High-Potency Poppycock

Congressman says strong pot calls for stiff prison sentence

Zombie-making high-pote dope?
Zombie-making high-pote dope?

Chicago-area GOP U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk says today’s pot dealers are not just out to get you high – they’re out to get you really, really, really high, and to make a crap-load of cash doing it.

According to Kirk, the potency of pot being dealt on the streets is now so great that it’s time for the federal government to fight back by increasing federal penalties for dealing the drug. High-potency pot – dope with 15% or more tetrahydrocannibinol, aka THC, the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana – makes users “zombie-like,” Kirk has been told by cops, he said in a recent press release. And dealers are turning to the high-pote pot to rack up profits akin to those seen by cocaine dealers. “Drug dealers know they can make as much money selling Kush [a strain of pot] as cocaine but without the heavier sentences that accompany crack and cocaine trafficking,” he said. “If you can make as much money selling pot as cocaine, you should face the same penalties.”

Because an eye for an eye always makes things better.

Under Kirk’s proposal (HR 2848), anyone caught growing or selling high-pote pot on a first offense would face up to 25 years in prison (at least 20 years if the offense included “serious bodily injury” to another) and up to a $5 million fine. Any subsequent offense would net up to 35 years in prison (or up to life if injury is involved), and up to a $10 million fine. (And remember, we’re talking fed time here, where there is no parole.)

But pot smokers don’t need to worry, says Kirk, because he has no intention of making the draconian punishments a possibility for mere possession. I’m so relieved ...

Kirk’s proposal is scary on its face, but even more so when you consider that it is based on ... nothing. Well, nothing except stats released by the feds that proclaim pot potency has risen exponentially since the early 1990s – the problem is that those stats, contained in the University of Mississippi’s Marijuana Potency Monitoring Project (where fed-seized dope samples are sent for analysis), aren’t exactly accurate.

According to a May press release from the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, the “average amount of THC in seized samples has reached a new high of 10.1 percent.” However, according to the most recent MPMP report, the prevalence of pot with the highest concentrations of THC has never risen above 2.1% of all samples the project has tested since 1989. Moreover, points out Bruce Mirken, director of communications for the Marijuana Policy Project, in computing the 10.1% THC average, the MPMP averaged the potency not only of regular pot, but also the potency of hash and hash oil, which are naturally more concentrated. If you look just at marijuana, average potency is now just more than 8.5% -- a far cry from the potency that Kirk and his clan would have you believe is plaguing the nation. “Is the average potency of marijuana inching upward? Probably, though there isn’t the slightest evidence that this makes it more dangerous,” Mirken wrote in a recent blog post. “Is the real average over 10%? Only if you believe in the tooth fairy.” Moreover, medical evidence contradicts the notion that higher THC concentration makes human “zombies,” as Kirk would have you believe, or that it is actually more harmful than using pot with a lower concentration of THC. “Claims made in the public domain about a 20- or 30-fold increase in cannabis potency and about the adverse mental health effects of cannabis contamination are not supported currently by the evidence,” reads a May 2008 article in the journal Addiction. So far, fortunately, Rep. Kirk’s high-potency pot penalty plan has not attracted any co-sponsors.

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