CANNABIS: “Alcohol is a Bigger Danger to Health and Society Than Marijuana, Americans Say” / Matt Ferner

Alcohol vs. Cannabis

From heart disease to liver disease to elevated cancer risks, excessive alcohol consumption can indeed be devastating to a person’s overall health. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are roughly 88,000 deaths attributable to alcohol use each year in the United States. In 2006, the CDC reported that there were 1.2 million emergency room visits and 2.7 million physician office visits due to excessive alcohol use.

Studies have also shown cannabis to be far less addictive than alcohol, and even caffeine.

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Alcohol has been found to be more lethal than many other commonly abused substances, according to a study from American Scientist. Just 10 times the recommended serving of alcohol can lead to death, while a marijuana user would have to consume 20,000 to 40,000 times the amount of THC in a joint in order to be at risk of a fatal dose, according to a 1988 ruling from the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Still, in at least 10,000 years of human consumption, there have been no documented deaths as a result of marijuana overdose.

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POLITICAL IDEOLOGY: “GOP [Guardians of Privilege] States Are The Most Dependent On Government” / Benjamin Hallman

IronyIf we learned nothing else during the 2012 election, it is that some of us are makers, hard-working folk solely responsible for America’s prosperity, and others are takers, who want the federal government to pay for luxuries like food and health care.

What may come as some surprise is where these two warring tribes tend to live. The states with elected officials most likely to espouse anti-taker sentiments — i.e., Republican-dominated states — are the most dependent on federal spending, while returning the least to Washington in the way of tax dollars.

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The “makingest” state, according to the analysis, is Delaware. Delawareans — this is really what they call themselves — pay $1 in taxes for every 50 cents they get back from the federal government.

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The “takingest” states, in a tie, are Mississippi and New Mexico, according to the analysis. Both states take about $3 in federal spending for every $1 contributed in taxes.

h/t: The Huffington Post

MARIJUANA LEGALIZATION: “Marijuana: The High and the Low” / The New York Review of Books

Jeff Chiu/AP Images:Medical marijuana patient Kevin Brown at the Apothecarium, a medical cannabis dispensary in San Francisco, December 2011 

But what I found most fascinating was that we have a natural or “endogenous” cannabinoid system. In 1988, researchers identified a specific docking site, or receptor, on the surface of cells in the brain that bound THC. This first receptor was termed cannabinoid receptor 1, or CB1. Five years later, a second receptor for cannabinoids, CB2, was found. This latter docking protein was less plentiful in the central nervous system but richly present on white blood cells. Again, it was Raphael Mechoulam who discovered the first endogenous cannabinoid, a fatty acid in the brain, which he termed “anandamide.” (The name is derived from the Sanskrit word ananda, which means “bliss.”) When anandamide attached to CB1 it triggered a cascade of biochemical changes within our neurons.6

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Ultimately, marijuana may be used in conjunction with opioids like morphine to allow for lower doses and fewer of the side effects of the opioid family of analgesics. While chronic pain seems amenable to amelioration by marijuana, its impact on reducing acute pain, such as after surgery, is minimal.

How do cannabinoids reduce pain? Some of the benefit appears to result from cognitive dissociation: you realize that pain is present, but don’t respond to it emotionally. If you are able to detach yourself from pain in that way, there is less suffering.

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