Puff, the magic dragon lived by the sea, and frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honahlee. Little Jackie paper loved that rascal puff, and brought him strings and sealing wax and other fancy stuff. Oh. Puff, the magic dragon lived by the sea, and frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honahlee. Puff, the magic dragon lived by the sea, and frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honahlee. So begins the 1963 song written by Leonard Lipton and Peter Yarrow, recorded by Peter, Paul and Mary.
While Puff the Magic Dragon has often been associated with drug use, both Lipton and Yarrow have contended that the song is about the hardships of growing older and has no relationship to drug-taking.
But that was then and this is now. In 1963, marijuana was illegal to use in the United States, having been criminalized under the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937, and was classified as a Schedule I drug since the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. Until 2018, it was illegal to possess, use, buy, sell, or cultivate cannabis in all United States jurisdictions. But in 1996, California voters approved Proposition 215 (Compassionate Use Act of 1996), making the state the first in the nation to legalize the medical use of cannabis. Since then, 22 states have made marijuana legal for supposed medical use, while 11 states (and effectively the District of Columbia) have now decriminalized marijuana for recreational use. More importantly, in 2018 the government of Canada fully legalized marijuana.
The criminalization of products and services that are purchased willingly by adults is contrary to the guarantees of liberty outlined in the US Constitution, and generally speaking the legalization of cannabis should be considered as a victory for democracy. However, the extended period during which marijuana was considered to be as dangerous as plutonium also ensured that very little research was conducted on both its safety and its efficacy. Today marijuana producers, and particularly those producing Cannabidiol (CBD) are making claims that are unsupported by any fact. In addition, the impact of legalization of recreational marijuana has not been examined in any clear way, and claims about its safety and benefits are far out of line with any known facts.
One thing is for certain, the use of virtually unregulated marijuana, THC oils and CBD are having impacts that nobody considered when legalization occurred. One recent example is the recent deaths of a number of individuals who have used oil-based THC or CBD products in vaporizing devices – something that is definitely not recommended for good lung health. While the World Health Organization has stated that to date, there is no evidence of public health related problems associated with the use of pure CBD, the statement does not take into consideration the ways in which the product might be adulterated or used.
In addition, many CBD manufacturers have made wild, indefensible claims, such that CBD is a cure-all for everything from leprosy to syphilis to cancer; however, there has been no research showing this. Rather, at best CBD may be an option for managing anxiety, insomnia, and chronic pain; however, even these potential benefits have not been fully substantiated. Rather the product is generally available as an unregulated supplement, which may be adulterated and dangerous or at best ineffective.
Marijuana itself, or the psychotropic ingredient THC is also understudied. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) hasn’t approved marijuana for treating any health problems, and the Federal Government continues to classify it as an illegal substance. Whether marijuana has therapeutic benefits that outweigh its health risks is uncertain, outside of three cannabinoid-based drugs that have been approved for treatment of specific conditions. In addition, the FDA has determined that it is not legal to sell products that contain THC or CBD as dietary supplements, not to sell foods containing added THC or CBD in interstate commerce.
Some have argued that the use of marijuana is extremely dangerous. Not the comic reefer madness type of danger, but dangerous none the less. When Canada legalized marijuana the government commissioned a meta-analysis of existing research. The findings were stark. Of the reviews, 62 showed associations between the drug and various adverse outcomes, including impaired driving, increased risk of stroke and testicular cancer, brain changes that could affect learning and memory, and a particularly consistent link between cannabis use and mental illnesses involving psychosis. But just like the claims that cannabis can cure hives, the research on potential dangers is also weak.
Even so, cannabis health related regulations are much less stringent that those on many other products. It appears as if marijuana (unless smoked) may be the only thing that the State of California does not consider to be carcinogenic. States that have imposed draconian rules over alcohol or nicotine use have left CBD virtually unregulated and at best have applied only minimum levels of use restrictions on marijuana. One only needs to look at parks in Denver’s civic center neighborhood to see that many people are using excessive amounts of marijuana.
The bottom line is that while the criminalization of marijuana and its components has been a dangerous overkill and has certainly been a detriment to the liberty of millions, the restrictions on general research into the effectiveness or dangers of the drug have opened up a pandoras box of potential problems.
Puff the Magic Dragon does not end on a high note. His head was bent in sorrow, green scales fell like rain. Puff no longer went to play along the cherry lane. Without his life-long friend, puff could not be brave, so Puff that mighty dragon sadly slipped into his cave. A professionalized cannabis industry needs to be proactive in order to ensure that it does not go the same way as other products that were once considered to be socially acceptable.