News-Miner Juneau Bureau
JUNEAU--A bill by Gov. Frank Murkowski to recriminalize small amounts of marijuana use in the home has developed into a forum in the Legislature for debate on the potency of today's pot and the severity of its harmful effects.
"The marijuana of Cheech and Chong had a THC content of 1 to 5 percent; today's Alaska marijuana is 14 to 18 percent," said John Bobo, a U.S. Department of Transportation official summoned by the Murkowski administration to talk to legislators about the dangerous effects of driving or operating machinery under the influence of modern marijuana.
Lester Grinspoon, a Harvard University medical doctor and author of two books on marijuana, told the Senate HESS Committee the Murkowski administration is disingenuous in its claims about today's pot.
"Marijuana is no more harmful than it was in 1975, when I testified in the Ravin case," Grinspoon said.
Grinspoon and others said while marijuana may in fact have a higher THC content, the increased potency translates into people smoking less, taking smaller hits and holding it in their lungs for a shorter period.
Unlike alcohol, which people continue to drink well after they're intoxicated, marijuana produces a saturation point at which people tend to stop smoking because they're as high as they want to be, they said.
"To me, that seems like a good thing, because you have to put less smoke in your lungs," said Jim Welch, an Eagle River resident who said he smoked marijuana for a period of time to relieve multiple sclerosis symptoms.