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My Turn: Hemp and marijuana are not the problem

For the Monitor
Published: 3/16/2019 12:10:17 AM

Recent articles in the Monitor warning against the legalization of marijuana claim that it is addictive, is a gateway to more harmful drugs, and causes car accidents. The millions of people worldwide for whom pot has been a longtime friend know these claims are incorrect. They know that medically prescribed opiods are the real gateway drugs. They know much greater health threats come from two other popular and legal drugs, alcohol and tobacco.

Not satisfied offering cigarettes made from only tobacco, manufacturers add extra nicotine and other chemicals to make them more addicting. That cigarette smoking is a cause of lung cancer is no longer debated. Thankfully, smoking is on the decline. Cigarettes are still legal, though, and readily available, despite the warning on each pack that smoking causes cancer. Can you imagine purchasing any other product containing this warning?

Humans have long enjoyed alcoholic beverages. When used responsibly, beer, wine and liquor are relaxing and good for our health. In excess, though, alcohol is a poison. It impairs our judgment and physical functioning. And with liquor available in so many stores, underage drinkers find it easy to get.

For those with anger issues, drinking can be a release valve, often with violent results. How many fights are primed by excessive drinking? How many women are raped by drunken men? One could make the case that alcohol can be a gateway drug to violent behavior.

Marijuana, on the other hand, is known for its generally salubrious effect. It makes people happy; they laugh a lot. It slows people down; they drive more carefully. Pot stimulates senses. Food tastes better. Music sounds even more miraculous. Pot makes people less violent. I have never heard of a woman raped by a man under the influence of pot. It is the drug of love, not war. It is the drug that helps soldiers deal with PTSD caused by war.

Marijuana and hemp are varieties of the cannabis plant. Humans have enjoyed marijuana for thousands of years. It has a special affinity for the human body. Among our numerous biological systems is the endocannabinoid system. This system has receptors that help regulate appetite, pain and our immune system’s functioning. It turns out our bodies are primed to use pot in its various forms.

The two primary components of marijuana are THC and CBD. THC is the part that makes you high. CBD has remarkable pain relieving and anti-spasmodic properties, among others. CBD was little known until recently. Within a few years, it has become wildly popular, a clear endorsement of the plant’s beneficial properties.

Industrial hemp, with negligible THC, can be used to make nutritious food, durable clothing, tree-free paper, biodegradable plastic and construction materials. It is one of the earliest cultivated plants, and was used by Betsy Ross to make the original American flag. I cannot think of a single plant with as many beneficial qualities for mankind’s use as cannabis.

The question then is: Why are marijuana and hemp demonized when they offer mankind so many benefits, while alcohol and tobacco, with so many harmful qualities, are celebrated and protected? Could their manufacturers be afraid of the competition?

Tobacco companies are buying up marijuana and hemp producers at a record pace. They know that pot will soon be legal everywhere; they want to control the market and are on schedule to do so.

Marijuana growth and consumption should be legalized in New Hampshire, as in our sister New England states. Marijuana use by minors, similar to alcohol and tobacco use, should be regulated. The federal government needs to reclassify marijuana, remove it from the same category as heroin and cocaine, and release the thousands behind bars for mere possession of the herb. It’s past time to recognize the remarkable beneficial properties of the cannabis plant and, like our forefathers, encourage its use in all its myriad forms.

(Sol Solomon lives in Sutton.)

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