Pubdate: Mon, 20 Jan 2014
Source: Washington Times (DC)
Copyright: 2014 The Washington Times, LLC.
Author: Paul Armentano
Page: B2


Columnist Emily Miller's allegation that marijuana is "similar to
heroin or cocaine" is patently false ("Obama's cultural legacy is
legal marijuana blowing through America," Commentary, Jan. 9). Cocaine
is a central nervous system stimulant that significantly influences
the brain's release of the neurotransmitter dopamine, a compound which
regulates pleasure and craving. Heroin is a central nervous system
depressant, which acts primarily upon the brain's opioid receptors.
Alcohol also acts on this same receptor system. That is why the
consumption of either heroin or alcohol may cause respiratory failure,
coma and even death.

In fact, alcohol possesses a ratio of fatal dose to effective dose of
10-to-1. That means that 10 times the effective dose of alcohol is
estimated to cause lethal overdose in 50 percent of the population
that consumes it at such a dose. For heroin, this ratio is 5-to-1.

The only way in which marijuana and heroin are similar is that federal
law improperly classifies both as Schedule I substances possessing
equal levels of harm.

By contrast, the biologically active compounds in marijuana - known as
cannabinoids - are acknowledged by experts such as the World Health
Organization to be relatively nontoxic and incapable of causing lethal
overdose. Cannabinoids act on endogenous cannabinoid receptors, which
regulate the body's maintenance of homeostasis (internal equilibrium),
affecting our appetite, our response to pain, our mood, and our immune
response, among other vital functions.

Criminalizing marijuana is a disproportionate response to what, at
worst, is a health issue, not a criminal justice issue.


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