- - Sunday, July 12, 2015

Celebrating the medical benefits, if any, of marijuana has been an effective ruse to win social acceptance for getting high. This was thoroughly predictable, and now it’s clear that the organized pot heads have been blowing smoke at us.

This is the preliminary conclusion of a new wide-ranging study of the effects of medical pot. The rush toward legalization, like most whoring after new things, is likely doing considerably more harm than minuscule good.

The Journal of the American Medical Association last month published a compilation of 79 studies of the experiences of 6,000 patients who used the weed as a medicinal palliative. Smoking pot was found to be of little use in relieving symptoms for many ailments, among them hepatitis C, Crohn’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. Researchers found that smoking pot did show some success in relieving nausea caused by chemotherapy, and “spasticity” for multiple sclerosis patients.

The authors of the study did not rule out other medical benefits, but found little evidence of any so far. “It’s not a wonder drug but it certainly has some potential,” says co-author Robert Wolff, with an abundance of understatement.

A separate analysis of edible marijuana found that many products laced with pot, such as drinks, baked goods and candy, misrepresent the potency of THC, the active ingredient on the labels. Only 13 of 75 products tested were accurately labeled, making reads of their potency and its effects little more than a guessing game.

Medical marijuana does, however, effectively serve another purpose. It’s the camel’s nose of drug legitimacy under the tent of social tolerance. Pleas for exemptions from strict pot bans for the ill led Americans to soften their resistance to the weed in the name of compassion. On that foundation, weed lovers have made advances in acceptance of “recreational marijuana.” Aided and abetted by President Obama’s lax attitude toward the use of drugs and the failure of his Department of Justice to uphold federal prohibitions on possession and use of marijuana, four states have legalized recreational pot, and 23 others and the District of Columbia have some form of legalization on the law books.

Colorado and the state of Washington made toking for fun legal in 2012. Alaska joined them in 2014, and Oregon did so on July 1. Once they gather momentum, social trends are hard to reverse.

The result is a rapid reversal of a long and difficult effort to warn Americans, particularly the young, away from the debilitating effects of the high-potency pot that is a mainstay of the modern drug market. John Walters and David W. Murray of the Office of National Drug Control Policy noted in these pages that the moral authority to “just say no” to illegal drugs is disintegrating.

In the year following legalization in Colorado, marijuana use by residents 12 and older jumped 22 percent, as measured by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment reported last year that pot was used by 13.6 percent of adults. Lighting up is not without legal risks. The Colorado Supreme Court ruled earlier this summer that even medical marijuana users can be fired from their jobs if they fail an employer-administered drug test.

Losing a livelihood in a struggling economy is definitely a downer, though that warning might go over the head of an addled heavy pot smoker who, on average, has shaved eight points off his IQ.

The day may come when marijuana demonstrates its effectiveness as medicine. But that day is not yet at hand.

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