Sunday, May 31, 2015

Vermont in the 1840’s: a Time of Revival, Religion, and Expanding Horizons

Paul Andreas Fischer
Paul Searls

Vermont in the 1840’s: a Time of Revival, Religion, and Expanding Horizons

The population growth of the early 1840’s was fueled by deforestation efforts as agricultural potential expanded greatly. The population had matured and was now part of a great effort to redefine the national identity that had progressed across New England. Early secessionist movements in New England after the war of 1812, during the presidency of Andrew Jackson in reaction to early attempts to expand liberty throughout the Quebec peninsula (Buchanan, lecture) had become directed inwards; the small state and nation as a whole began to see a unique transformation. Important factors of this internal revolution can be seen as religious and political changes (these forces were still operating in lockstep), expansion of economic frontiers as well as technological competitiveness with Southern states who already enjoyed an economic transformation, and educational maturation. All of these combined into a new and cooperative effort to bring a new dawn to the Vermont countryside and the bustling townships which finally saw westward expansion stunted by squabbling over the nature of westward states and military paranoia of invasion from the North and Atlantic.
The religious revival is nationally noted for the education of African-American citizens and slaves, along with their baptism (Thornton, lecture). This revival can also be seen in the unanimously white states of the North, as the young nation had finally seen reason to expand educational efforts in the countryside and established extensive schooling efforts which saw literacy rates rise (Opal, lecture). Liberty was not the sole goal of these efforts, and the nature of the debates which shaped up affected Vermont in a unique manner.
Two primary objectives of the revivalism in Vermont are of particular interest. Which one came first is not immediately apparent, but logically it can be deduced that the stronger was a reaction to the weaker as this is the nature of successful social movements, society defined as a growing entity (Weiner, lecture). Firstly, the temperance movement attracted a great following in a young state (both in demographics and politically); it is likely the great population shifts described later in economic analysis of the state encouraged a persecution of apple orchard farmers who provided the raw materials which fueled the degenerative behavior of alcohol consumption. “An average of one in every four adults volunteered to take one temperance pledge” (Potash, 182). While demographics are unavailable, it is known that this effort was certainly unappreciated in rural and military circles; the latter had militias in which whisky was used as a reward and the former depended on distilleries to boost consumption of their crop.
What sort of political reaction may have occurred cannot be certain, but prosecution of secret groups and the anti-masonic sentiments of the state may be an endogenous reaction to these events in play. “Rousing greater moral and political ardor among Vermonters than temperance or any other reform was the issue of anti-masonry” which played a major role in the natural backlash which occurred as other states likely proved all too willing to provide a bountiful amount of alcohol, but had much less incentive to purchase the raw materials Vermont was capable of producing.
This came pursuant to various political and economic changes which had occurred in Vermont prior to the establishment of significant organized religion in the public sphere. While by the 1840s, Vermont was on the threshold of breaking through with new threshing machines that would transform agricultural capabilities and allow the conquest of the American South later after allegations of unfair democratic procedures and unconstitutional secession (which is only permitted in the event a state or states’ constitution is in conflict with the United States’ constitution, not when federal statutes and state statutes or constitutions conflict). “In the years following the war of 1812, New York Governor Dewitt Clinton backed the projected Erie Canal that promised to reroute trade form the rapidly growing Great Lakes trade region and Montreal to the Hudson River and New York City” (Potash, 168).
While temperance movements may have decried this as a corruption of social morals and code at the time, the economic success of the action cannot be denied; trade across Lake Champlain subsequently increased by a factor of 500%. This is double the rate of agricultural growth in Addison County as measured by sheep count after 1832 pursuant to recovery from the banking crisis at the time (Potash, 173). Slowly for industrialists hoping to finally dot the Vermont countryside with urban areas, but rapidly given modes of transportation and conservative social values, the state saw a distinct demographic transformation.
“In the decade after 1820, although the population increased by almost 19% to almost 280,652, a large number of towns actually lost population” (Potash, 167) though it is possible this change was not as beneficial as it first appears. Unlike today, when the expansion of the technological frontier can rapidly expand economic horizons, during that time period it was difficult to make significant gains, even as economic policies appeared to work. This is likely due to natural barriers from toxic substance use and semi-natural pollutants (medicine and industry were equally barbaric in the release and exposure of workers and customers to dangerous elements). These changes economically have roots in educational changes that occurred at the time.
Prior to the 1840s, “during the 1820s and 30s Middlebury graduated three times as many students as the University of Vermont” (Potash, 179). This gives an example of this principle in action as no significant technological gains are reported until 1850 when this trend can be presumed to have reversed: with an excess of Middlebury graduates in comparison to UVM graduates, despite an abundance of the former, local economic systems simply became saturated without industrial or agricultural concerns to support them; closer to the lake and transportation proved to be more fertile ground for educational investment. In modern times, we can see that as the population increases in intelligence, such as when lead was removed from paint, automobiles and the environment in general, the economy and graduation rates also increase in kind; in this case it can be seen that a change of around 5 points in IQ resulted in triple the number of college graduates and corresponding gains in gross domestic product.
Earlier reference to sheep in Addison county plays a particularly important role to early Vermont educational development. While it is well known that timber played an important role in Vermont’s history, “the state’s economy flourished initially, then absorbed war-time setbacks, and slowly overcame them, while developing an increasingly precarious agricultural dependence on a single crop, wool” (Potash, 146). The expansion of the agricultural capacity of the state must have marched hand in hand with widespread deforestation. With this would come the educational maturation which allowed Vermont citizens to lead some of the most brilliant military victories in the United State’s history as well as several key technological innovations which played a key role in the survival of the state despite numerous human rights violations and keen competition for valuable resources, whether maple sugar to flavor tobacco or the granite which formed the foundation of the nation’s political and economic capitals.

