Andrew Cuomo's Synthetic Pot Ban Is Kind of Bullshit

At long last, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has rescued the Empire State from the evil clutches of synthetic marijuana which was a dire scourge upon society was only a problem for New Yorkers who voluntarily purchased it. (And how much of a problem is still kinda iffy.)

Cuomo just ordered the N.Y. State Department of Health to bar the sale of chemical cannibis, a move which stems from sensational fear-mongering and misguided drug policy.

Yeah, it's true that synthetic cannabinoids have been linked to a host of health problems "including death and acute renal failure, and commonly cause: tachycardia (increased heart rate); paranoid behavior, agitation and irritability; nausea and vomiting; confusion; drowsiness; headache; hypertension; electrolyte abnormalities; seizures; and syncope (loss of consciousness)" according to the Health Department.

And, we're not trying to make a "two wrongs make a right"-type argument -- because those are totally logically flawed -- but legal substances, be they over-the-counter or prescription, can have the exact same effects.

Exhibit A is our age-old friend, alcohol. Though a beer or a glass of wine probably won't prompt you to run naked through the streets or go on a pyromaniac crime spree, it can still be dangerous.

From the Centers for Disease Control:

"There are approximately 79,000 deaths attributable to excessive alcohol use each year in the United States. This makes excessive alcohol use the 3rd leading lifestyle-related cause of death for the nation. Additionally, excessive alcohol use is responsible for 2.3 million years of potential life lost (YPLL) annually, or an average of about 30 years of potential life lost for each death. In the single year 2005, there were more than 1.6 million hospitalizations and more than 4 million emergency room visits for alcohol-related conditions."

Oh, but that's big-picture stuff, you might say. Well, the short-term risks ain't that pretty, either. Check it out:

"--Unintentional injuries, including traffic injuries, falls, drownings, burns, and unintentional firearm injuries.

--Violence, including intimate partner violence and child maltreatment. About 35% of victims report that offenders are under the influence of alcohol. Alcohol use is also associated with 2 out of 3 incidents of intimate partner violence. Studies have also shown that alcohol is a leading factor in child maltreatment and neglect cases, and is the most frequent substance abused among these parents.

--Risky sexual behaviors, including unprotected sex, sex with multiple partners, and increased risk of sexual assault. These behaviors can result in unintended pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases.

--Miscarriage and stillbirth among pregnant women, and a combination of physical and mental birth defects among children that last throughout life.

--Alcohol poisoning, a medical emergency that results from high blood alcohol levels that suppress the central nervous system and can cause loss of consciousness, low blood pressure and body temperature, coma, respiratory depression, or death."

And then there's this sad-making stat: alcohol-related traffic accidents are the main killer of teens in the U.S.

Not to downplay unfortunate incidents which have resulted from synthetic pot -- shit sounds like bat country, quite frankly -- but it has only been tied to a handful of deaths nationwide compared to booze, which has killed many, many more.

The next example, of course, are perfectly legal prescription drugs. Opioid painkillers and benzos aren't the only problematic pills on the market -- psych meds typically don't get you high, but can cause potentially fatal health problems.

Rather than ban substances like fake pot and salvia, pols should better spend their time looking at what causes demand for said substances. People want to smoke real pot, and if they can't because it's illegal or because they get drug tested for work, they will find a way to achieve a similar -- and potentially more dangerous -- high. Until meaningful drug reform conversation takes place on the state and national levels, the prohibition on pot will simply incentivize the distribution of substitutes.

Follow Victoria Bekiempis @vicbekiempis.

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