So it is election season. Though the American election is getting the most coverage world wide, things are starting to heat up on this side of the boarder as well.
Election day for us Canadians is October 19th, about 2 weeks from now. All the candidates will be stepping up their game in the hopes of getting you in the voting both, and ticking their name off on the ballot. Which means that I can expect to see a whole lot of junk mail in the coming days.
And in keeping to this profile of scaring the electorate by smearing the opposition, Stephan Harper has taken on marijuana at a recent (and the last) leaders debate. In a move made to throw a blow at his biggest opposition, Liberal leader Justin Trudeau, he has attacked him on one of his most popular stances, marijuana legalisation. Stating (as noted in the title of this piece) that the substance is infinitely more harmful than tobacco, and should be discouraged.
I have some stuff to say about this rhetoric. But lets save my opinion for later. First, I will check into the claim. That marijuana is infinitely worse than tobacco.
Oh REALLY? Let us explore this hypothesis.
Here we have one study, from Mark Pletcher of the University Of California (at San Francisco, or UCSF).
A large-scale national study suggests low to moderate use of marijuana is less harmful to users’ lungs than exposure to tobacco, even though the two substances contain many of the same components.
This comprehensive study, led by UCSF and University of Alabama at Birmingham, collected data from more than 5,000 U.S. adults for more than 20 years.
Smoking cigarettes can cause significant lung damage, including respiratory symptoms, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and lung cancer. It accounts for an estimated 443,000 deaths, or nearly one in every five deaths, each year in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Data for the long-term effects of marijuana use on the pulmonary system has been scarce until now.
“We found exactly what we thought we would find in relation to tobacco exposure: a consistent loss of lung function with increasing exposure,” said the paper’s lead author, Mark Pletcher, MD, MPH, associate professor in the Division of Clinical Epidemiology at UCSF. “We were, however, surprised that we found such a different pattern of association with marijuana exposure.”
But there is a bit of a caviot that must be taken into consideration. That being, most of the marijuana smokers were recreational users, as opposed to the regular usage of the tobacco smokers.
“An important factor that helps explain the difference in effects from these two substances is the amount of each that is typically smoked,” Pletcher said. “Tobacco users typically smoke ten to 20 cigarettes/day, and some smoke much more than that. Marijuana users, on average, smoke only two to three times a month, so the typical exposure to marijuana is much lower than for tobacco.”
“And marijuana is one where a lot of people dabble with it in their late teens and 20s, and some people continue with relatively low levels for a long period of time,” Kertesz added.
That is extremely recreational usage, I would have thought. Or, maybe not. If the average recreational user lights up once a week, with 4 weeks in a month, 3 times would be a foreseeable average.
As for effects of heavy usage on the body, those results were inconclusive due to the rarity of such users in the test population.
Researchers believe the results can supplement the growing body of knowledge about beneficial aspects of low to moderate marijuana use in controlling pain, stimulating appetite, elevating mood and managing other chronic symptoms.
“Our findings suggest that occasional use of marijuana for these or other purposes may not be associated with adverse consequences on pulmonary function,” Pletcher said. “On the other hand, our findings do suggest an accelerated decline in pulmonary function with heavier use – either very frequent use or frequent use over many years – and a resulting need for caution and moderation when marijuana use is considered.”
Otherwise known as, a combination of everything the pro-marijuana side has ever said, combined with a dash of common sense. Even water can be dangerous if you consume it in large quantities. In fact, water can be DEADLY when consumed in to great an amount.
Water intoxication provokes disturbances in electrolyte balance, resulting in a rapid decrease in serum sodium concentration and eventual death.The development of acute dilutional hyponatraemia causes neurological symptoms because of the movement of water into the brain cells, in response to the fall in extracellular osmolality. Symptoms can become apparent when the serum sodium falls below 120 mmol/litre, but are usually associated with concentrations below 110 mmol/litre. Severe symptoms occur with very low sodium concentrations of 90–105 mmol/litre. As the sodium concentration falls, the symptoms progress from confusion to drowsiness and eventually coma.
Water . . . infinitely more dangerous than marijuana! You heard it here first!
But to be fair, this is not the only study that has been done on marijuana use recently. There was another that made headlines not long ago. Lets see if we can dig that puppy up for study.
The research team studied 48 adult marijuana users and 62 gender- and age-matched non-users, accounting for potential biases such as gender, age and ethnicity. The authors also controlled for tobacco and alcohol use. On average, the marijuana users who participated in the study consumed the drug three times per day. Cognitive tests show that chronic marijuana users had lower IQ compared to age-and gender-matched controls but the differences do not seem to be related to the brain abnormalities as no direct correlation can be drawn between IQ deficits and OFC volume decrease.
“What’s unique about this work is that it combines three different MRI techniques to evaluate different brain characteristics,” said Dr. Sina Aslan, founder and president of Advance MRI, LLC and adjunct assistant professor at The University of Texas at Dallas. “The results suggest increases in connectivity, both structural and functional that may be compensating for gray matter losses. Eventually, however, the structural connectivity or ‘wiring’ of the brain starts degrading with prolonged marijuana use.”
Tests reveal that earlier onset of regular marijuana use induces greater structural and functional connectivity. Greatest increases in connectivity appear as an individual begins using marijuana. Findings show severity of use is directly correlated to greater connectivity.
Although increased structural wiring declines after six to eight years of continued chronic use, marijuana users continue to display more intense connectivity than healthy non-users, which may explain why chronic, long-term users “seem to be doing just fine” despite smaller OFC brain volumes, Filbey explained.
