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9:08 AM Sun, Nov. 18th

Talk of the Town: Legal drugs far riskier than marijuana

Having carefully read the "Marijuana is Not Harmless" Talk of the Town by Sheila Polk and Carolyn Short, I'm prompted to offer an additional analysis of this controversial issue.

In general I certainly agree that the use of mind-altering drugs is a serious problem that recorded history has clearly shown may be reduced but never eliminated. In fact, our multi-billion dollar pharmaceutical cartels are unapologetic co-conspirators in perpetuating the use and abuse of drugs. Infinitely more harmful than marijuana are an enormous variety of psychotropic legal drugs openly and seductively advertised on TV as solutions to anxiety, low moods, pain, etc. These relentless messages to virtually all ages that drugs solve psychological discomfort are a dangerous fallacy.

The medicinal use of marijuana is to me of minimal concern compared to those more prevalent addictive legal drugs in medicine cabinets throughout the U.S. Reputable research clearly indicates that more people are dying of these legally prescribed painkillers than illegal street drugs such as heroin and cocaine, and that many illegal drug dealers are shifting to cheaper, more readily available legal drugs. Moreover, I'm not particularly troubled by marijuana for medicinal purposes. But the pharmaceutical industry, with its overpowering lobbyists, will never permit such competition.

The Polk and Short column omitted even a mention of any teenager's most dangerous and too easily available mind-altering substance, alcohol, which is unarguably the most deadly, excessively used recreational drug in our society. Booze insidiously damages virtually all aspects of one's physical and mental health, including its role in domestic violence and auto collision deaths. Worse yet, since Prohibition was a monumental flop, we seem to have simply succumbed to its devastating effects, while the alcohol industry is immune to any effective restrictions.

At this juncture in my rebuttal, you may have noticed an absence of any specific comments concerning the dangers of marijuana. That's because I was saving a critical assessment of marijuana for last. I also needed to dilute some of my opponents' exaggerations relative to the harmful effects of marijuana's THC compared to those other legal drugs we so eagerly use.

In 1995 I carefully researched marijuana for my first book, "Seductive Illusions," and concluded that that THC and its hemp plant was clearly assassinated in the 1930s by the powerful newspaper mogul Randolph Hearst and his equally rich and influential buddies for purely economic reasons related to hemp in the paper manufacturing business, as well as the pharmaceutical companies' concern, even then, about marijuana's medicinal value.

The relentless negative propaganda against marijuana was so successful - including its "Reefer Madness" popular fiction - it effectively blocked out its worthwhile qualities and created a totally false reputation that resulted in a government "schedule one" dangerous drug status without substantial research evidence.

It's equally noteworthy that their remains no evidence that 21st-century marijuana has caused the death of any users. There's also considerable experiential evidence of marijuana's medical value that may now invite objective medical studies.

As for the title of the original article, "Marijuana Is Not Harmless," I'm beginning to doubt if anything we ingest is harmless. It seems to depend on one's personal usage. Sugar, salt, fat, red meat, bath salts, glue, even over-the-counter aspirin are just a few of the endless dangerously unhealthy items - if abused.

The brilliant philosopher Aristotle was well aware of humans' dangerous overindulgences when he wrote that moderation is the key to extended life.

As a few personal footnotes, during my youth, at least 50 years ago, I tried booze and pot, and neither hooked me, probably because both made me feel stupidly vulnerable. Despite pharma's endless hustle, I still view meds as a last resort to life's discomforts and only when physically ill. I believe in working through problems, not masking them. Finally, I'm against the use of any mood-altering drugs. I still believe using rational thinking, perceptual clarity and a huge dose of common sense remain the most effective approaches to coping with life's problems.

Dr. Wonderling is a retired clinical and forensic psychologist, and a writer who has authored numerous books and other publications.