Herb Reason 
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Recent Comments

Re: “Hysteria Over Childhood Marijuana Exposure Is Disproportionate To Harms

Parents are more likely to report a child-related cannabis incident in an environment where it is more accepted and less likely to result in criminal penalties and/or the removal of the children from their home. Increased reports do not necessarily directly correlate with increased incidents in this case.

At under 200 per year, this is still a relatively rare occurrence, most resulted in only minor adverse health effects, and no deaths were reported.

Also, if switching to cannabis means there will be less harmful pharmaceuticals in the house, like Oxycontin, which will kill, there may be a net benefit here.

Perspective is important.

In 2006, over 1.2 million U.S. children under 6 were poisoned. Of these 11,964 were from household cleaning product resulting in 29 deaths:

"In 2006, children 5 years of age [or under] were involved in > 1.2 million cases of poisoning exposure"
[McKenzie et al. Household cleaning product-related injuries treated in US emergency departments in 1990-2006. Pediatrics. 2010.]

Substance Categories Most Frequently Involved in Pediatric (under 5 years) Exposures in 2013
(Includes data from 57 poison control centers throughout all 50 states)

151,154 - Cosmetics/personal care products
113,872 - Cleaning substances (household)
106,639 - Analgesics
75,184 - Foreign bodies/toys/miscellaneous
66,893 - Topical preparations
47,816 - Vitamins
45,250 - Antihistamines
35,254 - Pesticides
29,346 - Plants
28,481 - Gastrointestinal preparations
27,928 - Antimicrobials
25,708 - Cold and cough preparations
24,638 - Dietary supplements/herbals/homeopathic
23,124 - Cardiovascular drugs
20,736 - Arts/crafts/office supplies
20,522 - Hormones and hormone antagonists
20,071 - Electrolytes and minerals
17,555 - Deodorizers
13,261 - Other/unknown nondrug substances
12,676 - Sedative/hypnotics/antipsychotics
11,526 - Antidepressants
11,026 - Alcohols
9,947 - Hydrocarbons
9,923 - Asthma therapies

[Mowry et al. 2013 Annual Report of the American Association of Poison Control Centers' National Poison Data System (NPDS): 31st Annual Report. Clin Toxicol (Phila). 2014.]

Clearly cannabis "poisonings" are barely on the radar. The media would serve the public better by focusing on far more common child poisonings that commonly lead to serious adverse effects, which include death.

12 likes, 1 dislike
Posted by Herb Reason on 06/09/2015 at 12:53 PM

Re: “Gavin Newsom Talks Marijuana Legalization, Youth Prevention in Oakland

Those who wish to live in a free society need to accept that this means freedom for all people of that society, not only for certain groups and the activities they happen to enjoy. Obviously in some cases there are extenuating circumstances that warrant intervention with criminal law. In the case of mind-altering drugs we have already set this precedent with alcohol. Cannabis is significantly less harmful than alcohol to the consumer and especially to others, therefore, if we are to have justice, then the penalties for using, possessing and selling cannabis should be no worse than those of alcohol.

"And it’s just not rational that adults don’t have the choice of using marijuana, but they do for alcohol. Marijuana is less likely to be addictive, it’s less likely to cause car accidents and birth defects, it’s less likely to cause domestic violence. So how do you rationally say that it’s OK to drink alcohol with that profile but it’s not OK to occasionally use marijuana?"
- Dr. Richard Besser, former director of the CDC, ABC's Chief Health and Medical Editor

"Cannabis is a safer drug than aspirin and can be used long-term without serious side effects. It is never possible for a scientist to say that anything is totally safe. But, at the end of the day, scaremongering does science – and the public – a great disservice. Cannabis is simply not as dangerous as it is being made out to be."
- Professor Les Iversen, chairman, British Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, 2003.

"I think we consume far more dangerous drugs that are legal: cigarette smoking, nicotine and alcohol, I feel they cause much more devastating effects physically. We need to lift the prohibition on marijuana."
- Former U.S. Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders

Let's end this futile attempt to eradicate a popular substance that a majority of Americans believe should be legal. A vote for cannabis legalization condemns a prohibition that causes more harm than it prevents. This prohibition is very costly (money is only a small part of these costs), senseless, unjust, unfounded, harmful, and un-American. It is past time to end this Reefer Madness. Please consider what the following cannabis legalization organizations have to say. Help end this prohibition by joining their mailing lists, signing their petitions and writing your legislators when they call for it.

