Category Archives: Wellness & Environment

What is the real Marijuana question?

I think it’s time I tackled the subject of marijuana. In the mixed bag that is the dialogue about cannabis, why is marijuana treated as a controlled substance in the United States, and how does it differ from other legal drugs?

How dangerous is marijuana when compared to drugs, like alcohol and tobacco, which are not outlawed by federal statue? Significantly less dangerous. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, an NIH agency, the major cannabis risks are breathing problems (if smoked), increased heart rate for 3 hours after use, and problems of child development during pregnancy. Hardly the evil drug that would warrant such rigid federal drug policy. There are also concerns about long-term use, but what drug – legal or otherwise – doesn’t have adverse effects in the long term with overuse? I’m not advocating aggressively for pot, but I’m unconvinced that marijuana EVER warranted the effort that has been exerted to keep it out of the mainstream.

More evidence of this is found in further comparison to the effects of our legalized drugs. Unlike alcohol users, marijuana users’ driving abilities do not deteriorate appreciably. Government-funded studies have proved this. Marijuana users are also very unlikely to exhibit violent behavior after use, which can’t be said for alcohol consumers. Tobacco use, while not noticeably altering user behaviors, is an immense burden on the country’s health system due to the drug’s well-known effects on the lungs, heart and circulatory system, and is responsible for more than 700,000 deaths dues to cancer and other smoking-induced disorders. Marijuana health complications are insignificant in comparison.

It’s always struck Random Spotter as hypocritical that we continue to allow deadly recreational drugs while our official position on a far more benign drug continues to drive policies that fill our jails and cost taxpayers billions. Pot has been legalized by voter initiative in 4 state and DC thus far. Four more states will have similar initiatives on the ballot in November. And, Vermont is the first state set to consider the issue through legislation in coming months. So, clearly, the state tides have turned. I think it’s time to stop the endless failure that is our federal policy on marijuana, create a sensible tax and distribution program, and call game over on the topic.

Meet the “Good” Lab-Created Mosquito

Random Spotter stumbled upon an interesting article, and it prompted me to learn more about the subject. Here it is: A company called Oxitec, owned by US synthetic biology company Intrexon, has developed a mosquito strain whose males engender offspring that die before adulthood, thus before being able to reproduce.

The positive implications are astounding, as the company claims it can reduce Aedes aegypti mosquito populations by up to 90%. Theoretically, it could be possible to nearly wipe out the threat of dengue fever, malaria, yellow fever and Zika through insect control.

Most mosquito species used to exist primarily in Africa and tropical Asia just 30 years ago, and many can now be found in almost every corner of the globe. The Asian Tiger mosquito, now resident in at least 6 continents, is believed to be capable of spreading up to 25 known viruses, and outbreaks of little-known diseases, with names like chikungunya and St. Louis encephalitis, are now a common occurrence. So, the risks are not only real; they appear to be growing in frequency and severity.

The Food & Drug Administration agreed recently that an environmental assessment provided by Oxitec shows minimal environmental impact. This nod from the FDA could move Oxitec’s proposal to conduct a field trial in the Florida Keys forward. Mosquitoes are particularly numerous in the southern region of Florida, and success there could signal greater commercial appeal for Oxitec products.

I’m very concerned about the introduction of any genetically modified organism into the environment. But considering the growing risk of disease spread by mosquitoes, in the absence of reliable data to the contrary, Random Spotter thinks the benefits of the genetically modified mosquito outweigh the environmental concerns.