If you smoke pot, you could die.
That's the message Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) had for a Kentucky resident who wrote to him about the legalization of marijuana.
An online forum contributor with the username Ghetty.Green, who posted the correspondence at grasscity.com, had apparently written to the senator about the benefits of medicinal marijuana.
McConnell's response, which was dated Feb. 14 but not posted online until Tuesday, was polite but firm. I have serious concerns about proposals to legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes, it said.
A couple paragraphs later: The detrimental effects of drugs have been well-documented: short-term memory loss, loss of core motor functions, heightened risk of lung disease, and even death.
Once the letter was posted on grasscity.com, other members of the network responded with scorn. There has never been any death directly related to marijuana, wrote brt1994. Where did he come up with that? Another user suggested that Ghetty.Green send the senator a compendium called Granny Storm Crow's List, which consolidates hundreds of links citing the medical benefits of marijuana.
The letter--which was almost certainly not written by McConnell himself--is admittedly vague enough so that it may be referring to drugs in general, and not just marijuana, when it cites death as a possible side effect. That's the gist of a response from McConnell's spokesman Don Stewart, who told the Huffington Post that everyone from the Obama administration on down agrees that drug use has had serious consequences, including deaths. The letter makes that clear.
Interestingly, this development comes not long after another Republican leader, evangelical leader and former presidential candidate Pat Robertson, confirmed his support for the legalization of marijuana.
I really believe we should treat marijuana the way we treat beverage alcohol, he said to the New York Times on March 7. I've never used marijuana and I don't intend to, but it's just one of those things that I think: This war on drugs just hasn't succeeded.
That's a recent example, but Robertson is not alone. Many Republicans have said that marijuana should be legal, from the late William F. Buckley to the incendiary Glenn Beck. These conservatives argue that legalization makes sense fiscally; the government could regulate the industry, impose taxes, and avoid the high costs of persecution.
But apparently, McConnell doesn't agree.
He even criticizes new legislation introduced in May of 2011 (the letter says it was introduced in 21011) by Representative Barney Frank. That bill would extend protection for users of medical marijuana in states where it has been legalized, and it would hasten a governmental review that could downgrade the official risk status of cannabis.
Because of the harm that marijuana and other narcotics pose to our society, said McConnell's ghostwriter, I have concerns about this legislation.
Currently, 16 states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana and 14 states have decriminalized it. New bills pushing for softer cannabis laws are under consideration in several other states as well.