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The prohibition of the cannabis plant is built on a foundation of lies, distortions of 'the truth', your tax dollars, politics and emotionalization.

Emotionalization is my term for making what SHOULD be a factual discussion impossible because people's emotions are so strong they cannot deal with, hear, or otherwise process facts appropriately. I generally have learned to stay away from what I call 'tidy displays of facts' because facts mean nothing on the topic of cannabis reform: if they did, I do not believe we would be having this discussion now.

But there is some new research available that seems pretty meaningful and is a mix of cold hard fact and the notion of 'saving lives', which is one of the emotionalization arguments usually used against any sort of reasonable discussion of reforming our heinously bad marijuana laws.

The full, 53 page pdf of the study is here: High on Life? Medical Marijuana Laws and Suicide.

The overall import of the study is that American states that have accomplished legislation allowing access to marijuana for medical reasons are demonstrating a DECREASE in suicide rates, particularly among males.

Because of the horrors of dealing with pdf, I am taking some excerpts from and Alternet posting by Paul Amentano of NORML.

From Alternet:

Researchers at Montana State University, the University of Colorado, and San Diego State University assessed rates of suicide in the years before and after the passage of statewide medical marijuana laws.

Authors found, “The total suicide rate falls smoothly during the pre-legalization period in both MML (medical marijuana law) and non-MML states. However, beginning in year zero, the trends diverge: the suicide rate in MML states continues to fall, while the suicide rate in states that never legalized medical marijuana begins to climb gradually.”

I repeated their bolding of that last sentence.

The impact seems to be greatest with younger males:

“Our results suggest that the passage of a medical marijuana law is associated with an almost 5 percent reduction in the total suicide rate, an 11 percent reduction in the suicide rate of 20- through 29-year-old males, and a 9 percent reduction in the suicide rate of 30- through 39-year-old males,” they determined.
They then go on to theorize as to why or how this correction of marijuana laws (my term) leads to decreasing completed suicides, which rank as the 10th leading cause of death in the USA.

From the EastBay Express reporting of the study, again, to bypass formatting the pdf of the study

But Why?

— "We conclude that the legalization of medical marijuana leads to an improvement in the psychological well-being of young adult males, an improvement that is reflected in fewer suicides."

This is nothing more concrete than "people feel better", which, I imagine in our taliban-like anti-drug culture will be seen as a "bad thing' and STILL send a bad message to the children. You know how they are.

But, there's a more concrete suggestion in the data:

"The strong association between alcohol consumption and suicide-related outcomes found by previous researchers raises the possibility that medical marijuana laws reduce the risk of suicide by decreasing alcohol consumption."
Here is a bit more about that:
After correcting for substantial autocorrelations in measurement error, the analyses revealed that suicide rates were specifically associated with spirits sales, age composition of state populations, per capita land area, unemployment and religious preferences over time. While suicide rates increased significantly as a function of increased spirits sales, beer and wine sales were not associated with suicide rates. These findings suggest that it is not the consumption of ethanol per se but rather the consumption of ethanol in the form of spirits that is related to suicides. Rather, it would appear that a population-based preference for the consumption of spirits is associated with suicide events.
My translation of that rather opaque statement is that simply drinking beer or wine, in and of itself, is not correlated with suicide, but the consumption of potent liquor (whiskey, tequila, vodka, gin, etc...) IS correlated with increased potential for suicide attempts as well as completed suicides.

Marijuana prohibition causes many people to not use marijuana - for whatever reason they might wish to - and to substitute alcohol consumption in its place: more about that dynamic here. Drug testing is a main culprit in the issue: people cannot smoke marijuana because they won't get or be able to keep a job they very much need, therefore exacerbating their stresses.

Marijuana isn't addictive (I don't care that some people think they are addicted to it - they aren't, they are histrionic personalities) so it's easy to clean up for a piss test. One simply stops smoking/using marijuana for a few weeks. Tobacco smokers cannot do such a thing. But over time people turn to some alcohol consumption to replace the safer and better marijuana experience. Alcohol is legal and one can drink as much as one wants. That's not part of drug testing for a job.

This isn't rocket science, the continued oppression of cannabis, the ongoing arrests of over 800000 Americans each year, the ongoing specter of job loss and unemployment keep more people from using marijuana and turns them towards the far more dangerous alcohol and, as the study surmises, increases the potential for suicide attempts and completion.

Them's the facts: it's too bad for America that facts mean nothing on this topic.

Liberal/Democratic spin clearly should be that we need to fix this problem and the study supports the idea that access to marijuana without artificial, manmade consequences (jail, unemployment) people are not as prone to commit and complete suicide. IT SAVES LIVES.

Conservative/law enforcement spin is doubtlessly that an increased suicide rate is an acceptable trade-off in their mission to save lives.

No, that doesn't make any sense but marijuana prohibition doesn't make any sense.

Originally posted to Toking Points Memo on Sun Feb 26, 2012 at 07:49 AM PST.

Also republished by Daily Kos Harm Reduction Clearinghouse.

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