Works Cited:
 Buchanan, Andrew. "US Military History." University of Vermont, Burlington, Vermont. 2013. Lecture.
 Opal, Jason. "American History to 1865." McGill University, Montreal, Quebec. 2010. Web.
 Potash, P. Freedom and Unity: A History of Vermont. Vermont Historical Society: 2004.
 Thornton, Kevin. "US History to 1865." University of Vermont, Burlington, Vermont. 2010. Lecture.
 Weiner, Mathew. "Introduction to Logic." University of Vermont, Burlington, Vermont. 2014. Lecture.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

The Recreational Marijuana Logic Tree:

Graphic obtained with permissions on Googleplus
Even a tiny bush like this has 1024 individual leaves, here is a logic tree which tries to break down some of the most important points on marijuana legalization:

Recreational Marijuana logic tree:
Marijuana and Crime:
   2 million of 4 million parolees have tried marijuana. 200 million of 350 million Americans have tried marijuana. 16% of prisoners are there solely for marijuana charges, which means that marijuana users commit significantly less crimes than those who do not make the life style choice. While data on intoxication from marijuana use and driving is not complete, the Federal Government has found that the likelihood of marijuana users to be involved in traffic fatalities is approximately the same as the non-using and non-drinking populations.
   Legalization of marijuana is estimated in the first year to have cost the South American Cartels nearly 4 billion dollars. Since 1970, when the majority of marijuana users also used other narcotics, the rate of co-dependence has fallen steadily, with the 50-50 point being reached in the 90’s. The vast majority of marijuana users now use marijuana exclusively. The rate of hard drug use in the nation has also dropped in a similar fashion from 10% to as low as .5%.
Marijuana and foreign policy:
   Unlike previous attempts to make marijuana illegal, when supporting foreign fighters in marijuana producing countries offered an incentive for the United States to encourage or foster an illegal trade in marijuana, and rigorously enforce prohibition, today foreign policy goals have changed and these rebels, whether in South American countries that during the cold war may have swung to communism, or in Afghanistan and the Middle East, now do not provide the same incentive to prohibit. In fact, as these organizations have struck against the United States in the past militarily or economically, continued prohibition may be a breach in national security by providing necessary means to acquire funding for enemies of the state. This is especially true in cases in which users are dependent on marijuana, either for medical purposes or as maintenance medication for co-occuring addictions. 
Marijuana and Education:
   Marijuana has been shown to increase IQ by a significant amount in current and former users with responsible adult use. This is exemplified by a lower crime rate, and after adjustment for marijuana-related legal or social sanctions, higher educational performance. This has also been causally proven with brain imaging work that shows marijuana increases functional connectivity.
Marijuana and public health:
   Marijuana has been shown to have a protective effect on the lungs and bronchial system. THC has been proven to attack cancer cells, and reduce both the prevalence and the exacerbation of cancer-related disease. While it is true that marijuana consumed as a child (the age the state of Vermont looks to set with legalization is 21, though further research here is being done) will negatively affect bone density in a manner similar to alcohol use over time, this effect is also matched by an increase in bone density with responsible adult use.
   Marijuana has medical benefits for those with terminal illness, which may extend lives significantly. Social discrimination or segregation may have a significant impact on these populations.
Marijuana and dependence or potential for abuse
   Research has shown that marijuana releases slightly less dopamine than a good meal, about half that of a sexual encounter or alcohol use and between 3 and 20 times less than other illegal or prescription narcotics available in the USA. Release of certain dopamine receptors initiated by marijuana use have been proven in adults to have a positive effect on various hormones, while not negatively affecting sperm count or other fertility measures, though in pregnant women some negative effects can be determined.
   It has also been proven that marijuana use acts as a result of the same receptors of the brain that coffee blocks, the adenosine receptors. While low doses of caffeine will reduce the amount of THC cravings, high doses will allow someone to take larger amounts of THC, and feel the need to do so. This is yet to be proven as effective treatment, but has the potential to provide a unique advantage to marijuana that drugs or alcohol do not.
The marijuana community and illegal or unconstitutional discrimination or attacks:
   Production of synthetic THC or spice, a schedule 1 substance, occurred in the United States legally for around 3 years. In 2010 alone over 11,000 Americans were hospitalized pursuant to consumption of the drug, which was classified by the White House as three times to 800 times more addictive than marijuana when they were added to the Controlled Substances Act with the Safety and Innovation Act of 2012. Dozens were killed. This is a direct result of job application urine screening and marijuana prohibition which resulted in use of the substance; many people did not even know this was not legitimate marijuana. 
   As noted before, marijuana use is not associated with fatal traffic accidents, but there are states such as Vermont, which have significant (a 5X increase from the national average) and consistently deviant marijuana traffic fatalities, suggesting social discrimination or prejudice in these areas. There are not corresponding states with abnormally low marijuana-related traffic fatalities, suggesting this is not the result of random distribution.
   RICO funds intended for legal prosecution of narcotics cases have been diverted to anti-marijuana lobby efforts. Organizations were found to divert money as well from pharmaceutical corporations to anti-marijuana efforts, in a massive breach of scientific ethics. This resulted in some pseudo-science arising in the anti-marijuana field, which was non-reproducible, something extremely rare in the world of academics and indicative of a massive economic investment in preventing the legalization and regulation of marijuana.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Legalizing Marijuana the Vermont Way - Recommendations for the Upcoming Marijuana Bill

