Many people oppose cannabis based on their fear of its’ impact upon society. And while negative stereotypes abound, none appear to be supported by fact. The presumption of cannabis as some kind of “gateway drug” or demoralizing impact on society was recently retired by a study in The American Journal of Public Health.
After carefully studying the issues, numbers and possible variables, the study concluded after Colorado legalized recreational cannabis in 2014, opiate deaths FELL by 6.2% over the following two years. Opiate deaths have increased by double digits in many other states in the past two years, yet they fell in Colorado. If the standard for anything being evil is based in part by its’ impact on society, then cannabis clearly shows itself to be one of the good guys here.
There is only one thing more powerful than all the armies of the world, that is an idea whose time has come.
– Victor Hugo
But let’s not just look at the current role of cannabis in society today, because the role of cannabis in society itself is even more fascinating. After reading of 10,000 year old archeological finds showing the use and cultivation of cannabis, Carl Sagan even proposed a theory about it in 1977. It stated if cannabis was our first cultivated crop and caused the creation of agriculture, then it would be responsible for the rise of civilization itself! If there is even a possibility this may be true then the last thing we should view cannabis as is evil, it is at least one of the very earliest crops cultivated by man. A relationship that we now know has existed for more than 10,000 years.
Interestingly enough, in the entire 10,000+ year history man has with cannabis, it has been viewed as important, valuable and medicinal… with the exception of the past 80 to 100 years.
It began in 1910 when the Mexican Revolution caused a large influx of immigrants into the USA. This population introduced the recreational use of cannabis, instead of the generally accepted medicinal use, for the first time.
The truth dazzles gradually, or else the world would be blind.
From the book “The Emperor Wears No Clothes” by Jack Herer – In 1916, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) chief scientists Jason L. Merrill and Lyster H. Dewey created paper made from hemp pulp, which they concluded was “favorable in comparison with those used with pulp wood” in USDA Bulletin No. 404. The USDA Bulletin N. 404 reported that one acre of hemp, in annual rotation over a 20-year period, would produce as much pulp for paper as 4.1 acres (17,000 m2) of trees being cut down over the same 20-year period. This process would use only 1/7 to 1/4 as much polluting sulfur-based acid chemicals to break down the glue-like lignin that binds the fibers of the pulp, or even none at all using soda ash. The problem of dioxin contamination of rivers is avoided in the hemp paper making process, which does not need to use chlorine bleach (as the wood pulp paper making process requires) but instead safely substitutes hydrogen peroxide in the bleaching process. … If the new (1916) hemp pulp paper process were legal today, it would soon replace about 70% of all wood pulp paper, including computer printout paper, corrugated boxes and paper bags. However, mass production of cheap news print from hemp had not developed in any country, and hemp was a relatively easy target because factories already had made large investments in equipment to handle cotton, wool, and linen, but there were relatively small investments in hemp production. This new process had the capability of taking down large parts of the timber-based paper industry. An industry heavily invested in by at least one icon of American business.
In 1937 U.S. Congress passed the Marijuana Tax Act which criminalized cannabis. In response Dr. William C. Woodward, testifying on behalf of the AMA, told Congress that, “The American Medical Association knows of no evidence that marijuana is a dangerous drug” and warned that a prohibition “loses sight of the fact that future investigation may show that there are substantial medical uses for Cannabis.” His comments were ignored by Congress. A part of the testimony for Congress to pass the 1937 act derived from articles in newspapers owned by William Randolph Hearst, who had significant financial interests in the timber industry, which manufactured newsprint for his papers.
I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.
– Galileo Galilei
Once cannabis had been painted as a villain in our society it became hard to shake. The common sense information about cannabis has been available since the 1960’s and many brave attempts have been made to educate the public, yet most have failed.
In 1972 the Nixon-appointed Shafer Commission urged use of cannabis be re-legalized, but their recommendation was ignored. U.S. President Carter, including his assistant for drug policy, Dr. Peter Bourne, pushed for decriminalization of cannabis, with the president himself asking Congress to abolish federal criminal penalties for those caught with less than one ounce of cannabis.
Finally, in 2012 voters in Colorado made the choice to legalize cannabis in their state. Since then, the information coming in paints a very clear picture. Cannabis legalization is showing a drop in opiate deaths, increased revenues for the state and an overall positive effect in the areas where it has become legal. From the perspective of societal impact there does not appear to be a net negative effect, in fact, there is certainly evidence its’ impact is a positive one.