The scientist who invented synthetic marijuana, John W. Huffman, is telling ABC News what I advocated in a blog post recently, and what folks like NORML have been saying for decades: legalize marijuana.
Now that “Spice” and other forms of imitation pot are sending users to emergency rooms across America, the retired professor has an idea of how to stem the epidemic. If the federal government would legalize the real thing, says Huffman, maybe consumers wouldn’t turn to the far more dangerous fake stuff.
Sounds a lot like what I said on April 19th. I wrote then:
Synthetic marijuana’s raison d’etre is the fact that marijuana is illegal. That is, it exists purely by virtue of marijuana’s illegality. It was developed by opportunistic entrepreneurs who saw a market for a product that satisfied their customer’s desire to smoke marijuana, but to do it “legally”. Unfortunately, synthetic marijuana is apparently far more dangerous than it’s natural (but illegal) brother. The AP has reported that 3,200 people sought medical attention for the ill effects of synthetics in 2010, and in the first three months of 2011 that number was already up to 2,700. Compared to the limited health effects of marijuana, these numbers are staggering.
Huffman, who developed more than 400 “cannabinoids” as an organic chemist at Clemson University, says that marijuana has the benefit of being a known quantity, and not a very harmful one. We know the biological effects of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, Huffman told ABC News, because they have been thoroughly studied. “The scientific evidence is that it’s not a particularly dangerous drug,” said Huffman.
Hoffman pointed to the example where natural marijuana is available legally and synthetic marijuana has not yet been a problem. “I talked to a marijuana provider from California, a doctor, a physician,” explained Huffman, “and he said that in California, that these things are not near the problem they are in the rest of the country simply because they can get marijuana. And marijuana, even for recreational use is quite easy to get in California, and it’s essentially decriminalized. And marijuana is not nearly as dangerous as these compounds.”
The federal government as well as the governments of many states have passed laws to ban the sale and possession of synthetic marijuana. To date, most bans have been unsuccessful in controlling the proliferation of the substances. Huffman, who opposes prohibition in general, doubts that a ban on the synthetic substances will keep kids away from it. “We declared marijuana illegal in 1937. The federal government passed the law. Now, that really did a lot of good to keep people from smoking marijuana, didn’t it?”