The Vermont Senate Committee on Government Operations has made its recommendations for a bill to legalize marijuana. After meeting in November, these should be crafted into a bill for the Senate to look at shortly afterwards. More documents and information can be found on the Senate Committee on Government Operations page at the statehouse's website.
Link to recommendations here: Legalizing Marijuana the Vermont Way

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Open letter to the chair of the Judicial Committee in the Vermont State Senate on relative incarceration rates and marijuana:

Would it be possible to push this up to a matter of state security and constitutional crisis? I do not have access to Vermont's statistics on incarceration, but after adjustment for those incarcerated solely on the virtue of marijuana charges and then number of marijuana smokers per capita, all data readily available on a national scale, it became apparent that the amount of incarceration in the marijuana smoking community is less than that of the alcohol drinking community, and only slightly higher than those who consume no substances whatsoever, if at all. Both alcohol and marijuana using communities have 10X less incarceration than users of other hard narcotics for which statistics are collected for. Combined with the national study on road safety and marijuana use which shows that marijuana use fatalities are the same as those who do not drink or drug (it is known that Vermont does have a weird anomaly which has more marijuana related fatalities than federal statistics, though the trend remains steady in our state), the implication is that every year there are 10's of thousands of unnecessary automobile deaths, even with only a modest substitution factor in relation to marijuana use and alcohol or other drugs (which, given the trajectory since the 1970's when around 90% of users of marijuana also used other narcotics to today, with the 50-50 point being reached in the 1990's, today hard drug use among marijuana users is lower than the national hard drug use in the 1980's and low enough to show the logical fallacy in the gateway theory, can be assumed to be much greater than modest). Finally, I do not believe there are constitutional grounds for incarcerating a community of people who do not commit crimes in a greater amount than the general population (or at all, if there is no evidence of causality between the group identity, such as a gang, religion, or drug use, and the crime which could be economic, violent, or mischievous in nature). If sources are needed, I am happy to supply them. Furthermore, if there are Vermont specific statistics which either confirm, do not match (as happened with the traffic fatalities), or directly conflict with federal statistics, please inform me, this would be useful for my recreational marijuana community on googleplus.
Thank you,
Paul Fischer

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Marijuana may not only protect against lung damage, but also help nicotine product users regulate or quit their product, and has the potential to aid with other chemical dependencies.

One of the most persistent reasons that people favor marijuana use, legalization, and regulation is due to the assertion that smoking marijuana does not do damage to the lungs, while tobacco smokers have a high certainty of dying from their habit. While the claims have been modulated to some extent, this assertion has held true in cohort studies of medical and recreational marijuana use in California, and attempts to determine causality actually found that the smoke from marijuana offers a protective effect to the lungs of users.
Something that has not been addressed as fully, is the impact of THC on the brain and fighting addiction. Nicotine is among the most addictive substances in the world when taken in amounts of 15-20 mg per day and greater for an extended period of time, the threshold for chemical dependence. It has also been shown to do damage to the dentate gyrus of the brain, which contains about 90% of the brain’s memories, at these levels of intake.
Marijuana smokers experience an increase in functional connectivity in the brain, which has been causally associated with an increase in IQ. The dentate gyrus is among the parts of the brain which experience elevated levels of neurogenesis as a result of exposure to an active compound in marijuana, THC. Recent research conducted at Duke University found that tobacco smokers who were able to quit experienced elevated levels of connectivity in the brain as well, while those who relapsed or became heavier smokers tended to lack this connectivity.
This research is of extreme importance as both nicotine products and other addictive substances or pharmaceuticals grip many users in this country. While it is important to make these activities less addictive, for example by limiting the amount of nicotine in a dose, ironically enough the opposite of what manufacturers of cigarettes did decades ago (though to be fair this may have been a simple reaction against hyperbolic at the least and malevolent or unfounded research at the worst targeted at tobacco), or educating people about what level of intake can be diagnosed as chemically dependent, and should be seen as a warning sign of addiction (as a good doctor will do with any prescription), it is also important to develop methods of ensuring successful recovery in the event of chemical dependence.
While marijuana has been prescribed before prohibition, and has a cultural connotation as a substituting product allowing people with chemical dependence to recover past withdrawal for centuries, the nature of its medical value is just starting to be explored now. Of particular interest is whether the factors affecting recovery for nicotine can contribute to recovery from other substances; research carried out suggests that the underlying genetic factors behind addiction are “highly correlated” at the least. Using brain scan technology to see this effect will be exciting at the least, and this particular vein of research is among the most enticing for public health.

