

    I bet this same doctor prescribes dangerous pharmaceuticals with side-effects which include possible seizures and death. But are these drugs questioned? No. There’s lots of legitimate money to be made in pharmaceuticals. You will almost never hear a doctor speak out about the dangers of the drugs THEY push on a daily basis which are causing far more harm to the general public than marijuana. The bias is sickening. Let’s not forget that alcohol is very damaging to the brain, read the latest research.

    Oh and by the way, marijuana is addicting, come on guys admit it, not like crack, but its addicting in its own way and any pot head who smoked daily for years and then quit knows there are mild physical withdrawal symptoms. I’m all for decrim but let’s at least get real here people. Pot smokers can be very naive about the consequences their daily smoke sessions have. Like I said, I am pro pot, but just don’t kid yourself.

  4. Steve on

    Are you guys serious? Are you truly that Stupid??? The comments left by you guys is the EXACT reason why they will never legalize it…seriously… the best thing people like you can do, is to stop talking, stay out of the public view, quit protesting…and lol stop trying to grow weed / use weed / share weed in these loliberal states… got some bad news for you… federal law trumps state law… so go ahead… enjoy!

  5. Brother Stew on

    Did this Dr. actually just say that there is a possibility of becoming addicted to marijuana??? He is a Dr., right? He surely knows that it is physically and mentally impossible to become addicted to THC right? Where did they get this guy? Whatever state or country who gave this QUACK a medical liscense should be disbarred!! Its just a little herb. It should be as legal as toothpaste!! Jeese, what is the big deal?!? I wish all my employees would smoke reefer instead of pounding 25 beers each evening. That way we could get some work done before 12 or 1pm each day and they wouldnt have to work off their hangovers. And Im the boss for Christ sake!! You dont have to make it using chemicals, you dont have to snort it, its not made in a lab( although it should be ) Its just simple plantlife that can be enjoyed by young and old. OK, put an age limit of 18, like tobacco, and get over it already. I really cant believe that we have actual Doctors telling people that they might get addicted to weed!! What is this world coming too??? Smoke it up people!! Its way better for you than alcohol. And alcohol is legal!! Ive never heard of stoning and driving violations, have you? Brother Stew

  6. Anonymous on

    I live in Switzerland and we have a bit more progressive ideas than our “friends” (the same “friends” who destroy our logging sector) to the south.
    Here most people drink too much alcohol and it’s sad to see that you’re still not allowed to toke up in public. Used to be possible to smoke pot in the smoking sections on the trains (awesome….was so funny to get over the border from Austria or Germany, everyone lights up after the border).
    Keep your fight alive Marc! You’re a true Canadian hero and I hold you and your wife in high esteem.

    Cheers from Lausanne,
    Eric

  7. jonny greenbox on

    this is crazy, i honestly don’t think that man has ever smoked marijuana, he doesnt really seem to know what he is talking about, at least it seems that way to me, i understand he is a neurosurgeon or whatever, but seriusly, he sounds like a joke talking about marijuana that way, and, maybe its not the smartest and safest thing in the world but an expierenced user can drive high, especilly if the pots not super potent… its nothing at all like being drunk, someone please get that man stoned… haha