“To date, existing studies on the long-term effects of marijuana on brain structures have been largely inconclusive due to limitations in methodologies,” said Dr. Filbey. “While our study does not conclusively address whether any or all of the brain changes are a direct consequence of marijuana use, these effects do suggest that these changes are related to age of onset and duration of use.”
I remember this study because I recall calling bullshit on it at the time on Facebook (and possibly in an entry here). I called bullshit, because the focus was only on the very heaviest of users (up to 3 times daily, for years at a time).
But now that we have seen both studies and now that I the layman can put them up side by side, I can make a judgement. A judgement that seemed obvious already, but a judgement that the data now seems to back. That judgement being, marijuana is a relatively benign and harmless drug.
Both the studies I utilized were missing some crucial data, but both also filled in for the others voids.
Recreational and prolonged usage of weed is not likely to cause harm. However, heavy and prolonged usage can have detrimental effects. In context, as does heavy and prolonged usage of ANY other drug, legal or illegal.
But one of the most glaring (and my favorite) stats . . . water (by way of overconsumption) has more deaths attributed to it than marijuana.
Otherwise known as, Stephan Harper is infinitely full of shit. SUCH a surprise.
I suspect that he knows this. But he also knows who his demographic is. It is plainly obvious in the city I live in. The CPC could likely run a monkey and still get a victory in the Brandon–Souris riding. Though to be fair, the current candidate is a LOT less comparable to a monkey than his precursor Also, I do not think of Nixon’s quote (“I am not a crook!”) every time I see his picture somewhere.
But at the same time, I can not call out Harper and the Conservatives for pandering to their base (which has a large percentage that are anti-marijuana, likely due to ignorance of the substance) without calling out the Liberals for doing the same thing. Using the marijuana legalization issue, Justin Trudeau is doing exactly the same thing.
Since the younger demographic tends to lean towards the left and are quite progressive (and often not politicly active), this makes him a great candidate for many people.
Don’t get me wrong, its great to have candidates that inspire people to participate in the electoral system (even Donald Trump has managed to do this). But I also hesitate if these people are voting on largely one issue alone (marijuana) without seeing what else comes with the package.
And therein lies some issues I have to overcome before I cast my ballot in approximately 2 weeks time.
First of all, it is great to have a choice in candidates (as contrasted to the R and D of the US choices). But it presents some challenges in choice, if your a person like me (has no inherent political allegiances).
It goes without saying that Steven Harper and his conservatives are NOT getting my vote. Though his candidate (Larry Maguire) seems like a fairly likable guy in his own right, his allegiances are misaligned. Not only is there all the various scandals of the CPC in the last few years, but also the financial irresponsibility demonstrated on the local level with our local CPC candidates.
We had to have a by-election around 2 years ago because of conservative candidates that decided to cut short political careers to chase their own ambitions.
Merv Tweed (then our representative) accepted a position in the private sector, thus leaving a vacancy in the Brandon–Souris riding. And on top of that, Larry Maguire (then MLA of the Arthur–Virden riding) decided to vacate his seat there and run in the Brandon–Souris campaign. Decisions that not just left the taxpayers with a bill for the by-election itself, but also a bill for 2 different severance buy outs (though Maguire says that he donated his to charity).
If in opposition to many people politicly (or otherwise differing to whatever ideological box they place themselves into), many will default to “Well, your obviously Liberal/NDP supporter!”, using the stance as a pejorative. And to be fair, they may be right in many cases. Woefully lacking in self awareness, but none the less correct.
I am not against the conservatives, just because they are of opposing views to me. I am against conservatives, because their party leader is a shady individual that mirrors a GOP republican more and more with each passing year, and their local candidate has proven himself irresponsible of the taxpayer dime if it gets in the way of forwarding his ambitions.
This leaves us with 3 other parties, them being the Liberals, New Democrats and the Greens.
Justin Trudeau’s Liberals are going to be the major contender to the Harpers Conservatives. His scrappy nature and seemingly progressive platform (or at least young voter friendly platform) is going to be a a major selling point. And he will also have the many scandals of the Conservative party working in his favor.
But at the same time, one does not want to count out the other 2 (The NDP and the Greens) due to the gains they made last time around. Though Tom Mulcair is certainly not on the level of his precursor, I acknowledge that as an unfair comparison. One should not be judged on how they compare to another’s legacy, but more on what they do for the party moving forward.
Back in 2012, the NDP did very good. And being the world seems to be riding a wave of progressive liberalism as of late (they took Alberta!), the future may be bright for the NDP.
Another party that could ride the wave of popularity, is the Green Party. Last election, the Greens also made big gains. And locally, the candidate is familiar because he is an old high school teacher.
So I will have to spend some time studying the candidates, figuring out where to best put my X.
When it comes to having many parties to choose from, it can get difficult if your side of the spectrum becomes fragmented. The right figured that out 20 years ago when they disbanded the Progressive Conservative Party and the Canadian Alliance (formerly the Reform Party) to form the current Conservative Party of Canada.
One choice of the left is the Liberal Party. Some equate it as the Canadian version of the Democrats. To these peoples credit, both parties currently have a dynasty parallel. But whatever issues one may find, they are still the most likely to boot the Conservatives of all the available choices (some would even call a vote for the NDP or green party wasted).
But one has to be careful with that logic. Had everyone listened to that last election, the NDP would not have made official opposition, and the Green Party would not have earned their first seat EVER. The status quo parties would still reign. And not be either brushed aside, or win with but a minority status.
Its sure to be an interesting 2 weeks. I can not wait to see what exciting stuff will show up in the mail (and in the media!) in these last days of Canadian Election 2015.