Works Cited:

Abrous, Djoher Nora, et al. "Nicotine self-administration impairs hippocampal plasticity." The Journal of neuroscience 22.9 (2002): 3656-3662.
Addicott, Merideth A., et al. "Increased Functional Connectivity in an Insula-Based Network is Associated with Improved Smoking Cessation Outcomes." Neuropsychopharmacology (2015).
Filbey, Francesca M., et al. "Long-term effects of marijuana use on the brain."Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 111.47 (2014): 16913-16918.
Fried, Peter et al. “Current and Former Marijuana Use: Preliminary Findings of a Longitudinal Study of Effects on IQ in Young Adults.” CMAJ: Canadian Medical Association Journal 166.7 (2002): 887–891.
Doweiko, Harold. Concepts of chemical dependency. Cengage Learning, 2011.
Hashibe, Mia, et al. "Marijuana use and the risk of lung and upper aerodigestive tract cancers: results of a population-based case-control study." Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers & Prevention 15.10 (2006): 1829-1834.
Jiang, Wen, et al. "Cannabinoids promote embryonic and adult hippocampus neurogenesis and produce anxiolytic-and antidepressant-like effects." Journal of Clinical Investigation 115.11 (2005): 3104.
Kempker, Jordan A., Eric G. Honig, and Greg S. Martin. "Effects of Marijuana Exposure on Expiratory Airflow: A Study of Adults who Participated in the US National Health and Nutrition Examination Study." Annals of the American Thoracic Society ja (2014).
Kendler, Kenneth S., John Myers, and Carol A. Prescott. "Specificity of genetic and environmental risk factors for symptoms of cannabis, cocaine, alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine dependence." Archives of General Psychiatry 64.11 (2007): 1313-1320.
Ling, H. W., and CB Wynn Parry. "The amount of nicotine absorbed in smoking." British journal of pharmacology and chemotherapy 4.3 (1949): 313-314.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Neurogenesis Suppression in Dentate Gyrus Induced by Moderate to Heavy Nicotine Use Finally Shown to Have Negative Impact on Memory Functions?

There is a stereotype that marijuana smokers have hazy or weak memories as a result of their use. Tobacco smoke, on the other hand, is usually discussed in terms of the positive effect on cognition by virtue of the very mild stimulant effects delivered by nicotine. Over a decade ago, however, researchers in Nice, France showed in rats that administration of nicotine, without smoke, induced a suppression of new neuronal births in the dentate gyrus, the part of the brain that handles about 90% of a person or animal's memories. In the last decade as well, researchers from the Chinese Military, Canada, and Maryland have shown that marijuana actually encourages the birth of neurogenesis in the hippocampus (which is responsible for most remaining memories) by 40%, when a pure THC copycat chemical, named for Hebrew University where the compound was made, is administered to rats. Researchers at Princeton University and the Department of Nutrition in Brazil also showed that there was no effect from THC on the dentate gyrus of rats, even at levels producing "gross behavioural intoxication".
This provides a general understanding of the effect of THC on the brain, which should be reproducible in human or population studies which have been conducted. More recent brain scans have also shown this to be true as conducted with human populations, with negligible changes, positive or negative, found in most parts of the brain, though functional connectivity has also been shown to increase in a significant manner with marijuana use this last year.
Most recently, a study from Spain claimed that while virtually every mode of behavioural measurement was equal between marijuana smokers and control groups, a significant (though still within the realm of normal fluctuation) decrease in memory function was noted. This speaks in the face of research that has been conducted about THC or the marijuana that contains it. Even with patients using 10 times the responsible adult use in the sample, and the average number of marijuana cigarettes, or spliffs, smoked in a lifetime being around 42,000 (with one participant smoking over a massive 256,000 times) among those included in the study, the results do not match with rats who were administered high levels of THC; the results should have been positive and not negative.
There is a difference between the human and rat studies, though which is not addressed. In the Spanish study, noting a decrease in memory function, the research explicitly emphasizes that tobacco users were not omitted from the study, and about 75% of the participants were actively smoking tobacco when the study was conducted.
A little background, for the American marijuana user, is necessary. In Europe, people smoke spliffs generally made with hashish and tobacco. The unfiltered smoke doubles the nicotine intake (in some countries there are lower limits on nicotine levels, but in Spain this probably means quite similar to American cigarettes, as there has not been a strict concentration of absorbed nicotine enforced throughout the European Union yet), and this dominates the marijuana culture there. While more efficient, this also means that it is very difficult to smoke marijuana regularly without crossing the threshold of 5-10 mg of nicotine daily at which point positive effects are eclipsed by neurogenesis suppression, assuming the user is smoking on work breaks or at certain timepoints and not regularly throughout the day (the research indicates that doses of more than 3-5 mg of nicotine in the blood at a time is the crossover point from positive to negative effects).
The research in Nice, France, which originally shows the negative impact of moderate to heavy nicotine use on the dentate gyrus, emphasizes that further research is needed to confirm this neuronal difference actually translates to a cognitive change. Research from Riba et al. should be used in conjunction with other research done in this field to confirm this fact, as has been shown above. It is still worth investigating the impacts of age, obviously at certain ages nicotine has a positive effect, while it can be assumed that while a brain is developing such stunting of neurogenesis must induce extreme cognitive defects. For those concerned about absorbing too much nicotine, in the last 70 years absorbed nicotine in cigarettes has increased almost 3-fold in the USA (though in some parts of Europe the composition of a cigarette is much the same as in the early days of the tobacco industry) as companies and governments attempt to limit tar or air pollution intake (read previous research on cancer mortality and smoking for more), one viable option is to use pipe tobacco instead of cigarette tobacco. While the curing process for pipe tobacco means there is more nicotine per gram in the cigarette or bowl, the wide cut of the leaves lowers absorbed nicotine by around 13 times (or 2-4 times in comparison to low nicotine European cigarettes). Normal use of pipe tobacco is also associated with levels of cancer and smoking-related disease more similar to the general population than to the cigarette smokers.