MPP - The Marijuana Policy Project - http://www.mpp.org
DPA - Drug Policy Alliance - http://www.drugpolicy.org
NORML - National Organization to Reform Marijuana Laws - http://norml.org
LEAP - Law Enforcement Against Prohibition - http://www.leap.cc

8 likes, 0 dislikes
Posted by Herb Reason on 05/19/2015 at 6:21 PM

Re: “As President, Governor Chris Christie Will Escalate War on Pot

This is frequently brought up so over the years I have collected much information on the subject.

If prohibition has any effect, it makes cannabis a gateway to other illicit drugs.

The gateway drug theory, that a unique pharmacological effect of cannabis causes the use of hard drugs, has been discredited by the many peer reviewed studies which have examined it.[1,2,3,4,5,6,14,15,16,19]

If the gateway theory were to have any merit, then alcohol and tobacco would be the gateway drugs as nearly all have tried these before cannabis.[1,6] There are many factors that determine which illicit substance will be used first, including availability and culture. In Japan, where cannabis use is not popular and largely frowned upon, 83% of illicit drug users did not use illicit cannabis first.[19] In the U.S., since cannabis is by far the most popular and available illegal recreational substance, it is unlikely that you would find many illicit hard drug users who did not encounter and use illicit cannabis first.[1] This does not mean cannabis caused their hard drug use. Rather it was their pre-existing interest in recreational substances combined with their willingness to try illicit substances and cannabis was simply, and predictably, the first encountered.[3,14,19] On a related note, studies have shown that cannabinoids can help treat those addicted to hard drugs and alcohol.[4,7,18]

If anything, the prohibition of cannabis makes the hard drug problem worse. Once someone breaks the law to try the very popular and relatively safe drug cannabis, their reluctance to try another illegal substance diminishes. This is both because of their increased doubts of government honesty regarding the harmful effects of those substances as well, and their newly reduced respect for the laws against them. Cannabis prohibition also connects cannabis consumers to the hard drug market. Imagine if beer merchants also sold heroin, cocaine and meth. This is the situation that the prohibition of cannabis creates for its consumers. It places a very popular substance into these otherwise unpopular markets, strengthening them and expanding their reach. Also, with no legal recourse to resolve disputes, cannabis prohibition increases the crime associated with these markets. The promotion of the erroneous gateway theory ultimately does the public a disservice, including the hindering of intervention.[19]

Regardless, one major concern is that relaxed laws will lead to significantly increased teen usage, but this has not been the case. Legalizing medical cannabis in the U.S. has not increased cannabis usage in teens.[8,9,10,11] Even decriminalization does not result in increased cannabis consumption for all ages except for a small, temporary increase during the first few years.[12,13] Portugal even saw reduced adolescent cannabis use after decriminalizing all drugs in 2001.[17]


1. Joy et al. Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base. Institute of Medicine. 1999.
2. Morral et al. Reassessing the marijuana gateway effect. Drug Policy Research Center, RAND. Addiction. 2002.
3. Cleveland HH & Wiebe RP. Understanding the association between adolescent marijuana use and later serious drug use: gateway effect or developmental trajectory? Dev Psychopathol. 2008.
4. O'Connell TJ & Bou-Matar CB. Long term marijuana users seeking medical cannabis in California (2001–2007): demographics, social characteristics, patterns of cannabis and other drug use of 4117 applicants. Harm Reduction Journal. 2007.
5. Wen et al. The Effect of Medical Marijuana Laws on Marijuana, Alcohol, and Hard Drug Use. The National Bureau of Economic Research. 2014.
6. Tristan et al. Alcohol as a Gateway Drug: A Study of US 12th Graders. Journal of School Health. 2012.
7. Oliere et al. Modulation of the Endocannabinoid System: Vulnerability Factor and New Treatment Target for Stimulant Addiction. Front Psychiatry. 2013. Review.
8. Choo et al. The Impact of State Medical Marijuana Legislation on Adolescent Marijuana Use. Journal of Adolescent Health. 2014.
9. Lynne-Landsman et al. Effects of state medical marijuana laws on adolescent marijuana use. Am J Public Health. 2013.
10. Harper et al. Do medical marijuana laws increase marijuana use? Replication study and extension. Ann Epidemiol. 2012.
11. Anderson et al. Medical Marijuana Laws and Teen Marijuana Use. IZA 2012.
12. Williams J, Bretteville-Jensen AL. Does liberalizing cannabis laws increase cannabis use? J Health Econ. 2014.
13. Single EW. The impact of marijuana decriminalization: an update. J Public Health Policy. 1989.
14. Tarter et al. Predictors of Marijuana Use in Adolescents Before and After Licit Drug Use: Examination of the Gateway Hypothesis. The American Journal of Psychiatry. 2006.
15. Van Gundy K & Rebellon CJ. A Life-course Perspective on the "Gateway Hypothesis". J Health Soc Behav. 2010.
16. Tarter et al. Predictors of marijuana use in adolescents before and after licit drug use: examination of the gateway hypothesis. Am J Psychiatry. 2006.
17. Hughes C E and Stevens A. What Can We Learn From The Portuguese Decriminalization of Illicit Drugs?. Brit J Criminol. 2010.
18. Reiman A. Cannabis as a substitute for alcohol and other drugs. Harm Reduct J. 2009.
19. Vanyukov et al. Common liability to addiction and "gateway hypothesis": theoretical, empirical and evolutionary perspective. Drug Alcohol Depend. 2012. Review.

