Warnings don’t go far enough

According to a recent Associated Press report, medical authorities in Great Britain are concerned that consumers of the popular reality enhancer marijuana may not realize just how dangerous it can be.

Since marijuana regulations in England have loosened significantly in recent years, health workers there are worried that people don’t realize that burning marijuana and its byproducts may contain as many or more carcinogenic agents than cigarettes or cigars.

They’re reportedly investigating a process whereby marijuana, like commercially available tobacco products, will be labeled with a brief warning about potential cancer risks.

Although I’m not exactly sure how well this is going to fly with the world’s responsible but notoriously disorganized marijuana distributors, I have to argue that a simple printed carcinogen warning label probably doesn’t go quite far enough in adequately protecting smokers of the much-maligned weed.

After all, most sapient human beings realize there’s always a calculated risk whenever you enthusiastically suck the gaseous byproducts of burning vegetable matter into your lungs.

(You think tobacco’s bad? Try poison oak…)

There are, however, other quite unique hazards associated with the smoking of marijuana, and they have little or nothing to do with cancer.

If the Brits are really going to do this right, they’re going to have to print up a variety of warnings and print them frequently, since the average marijuana smoker has the attention span of a grinning sand flea during a tsunami.

For example:

* CAUTION! It has been determined that marijuana smoking can result in a sudden and quite uncontrollable craving for pizza, doughnuts, refried beans and banana milkshakes which can result in elevated levels of cholesterol, body fat and flatulence, all of which can increase your risk for heart disease, stroke and possible ejection from your car pool vehicle.

Or:

* CAUTION! The Royal College of Physicians has determined that marijuana smoking can result in periodic and possibly permanent damage to short-term memory, long-term memory and one’s ability to initiate and complete tasks. Do not attempt to set up an IRA, purchase international commodities, take a college entrance exam or remember your anniversary during or immediately after the inhalation of marijuana fumes. (NOTE; College entrance exam restriction not valid in Chico or Berkeley).

And perhaps:

* CAUTION! Medical research has shown that prolonged exposure to marijuana smoke can significantly alter one’s perception of gravity and what is commonly thought of as the space-time continuum. Do not attempt to operate a motor vehicle, gyrocopter, guanaco or wristwatch during or immediately after the inhalation of marijuana. And yes, the nice policeman is talking to you. Pull the guanaco to the curb and climb off now…

Originally published December 22, 2002