Scientific American, the nation’s oldest continuously published monthly magazine, says it’s time to “End the War on Weed.” In a story published in its upcoming May issue, the 172-year-old publication made the case for legalization, calling our current federal policy “ill informed and misguieded.”
The story, bylined by “The Editors,” details the reasoning behind legal reform and the hypocrisy of criminalizing the plant:
Evidence suggests that cannabis—though not without its risks—is less harmful than legal substances such as alcohol and nicotine. And despite similar marijuana use among blacks and whites, a disproportionate number of blacks are arrested for it. By allowing states to regulate marijuana without federal interference, we can ensure better safety and control while allowing for greater research into its possible harms and benefits.
This is not the first time Scientific American has reported on cannabis. The magazine, which bills itself as the “authoritative source for the science discoveries and technology innovations that matter,” has been writing about the issue for years, including stories such as “Experts Tell the Truth about Pot” in 2o12; “How Safe Is Recreational Marijuana” in 2013; and “Medical Marijuana: How the Evidence Stacks Up” in 2014.
In the May 2018 story, the magazine takes aim, rightfully, at President Richard Nixon’s 1970s-era War on Drugs strategy:
In 1970 the Controlled Substances Act established marijuana as a Schedule I drug, “with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” This is the same category that includes heroin and MDMA (ecstasy). Yet marijuana is far less dangerous than many other drugs, and cannabis or its derivatives have been used to treat everything from chronic pain to post-traumatic stress disorder to childhood epilepsy. A 2015 study that compared the toxicological threshold of marijuana for risk to human health with that of other drugs found that alcohol posed the highest risk, followed by heroin, cocaine and nicotine. Marijuana was among the lowest. In addition, there is some evidence that pot may serve as a safe alternative to other drugs of abuse, including heroin and other opioids.
The story points out that “one in eight U.S. adults smoke it, and more than 40 percent of them have tried the drug at some point in their lifetime. A majority of states allow some form of medical marijuana use, and nine states and Washington, D.C., have now legalized recreational use.”
The magazine is “not advocating for unfettered access to marijuana, especially by adolescents.” Instead, Scientific American, true to its editorial mission, wants more large-scale, randomized controlled studies. Of course, as the magazine points out, “as long as the federal government continues to crack down on state-level legal marijuana, it will be difficult to carry out such studies.”
The story concludes:
It is time to stop treating marijuana like a deadly drug, when science and public opinion agree that it is relatively safe for adult recreational use. The last thing we need is another expensive and ineffective war on a substance like cannabis—especially when there are far more serious drug problems to tackle.