Stephen George: Marijuana not ‘non-toxic’

Sunday, July 16, 2017

In a June 29 guest column (“Backs Senate bill amending Question 4”), Attorney Michael Cutler stated twice that marijuana is “non-toxic,” in contrast to “toxic alcohol.”

Non-toxic means innocuous, safe or harmless. Marijuana has well-documented adverse health effects when consumed in typical quantities. Therefore it isn’t non-toxic. A good summary of scientific findings about the adverse health consequences of cannabis use begins at www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/marijuana/what-marijuana.

Perhaps what was meant was “non-lethal,” in the sense that fatal cannabinoid overdoses have not occurred (The lethal dose is far higher than that to which marijuana users would be exposed).

The guest column’s main subject was the state legislature’s bills implementing last Fall’s ballot Question 4 which legalized use and sale of marijuana in state law. Cutler argued in favor of the Senate bill, which embraces legalization, rather than the House bill, which is more restrictive and arguably aims at restoring something like prohibition.

Here, I agree with his arguments: Prohibition does not work, and has many bad consequences for society. Decriminalization and regulation is best. It is also the will of Massachusetts voters.

However, as we enter a future with cannabis products that are legal under state law and available commercially, potential users need accurate information about marijuana’s health effects. A good start would be to recognize that marijuana cannot legitimately be called non-toxic.

Stephen George