Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO), a staunch advocate for the legalization of medical marijuana, rebuked Michele Leonhart, the head of the Drug Enforcement Agency, yesterday at a Congressional hearing because she would not say if crack is worse than marijuana.
Polis grilled Leonhart, ticking off a list of illicit drugs — including crack, meth, and heroin — and asking whether each was just as bad for a person as smoking marijuana. Leonhart refused to concede that marijuana has significantly fewer potential health risks, or that medicinal use of pot might alleviate the high numbers of patients who struggle with addiction prescription drugs, which have much higher health risks:
POLIS: Is crack worse for a person than marijuana?
LEONHART: I believe all the illegal drug —
POLIS: Is methamphetamine worse for somebody’s health than marijuana?
LEONHART: I don’t think any illegal drug —
POLIS: Is heroin worse for someones health than marijuana?
LEONHART: Again, all the drugs —
POLIS: I mean, either yes, no, or I don’t know. I mean, if you don’t know, you can look this up you should know this as the chief administrator for the Drug Enforcement Agency. I’m asking you a very straightforward question. Is heroin worse for someone’s health than marijuana?
LEONHART: All the illegal drugs are bad.
POLIS: Does this mean you don’t know?
LEONHART: Heroin causes an addiction that causes many problems that’s very hard to kick.
POLIS: Does that mean that the health impact is worse than marijuana, is that what you’re telling me?
LEONHART: I think that you are asking a subjective question.
Heroin addiction can lead to “bone and muscle pain, nausea, diarrhea and vomiting.” Use of methamphetamine “[inhibits] the body’s ability to repair itself. Acne appears, sores take longer to heal, and the skin loses its luster and elasticity.” Crack can lead to side effects “as severe as heart attack, stroke, increased heart rate and even, in some cases, death.”
The long term side effects of marijuana use include “irritability, sleeplessness, decreased appetite, anxiety, and drug craving,” according to the government’s drug abuse website, “These symptoms begin within about 1 day following abstinence, peak at 2–3 days, and subside within 1 or 2 weeks following drug cessation.”