4 likes, 0 dislikes
Posted by Herb Reason on 04/15/2015 at 2:25 PM

Re: “Watch Biased Cannabis Science and Media in Action

The last time Northwestern did a study on the effects of cannabis on the brain [Gilman et al. 2014] they claimed something similar but had horrible controls, the cannabis using group used much more alcohol and cigarettes than controls. That study was soon refuted with a new study that properly controlled for alcohol use [Weiland et al. 2015].

The authors of this new Northwestern study admit causation has not been determined: "Although the results may be compatible with a causal hypothesis, we must consider that the observed cannabis-related shape differences in the hippocampus could also be explained as biomarkers of a neurobiological susceptibility to poor memory or the effects of cannabis". There were only 10 subjects in this study who used cannabis heavily as teens, this is a very small sample.

Regardless, only a legal, regulated system can reduce regular teen access. It is better to have some control over the 20 millions pounds traded yearly in the U.S. rather than no control.

2 likes, 0 dislikes
Posted by Herb Reason on 03/13/2015 at 9:01 AM

Re: “Lancet Develops Reefer Madness: Let's Really Talk About Pot, School, Suicide, and Society

Teen alcohol use is associated with these things plus much worse.

We are not legalizing for kids. Currently it is so available to kids that studies don't just ask if they can get cannabis, they ask how many hours it would take them to get it. A third of teens say it would take less than a few hours. Most have more than a couple of friends, so basically any teen can already get cannabis anytime they wanted. The federally funded Monitoring the Future Survey reports about 85% of high school seniors find marijuana "fairly easy to obtain". Their figure has changed little since 1975, never dropping below 81% in three decades of national surveys.

Regular teen access will not increase with legalization, and will likely decrease as the main supply channels are moved above ground where they can be easily monitored. At the very least we would take the cannabis they are getting from the criminal drug dealer of unknown character, with unknown potency, unknown purity (it could be laced, contaminated, etc), who never ID's, and put the supply in the hands of licensed, regulated, retailers who are not going to try and also sell hard drugs, or even have access to hard drugs.

The federal organization SAMHSA has shown that, despite greater acceptance and more lenient laws, the perceived availability of cannabis to youths aged 12 to 17 has dropped from 55% in 2002 to 48.6% in 2010. Multiple peer-reviewed studies have shown that medical marijuana laws have not led to increased teen usage [Choo et al. 2014; Lynne-Landsman et al. 2013; Harper et al. 2012; Anderson et al. 2012].

Teen usage dropped in Portugal since they decriminalized in 2001. The Netherlands have tolerated sales for years in 'coffee shops'. Both countries have lower usage rates, 3.3% and 5.4% respectively, than the U.S. which is 13.7%. Note that in the same time frame in which the war on drugs has been waging, tobacco use has dropped from about 45% to 18%, without criminalizing millions of tobacco users, whereas cannabis use went up.

Lenient cannabis policies are not associated with elevated adolescent use:

"the data provide no evidence that strict marijuana laws in the United States provide protective effects compared to the similarly restrictive but less vigorously enforced laws in place in Canada, and the regulated access approach in the Netherlands. "
Simons-Morton et al. Cross-national comparison of adolescent drinking and cannabis use in the United States, Canada, and the Netherlands. Int J Drug Policy. 2010.

7 likes, 0 dislikes
Posted by Herb Reason on 09/12/2014 at 5:41 AM

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