Works Cited:

Abrous, Djoher Nora, et al. "Nicotine self-administration impairs hippocampal plasticity." The Journal of neuroscience 22.9 (2002): 3656-3662.

Filbey, Francesca M., et al. "Long-term effects of marijuana use on the brain."Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 111.47 (2014): 16913-16918.

Jiang, Wen, et al. "Cannabinoids promote embryonic and adult hippocampus neurogenesis and produce anxiolytic-and antidepressant-like effects." Journal of Clinical Investigation 115.11 (2005): 3104.

Kochman, Linda J., et al. "Despite strong behavioral disruption, Δ 9-tetrahydrocannabinol does not affect cell proliferation in the adult mouse dentate gyrus." Brain research 1113.1 (2006): 86-93.

Ling, H. W., and CB Wynn Parry. "The amount of nicotine absorbed in smoking." British journal of pharmacology and chemotherapy 4.3 (1949): 313-314.

Riba, J., et al. "Telling true from false: cannabis users show increased susceptibility to false memories." Molecular psychiatry (2015).

Friday, May 8, 2015

Crumbling Pyramids: the Fall of Totalitarian Communist Rule in Poland and Memory of the Forest

Paul Andreas Fischer
Jonathon D. Huener

Crumbling Pyramids: the Fall of Totalitarian Communist Rule in Poland and Memory of the Forest

