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Opinion
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Guest Column
Let’s control the right substances | Column
The real problem drug is not marijuana, but alcohol.
Some conservative politicians in Tallahassee would have you think that marijuana, not alcohol, is the real problem drug that needs even more regulation.
Some conservative politicians in Tallahassee would have you think that marijuana, not alcohol, is the real problem drug that needs even more regulation. [ SUSAN MONTOYA BRYAN ]
Published Apr. 2
Updated Apr. 2

On Feb. 17, an apparently drunk driver crashed into Deputy Michael Magli as he was deploying tire-deflating sticks to stop the driver. He was the first deputy to die in the line of duty in the 109-year history of the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office.

A different driver, driving over 100 mph, entered Interstate 275 the wrong way in Tampa. He apparently had been drinking at a bar and beer bottles were found in his hotel room. Tampa Police Officer Jesse Madsen deliberately swerved his car in the path of the driver, killing both instantly. He courageously laid down his own life to save others.

The common thread in both tragedies is that the drivers were apparently drunk. The Tampa Bay Times too often has to inform us of accidents and fatalities caused by drunk drivers. Numerous incidents of mean drunks killing or beating up their wives and girlfriends can be found in the pages of newspapers all across the country and the world. It is not a problem unique to America.

Murad Antia is a finance instructor in the Muma College of Business at USF
Murad Antia is a finance instructor in the Muma College of Business at USF [ USF ]

But rest easy, fellow Floridians. Our conservative politicians in Tallahassee are taking care of the problem. They have introduced a bill -- HB 1455 -- which would limit the active ingredient in marijuana, THC, to 10 percent for smokable marijuana and 60% for concentrates. A reminder that a majority of Floridians are not asking for these limitations.

The sponsor of the bill said that the best available research -- probably the movie Reefer Madness -- showed the proposed “potency limits” were best for pain. When pressed for scientific evidence he responded that it is not a medical decision, it is a policy decision. He does like to contradict himself.

Many states are legalizing recreational use of cannabis. Many are decriminalizing the use of psilocybin, also known as magic mushrooms, because scientific studies are showing that they can alleviate PTSD, depression and, addictive tendencies, and cure migraine and cluster headaches. But our elected ostriches in Tallahassee -- with their heads in the sand -- are turning a blind eye to alcohol abuse.

We do not read about stoners driving their cars at more than 100 mph killing police officers or civilians. Yes, some of them might drive when high, which is no different than what drunk drivers do. It’s just that the latter is far more prevalent. Imbibing cannabis might make you a bit paranoid when high but not violent. We don’t read about stoners killing or abusing their kids or spouses. They just fall asleep.

So, in the spirit — hey, pun intended — of your legislative intentions, imagine a bill that would limit the amount of alcohol in a bottle of beer, wine, whiskey or any other alcoholic beverage to 1 percent. If it is so incumbent upon you to save our lives, where is such a bill? By your logic, shouldn’t it be drafted and passed immediately?

Many use medical marijuana to treat pain, insomnia and anxiety. Some would like to micro-dose or full-dose psilocybin to determine if it reduces the incidences of migraine headaches among other maladies. Living with chronic migraine or cluster headaches can be a hellish existence as many will attest. There are effective drugs that will treat migraines once they start, but if you take them too frequently, they can stop working. The body builds up a tolerance. Plus, they can have side effects. Preventive injections have a low efficacy rate with a fair amount of side effects. Not to mention their prohibitive costs.

There is an abundance of research being conducted on psilocybin that has found it to be effective for treating alcohol and nicotine addictions, depression and PTSD. A 2013 study performed at USF’s Morsani College of Medicine suggested that psilocybin stimulates the growth and repair of brain cells in the hippocampus, which is the brain’s center for emotion and memory. In the study, mice that were given psilocybin overcame fear-conditioning far better than mice that were given a placebo. The study supported the hypothesis that psilocybin can help break the traumatic cycle that occurs in patients with PTSD by repairing the brain. An article on the benefits of hallucinogenic drugs will come soon.

Florida will be way ahead of the curve if it gave grants to state medical colleges to study the therapeutic effects of hallucinatory substances. Instead, they are looking for a bogus solution to a problem that hardly exists. If there is a problem, it is with alcohol. Politicians should get their heads out of the sand and move forward, not backward.

Murad Antia teaches finance at the Muma College of Business, University of South Florida in Tampa.