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MARIJUANA AND THE HUMAN BODY
The Common Sense Series
a publication of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws
The moderate use of marijuana is neither harmless nor devastating to the user. Unfortunately, the politics of marijuana has distorted research findings and made it difficult to find out the truth about marijuana's effect on human health. NORML believes that honest, verifiable information is the most effective tool to prevent the abuse of marijuana. This text examines the effects of marijuana on the human body, as described by a comprehensive report prepared for the Federal government by the most respected scientific body in the United States, the National Academy of Sciences. This text first examines some of the exaggerated claims made about marijuana and then provides the truth about marijuana's effects on human health.
EXAGGERATED CLAIMS ABOUT MARIJUANA
Despite evidence to the contrary, many individuals and organizations maintain that marijuana is an extremely dangerous drug. For example, the National Federation of Parents for Drug Free Youth attempts to reach its societal and legislative goals by making the following claims:
The National Federation of Parents supports prohibition of marijuana because it believes that marijuana is so dangerous that no one can use it safely. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which supports the NFP, many parents welcomed discovery of reports suggesting marijuana's harmfulness because the claims reinforced their own instincts about marijuana.
In fact, the reports used to justify the above claims have been found to be inconclusive by other researchers. Hence, warnings intended to dramatize the supposed ill-effects of marijuana are often couched with phrases like "marijuana can...". "Marijuana may...", or "If the experts are right...".
THE TRUTH ABOUT MARIJUANA
The Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences conducted a 15-month study of the health-related effects of marijuana in 1982. They appointed a 22-member committee to analyze existing scientific evidence bearing on the possible hazards to the health and safety of users of marijuana.
The report concludes: "the scientific evidence published to date indicates that marijuana has a broad range of psychological and biological effects, some of which, at least under certain circumstances, are harmful to human health".
In a companion report providing policy recommendations to the Academy's National Research Council, regulation of the marijuana market is advocated as the most effective method of controlling marijuana. The National Academy of Science's report rebuts many of the exaggerated claims made about marijuana.
N O R M L ' s V I E W
1. NORML favors discouraging marijuana abuse and is opposed to adolescent drug use.
2. Exaggerated claims about health hazards lack credibility and encourage adolescents to try marijuana and other drugs. Government research which relies on animal studies and studies of adolescent drug abusers presents a skewed perspective of marijuana's effects.
3. The illegality of marijuana, because it equates use with abuse, discourages frank discussion of marijuana's effects on health within the family and with doctors and nurses.
4. Over 35 million adult Americans use marijuana regularly because they find it a relatively safe way to relax. A regulated marijuana market would better protect their health than the unregulated black market.
W H A T D O Y O U T H I N K ?
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