In Memory of the Forest, by Charles T. Powers, the beginning does not assume significance. It does not throw on the tapestries of European historical writing by dwelling on the horrific natures of mutually assured destruction and consumerism that gripped American writers at the time. However, for those who have read Little House on the Prairie or listened to the more contemporary Garrison Keeler on National Public Radio, there will be a reassuring familiarity in the stories of a “little town in Poland”. Looking at the characterization of the Polish nationality and the nature of life under Communist rule may cast some light on the fate and nature of infamous “the disappeared” of totalitarian government in Poland. To understand the missing, it is first necessary to understand how they were while present.
The history of Poland is rife with running. It is a recurring theme, from military withdrawals to the systematic hunt, or Jager, of the Jewish populations during World War Two. Persecution of Jews proceeded under Stalinist anti-zionist campaigns which periodically emanated from Moscow. With the downfall of Communism in Europe and Russia, a new running was beginning: a female friend of the protagonist of the book, Leszek, named Jola says, “maybe I’m running, but I’m running with my family”. Desperate to leave the villages behind, perhaps it finally felt for the Poles as if there was something, an American dream perhaps, to run to, even if this would be found simply in a larger city now.
Bribery can be seen to be rampant at this time, “it wasn’t a question of moral qualm; just lack of know-how” Just as the American rock song The Farm or Tobacco Road by Jefferson Airplane exalts the benefits of country life, the Poles too have an aversion to the city life, compounded by sentiments of anti-establishmentarianism crossed with disdain for the inveterate lack of life found in fellow city dwellers. Father Jerzy, speaking at a funeral points out that “the culture of the totalitarian gives rise to the totalitarian solution, to force, to murder”. This symptom of systemic sickness is easily diagnosed, the smaller observations can be harder to emphasize, though they lie out in the open, both in life and in this book. One frustration in early country life is technological illiteracy; a local priest, Father Tadeuz, refuses to bless a copy machine.
A fundamental distrust of technology is not limited to the clergy. Cars break down, the heavy industry emphasis of early communism, never significantly successful in satellite states, was long gone and the system had entered a period of prolonged decay ominously omitted from Marxist forecasts as symptomatic of an isolated and unnatural economic system. There is an overwhelming claustrophobia about economic conditions, and while things would be getting better, for these Poles it seemed “as though the air were rationed”.
In order for a small village to obtain even basic necessities like coal, someone had to engage in nefarious behavior, from diversion of food to illicit sexual companions or intoxicating substances. The economic value of goods at the time is complicated by the addition of complementary services from necessary connections to perseverance in obtaining what one or a group needed. Yet times are changing and “nothing was sure any longer, the great pyramid of power was crumbling, visibly notched and chunked at the top, reduced to uncertain sand at the bottom”. This change represented a violent movement away from early notions of revolution upon which many in the social structure had become raised to their positions.
Father Jerzy offers greater insight than the mere violence perpetrated, but also points the finger at the behavior of Communists once they had acquired the mechanisms of control. Poland “is poor because the Communists robbed the people for forty years. Suppressed the church. Encouraged the collapse of the family. Sent Bolshevik Jews and Stalinist tyrants to rule over our lives, to remove religion from the schools”. In the final accusation, the remnants of the anti-zionist campaign can be seen; Polish recognition of anti-semitism can be hard to come by, and nearly as great a crime as the purges under Communist rule was the utter lack of apology, the wretched fear and hatred instilled in the population, which was left exposed for the west, still smouldering from decades past.
Unlike many revolutionary or economic constructions and movements in the United States, the fall of Communism was not one of young people throwing off the yoke of the archaic, reactionary system. Instead it was tired old people, ones who had fought and killed for a way of life that stubbornly refused to materialize, desperate for a new solution. The protagonist's grandpa has a mild, teasing disdain for “anyone he associated with what he thought of as the structure of Socialism”. Meanwhile those who make sure the village is warm and survives from year to year must attend frequent Party meetings to turn the sickening wheels of corruption.
Still, for these young capitalists to lament the totalitarianism seems to be a loss of place in a certain way. Just as in America, the USSR was seen with an uneasy distrust, along with some useful programs that took a long time to take hold here, people behind the Iron Curtain must have also had such misgivings and suspicion of the brave new world offered. Equally important to the protagonist as he snoops around this small village, is the Jewish history, or lack thereof.
“There was no history here, no archive, no memorial”. As useless as an empty American prairie to digest the atrocities that occurred, land once resplendent with clues, from graves to lifestyles of European Jewry, the small Polish town and its inhabitants still wallow in ignorance of the acts committed by local and occupying authorities. Some of the apathy and ignorance of the village is explained by the pathetic “cultural center” which contains a handful of books and a desk. Some, like a travel agent “proud of his crisp uniform” believe in the system. With an arrogant uselessness, the agent’s eyes barely waver from the screen and the protagonist is disgusted.
This is not all of the Polish national character that is contained in this book. Like Poland, the young men are brave. Old men look for the characteristics of their leaders in the eyes of their young. There is a romance, which is flawed by its innocence, and the omniscient recognition that to change this will create folly many times that of any flaw apparent in this relationship. With the tunnel-vision of young love, the social stratification and troubles of the village still must come first. That could be a sole logical fallacy, but as in life, white lies are necessary in literature to facilitate the delivery of important messages and for the enjoyment of the reader. For an American, the disparate love and hatred between child and adult, the ignominious recognition of a failing system is apparent. This strange distance is also quite alien; this brings one closer to the judgemental decisions which are begged and are continually recurring. It is fitting that in conclusion, Leszek confesses for his father. Some would argue as well, that it is fitting that he does not pay for these crimes. Polish families continue to live in the former homes of their Jewish neighbours exiled or killed through the brutal methodology of fear intimidation and exclusion (not to juxtapose the acronym when it is not necessitated).
A final note of how these officiously useless figures and apathetic, ignorant people came to lose faith in a political system convoluted by decades of isolation is needed. “Do I hear my charges now or at the trial?” a chairman of a farmer’s co-op laughingly asks, referring to his potential accusers as young crusaders. The concept of being charged was laughable, the ideation of criminality had lost its grip through repressive measures and negative execution of judiciary demands.
While the book is a memory, and little more, it is also a historical artifact. Interestingly, more striking than the outlandish tales of foreign peoples that characterized early travellers’ accounts such as Marco Polo or Cortes in the renaissance or age of absolutism, this story will touch an American reader with similarities. The small town, rife with mystery and intrigue. A long forgotten but intrinsically detailed past involving every family rushes to meet the villagers in the light of the present day. Morally and ethically, the reader must contemplate reality and juxtapose a unique system of judgement in evaluating these people; so much of what is experienced strikes home, even for one not natural to the Polish character.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

An open letter to the makers of The Other Side Of Cannabis: Negative Effects of Marijuana on Our Youth a Documentary

Foreward note: One thing I did not include in this letter, that will be included in later research, is the impact of marijuana on the dentae gyrus. This is the part of the brain responsible for memory. I did not realize that research had been done on this before, and the doctor from Paris provided excellent evidence. While he was attempting to show that heavy marijuana use decreases brain cell production in this area by 25%, he was not taking into consideration earlier research also done in Paris which shows more than 10-15 mg of nicotine daily reduces brain cell genesis in this part of the brain by 50%; under 5 mg of nicotine will produce no significant change and may be beneficial though with the exception of pipe tobacco smokers, this level of nicotine intake is virtually unheard of. French marijuana users almost exclusively use a mixture of 80% tobacco and 20% marijuana, making them this sort of heavy smokers (a mainstream American cigarette will give as much as 2.6 mg of nicotine, while the lowest nicotine cigarettes give .2-.4 mg, some nations such as Germany limit nicotine to .8 mg per cigarette).

