Save 440,000 lives each year – with Cannabis. It's high time.
We can do it through the use of some innovative social technology: Mandate a compulsory substitution of cannabis for tobacco in all manufactured tobacco products.
OK, I know you are already snickering, but give me a moment, and I believe I can bring you all on board. Each year, at least 440,000 Americans die from tobacco related diseases, in fact, a recent report suggests that as much as 74% of all cancers are related to tobacco smoke. Those statistics reveal a national tragedy, not only in terms of human suffering, but also for the staggering financial impact on our families, and the strain it puts on our national health care system.
There is a powerful lobby that guards the interests of the tobacco companies, and their commercial partners (very powerful, indeed, considering the stakes). Therefore, any solution to this yearly carnage must also take into account those forces that would keep America smoking tobacco.
Cannabis, unlike tobacco, does not kill its users. In fact, the plant has has both anti-cancinogenic and anti-microbial properties. Studies reveal that even long term, chronic cannabis smokers have shown no elevated risks of cancer of any kind. The main objection to its use appears to be the fact that it produces a mild euphoria when ingested. One has to ask, which is a preferable side effect: death or happiness?
By mandating the substitution of cannabis in manufactured tobacco products (rather than an outright ban on tobacco itself, which would only serve to criminalize users), one would not only address the business needs of cigarette manufactures, but also those of its agricultural suppliers, since cannabis is well suited to the same soils that support tobacco.
If saving 440,000 lives each year is not enough, consider these additional factors.
1. Nicotine (for which tobacco cigarettes, and chewing tobacco are simply delivery systems) is highly addictive and extremely difficult to abandon. Cannabis, on the other hand, rates below caffein on the addiction scale.
2. The tobacco plant has only one use: to satisfy the craving of the nicotine addict. Cannabis, has in fact, a spectrum of uses which include the manufacture of fiber, oil, food-grade protein, building materials, bio-fuel, plastics, and medicine.
3. By eliminating the prohibition of cannabis, we effectively increase our police force by 5%, since, presently, 5 out of every 100 police officers do nothing but arrest and book people for possessing cannabis.*
4. In addition, with the commercial production of cannabis by farmers, we eliminate the destruction of our national parklands and forests by illegal growers.
5. By ending the prohibition of cannabis we take the profit motive away from drug cartels, and street dealers, and eliminate a good deal of funding of illegal activities.
6. By regulating the sale and distribution of cannabis, we protect our children from unscrupulous pushers who never ask for proof of age, and instead put sales into the hands of licensed vendors who would face stiff fines and penalties if they sold to minors.
7. Finally, by ending prohibition, we remove the restrictions on cannabis research. This would support the development of a vast array of extremely promising cannabinoid-based medicines which have already been shown to be effective in treating a wide range of diseases including glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, nerve trauma, inflammation, MRSA, arthritis, diabetes, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's, spasticity, epilepsy, Crohn's disease, ADD, post-traumatic stress disorder, insomnia, depression, and cancer (to name a few).
See what I'm talking about?
So the next time a friend, or family member is facing the "big C", or another of the above conditions, why don't you ask them what they think.
And ask yourself this, what is the measure of 440,000 lives?
* According to the FBI uniform crime report, in 2007, arrests for simple cannabis possession approached 800,000. This constitutes fully 5% of all arrests for anything and everything in the United States.