     I highly suspect we are on different sides of the debate on marijuana legalization. However, there are certain things which cannot be ignored as potential external costs of this industry. I have watched your film carefully and taken notes. My opinion is that you are discouraging people who are better off using marijuana from using it, and encouraging those who are at a vulnerable point in their life (usually childhood) to try it. I will support this in detail.
     Firstly some background. Marijuana is good for the brain and body when used in a responsible manner (5-10 grams per week). It increases functional connectivity as well as IQ, as proven in cohort studies as well as fMRI and SPECT scan imaging. It also helps bone health (which is connected to hair health and spine health) in adults. Psychosis is caused by child abuse and this has been proven conclusively.
     However, when consumed by children, especially in larger amounts, THC reduces bone density in a similar fashion to alcohol, and may negatively impact cognition, though research to my knowledge is not conclusive in this manner. Therefore, setting the use age at the same level as alcohol and enforcing it in this matter is of paramount importance.
     So how does an anti-marijuana film make kids like my little brother, sister or others use the drug? Well the research is badly done. The first doctor cited in this film, Dr. Eden Evins was recently cited in an expose by Vice in which she was shown to work for pharmaceutical companies that opposed marijuana, including projects with competing products in a major breach of scientific ethics. Her evidence in the documentary is unsubstantiated by causal data or evidence: in fact the euphoric dopamine releases of marijuana (THC) have been proven to be less than that of a good run or a good meal. There are no proven known withdrawal symptoms other than afterglow.
     The first testimony from a parent relies on accusations that marijuana is bad for mental health. This was true in a correlative manner decades ago, when homosexuality was part of the counterculture like marijuana and a diagnosable disease. Now, we have brain scans and hormonal proof which shows that the mental disorders ascribed to marijuana actually had their origins in other toxins or abusive relationships as children or adults. Social engineering will not fly with children.
     The argument that is proposed by a student after this is among the strongest reasons to use marijuana as an adult: smoking tobacco or drinking alcohol will kill you before the average life expectancy of 78 years, and the most aggressive anti-tobacco movement will claim as much as 10 years are lost due to smoking and lung cancer (though controlling for exercise drops this to two years). Users of marijuana enjoy a protective effect against alcohol induced brain damage and tobacco's damage to the lungs. For a kid to see and hear any of these arguments is unacceptable.
     If proven, highlighting the potential damage of marijuana to the brain in children which does not occur in adults, is important. I applaud this particular section of the film, though I believe the biggest change in high school or younger users is in cognitive function. Again, psychosis is caused by child abuse.
     Marijuana does make a user calmer, and this is reproducible evidence. Abused children suffer a permanent increase in cortisol release, a stress hormone. While a small increase is incurred by smoking marijuana in the short term (it is less than a beer, so if the victim can drink a beer without a panic attack, it is clear they faking if the claim this reaction from marijuana), long term use lowers baseline cortisol release levels, it is the only substance on earth which gives these abused children the chance to feel normal eventually as adults.
     Returning to addiction, which the dopamine release studies should cover fully, daily vs. weekly is a weak way of evaluating marijuana use. This should be done in amounts (in grams and %THC, as the IQ cohort studies from Canada which showed a causal increase in IQ from marijuana use did) and length of time used. Saying that marijuana is as dangerous as other drugs is an international crime.  Distribution of chemical weapons is illegal, and the makers of this film can be prosecuted for this, as hard drugs by definition qualify as chemical weapons (drug laws actually protect users and distributers of these substances in the USA, unfortunately, offering jail time instead of the death penalty or life sentences international law dictates). Remember that Goebbels would have swung at the Nuremberg trials, not to make light of a serious situation, but with 250,000 mortalities annually from hard or prescription drug overdose in the USA alone, this is quite serious.
     Furthermore, the gateway theory does not have any legitimate application. Such behaviour can be proven with any boycott or banned activity or good, in quite similar ratios. This is reproducible: the damage done when society not only ensures unsafe materials are not available but also makes safe substances available. For people who have medical necessity, this can be devastating.
      Unqualified claims that marijuana operates as an incremental repeating damage speaks in the face of known science and chemistry. Even with 10X moderate use levels, there have not been negative effects associated with THC one month after the last use, as shown by research conducted at Harvard University. The Federal Government released a report which shows that marijuana users have the same accident rate as sober individuals, twenty six times less than drinkers. Misinformation, especially in such a blatant manner and on such large subjects so well publicized will have a negative effect on the ability of this film to achieve any ethical or real success.
      The price of marijuana is too high. It should be the same price as tobacco, it is a plant, and less addictive with less external costs. Yet this industry is currently paying the external costs of abusive parents and bully school-mates, and paying it in jail time. It is now time to clear the air. Is it really true that non-marijuana users use more medication than marijuana users, or is this another claim which might drive young children (I assume this is the audience for this film) to use when they find out this is false? Perhaps the argument would be better phrased that marijuana users avoid medications, at least this would be true, if not honest (not to add fodder to this fire). The majority of Americans have used some sort of mood altering medication regularly, from alcohol (yes it was once considered only legal for medical purposes too) to more severe substances.
      The emergency room argument is among the best reasons for people propagating marijuana use as well. When people are in the hospital for other drugs or alcohol, it is a heart attack, it is an OD, it is a homicide case (half of handgun deaths are alcohol related, almost 40% involve hard drugs). Marijuana users who end up in the hospital are seeking to work through endemic problems in their childhood or life.
      Laced marijuana is poisoning, and this falls under federal poisoning acts. While marijuana is measured in a similar fashion to bad parking, requiring a single clean drug test and fine under the Controlled Substances' Act diversion program, poisoning marijuana behaviour is analogous to taking a baseball bat to someone's car parked in the wrong spot. It is improper procedure to even call the police in such a situation, and may be prosecuted for solicitation of a police officer (though the chances are about as unlikely as ending up in the federal diversion program).
      Brain scans on marijuana have a murky past, but the evidence is clear and compelling now. Marijuana users enjoy a causal increase in functional connectivity while suffering no significant changes to other parts of the brain. There were doctors and organizations fingered who accepted money from competing interests in a breach of scientific ethics, a slippery slope, as mentioned before. Their results were not reproducible (this also holds with much psychosis or schizophrenic research). Retrospective research has made the reality perfectly clear, and has been completed at 6 major universities, as well as by numerous individuals as the cost of brain scans has decreased significantly.
Furthermore, neurogenesis has been shown to increase in marijuana users, as well as blunted damage to the dentae gyrus, responsible for memories, suffered from nicotine intake (in European studies on the subject, where 80% or more tobacco is used in conjunction with marijuana cigarettes). Nicotine in low amounts may have a positive effect on the brain, but over 10 or 15 mg per day can decrease new brain cell birth by around 50%.
     While SPECT scan imaging has been rejected by the DEA due to inconsistencies in diagnostic procedure, along with breaches in multiple levels of scientific ethics (involuntary administration of radiation for example, the doctors who argue these patients are mentally unable to make decisions are also subjecting them to this procedure), it holds enormous promise. The image of a marijuana smoker's brain provided is neither the effect of long term heavy marijuana use nor even a social drinker, but most likely a moderate to heavy drinker in the early stages or a light to moderate drinker later in life. It may be accurate to those who consume marijuana as children, but this should be emphasized, especially as the topic of the film is the youth!
      While the information on anandamide is interesting and new, it is not conclusive. The stress hormone cortisol is the standard for measuring stress, and this is higher in people before they smoke marijuana than after long term use. This seems to contradict the hypothesis posed about anandamide, though it is important to remember that chemically very small changes in a molecule can yield very big changes in behaviour inside the body. Most people do not have or need to have the research on hand to disprove this nonsense, but luckily I have seen evidence to the effect that the dopamine release from eating a good meal is about 10% greater than that from a good marijuana high. Sexual activities are about double, though I would leave this out of a documentary aimed at children. Unfortunately America does not have the resources to allow adequate sexual activity, exercise and gourmet food as humans have had access to for millennia. We do have the resources to use marijuana and practice monogamy (currently the law) with occasional gourmet meals. This is reproducible research and publicly available making this section an instance of either a very serious breach in scientific ethics or very surprising ignorance on the behalf of a trained professional.
      Suicide rates are down in Colorado. It would be best to limit personal stories to stereotypes or claims which can be backed by science. That being said, there is a big difference between the breach in ethics (which may not even be intentional) and the intentionalism of many trained professionals who have clearly not thoroughly researched the topic at hand sufficiently to make these statements. Advertisement of a program which does not wish it can be dangerous, and the use of the twelve-step program, which specifically addresses this topic could create difficulty and hardship for those who are trying to recover by the book, in the way originally conceived (although at the time this seems to have indicated a substitution procedure with LSD, coffee, tobacco, adultery, which is advocated as an adequate punishment for relapse, or marijuana, at least according to biographies of the founder, Bill). This sort of solicitation can also break anonymity or lead to conversations which break anonymity for early or long-time users in recovery.
      Finally, CBD is interesting, but this research must be done thoroughly. Currently, it has been used on national television to encourage the administration of marijuana to children. This is unacceptable, THC at the least will induce damage to a child's bone structure, and it is possible that CBD may do the same, though admittedly there is not adequate research in this field.