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February 2, 2012

Should drug warriors retreat on pot prohibition to deploy needed forces to a new "war on sugar" front?

The question in the title of this post is meant to be an only slightly tounge-in-cheek response to the media stories emerging after a new study documents how toxic and addicting sugar can be.  This Time article about the study is  headlined "Should Sugar Be Regulated Like Alcohol and Tobacco?: Scientists at the University of California, San Francisco argue that sugar is toxic and needs to be taxed and controlled. Why it's so hard to break our addiction." Here are excerpts:

Sugar poses enough health risks that it should be considered a controlled substance just like alcohol and tobacco, contend a team of researchers from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF).

In an opinion piece called “The Toxic Truth About Sugar” that was published Wednesday in the journal Nature, Robert Lustig, Laura Schmidt and Claire Brindis argue that it’s a misnomer to consider sugar just “empty calories.” They write: “…There is nothing empty about these calories. A growing body of scientific evidence is showing that fructose can trigger processes that lead to liver toxicity and a host of other chronic diseases. A little is not a problem, but a lot kills – slowly.”

Almost everyone’s heard of — or personally experienced — the proverbial “sugar high” so perhaps the comparison between sugar and alcohol or tobacco shouldn’t come as a surprise. But it’s doubtful that Americans will look favorably upon regulating their favorite vice. We’re a nation that’s sweet on sugar: the average U.S. adult downs 22 teaspoons of sugar a day, according to the American Heart Association, and surveys have found that teens swallow 34 teaspoons.

To counter our consumption, the authors advocate taxing sugary foods and controlling sales to kids under 17. Already 17% of U.S. children and teens are obese, perhaps due to the tripling of sugar intake across the world in the past 50 years. The increase has helped create a global obesity pandemic that contributes to 35 million annual deaths worldwide from non-infectious diseases including diabetes, heart disease and cancer....

The UCSF report emphasizes the metabolic effects of sugar. Excess sugar can alter metabolism, raise blood pressure, skew the signaling of hormones and damage the liver — outcomes that sound suspiciously similar to what can happen after drinking too much alcohol. Laura Schmidt, co-chair of UCSF’s Community Engagement and Health Policy Program, noted on CNN: “When you think about it, this actually makes a lot of sense. Alcohol, after all, is simply the distillation of sugar. Where does vodka come from? Sugar.”

But there are also other areas of impact that researchers have investigated: the effect of sugar on the brain and how liquid calories are interpreted differently by the body than solids. Research has suggested that sugar activates the same reward pathways in the brain as traditional drugs of abuse like morphine or heroin. No one is claiming the effect of sugar is quite that potent, but, says Brownell, “it helps confirm what people tell you anecdotally, that they crave sugar and have withdrawal symptoms when they stop eating it.”

There’s also something particularly insidious about sugary beverages. “When calories come in liquids, the body doesn’t feel as full,” says Brownell. “People are getting more of their calories than ever before from sugared beverages.”

Unless and until marijuana starts getting sold in every vending machine and starts appearing in every kid's lunch-box, this new report confirms my instinct that there are very good reason to worry much more about the health consequences of excess sugar than some pot.  And yet the US government still spends a great amount of tax-payer resources trying to keep adults from getting access to even a little pot, while the free market spends even more seeking to deal excess sugars to our kids every day.  Just another sign, in my view, that our national laws and perspectives on substance abuse need lots and lots of reform if we are truly committed to "protecting" our kids and our nation's long-term health and wealth.

February 2, 2012 at 10:43 AM | Permalink


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To Bill Otis:

Should we put people in cages for ingesting sugar, too? Should their cages be bigger or smaller than the cages you put people in for ingesting marijuana?

Posted by: Calif. Capital Defense Counsel | Feb 2, 2012 11:11:38 AM

Maybe the feds will slap a prohibition type ban on sugar....We could play history all over again....Except that 10-20 yr olds would be the villans...

To answer your question, (even though its not addressed to me) we need to put them in a bigger cage, as they will be overweight and will need the extra room to roam around.

Don't ya just love it..

Posted by: Midwest Guy | Feb 2, 2012 11:49:13 AM

They will have to pry the fudge from my cold dead hand.

Posted by: John Neff | Feb 2, 2012 1:49:11 PM

John Neff --

I'll be the one prying it. Fudge is good for you -- my fitness trainer to the contrary notwithstanding.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Feb 2, 2012 1:56:25 PM

"Marijuana Linked with Earlier Onset of Schizophrenia in ...Many studies have linked marijuana use with early onset of psychosis."
:::::::::::::::::::Are the violent crimes, mental illness, and medical damage due to illegality?

How about this:
According to a DOJ study,
4%... of youth ages 12-17 who did not use marijuana sold drugs,whereas
45%.. of youth ages 12-17 who did use marijuana sold drugs.

Marijuana use was a better predictor than alcohol use of *every single delinquency studied*, i.e.:
1> school suspension,..2> vandalising property, 3> major theft,
4> attack / assault,.... 5> gang affiliation,
6> carrying handgun,.. 7> being arrested. ----------http://www.uscourts.gov/fedprob/June_2009/index.html].

1/12/12: "U.S. prosecutors in Colorado started a crackdown against nearly two dozen medical marijuana dispensaries located within 1,000 feet of schools." Why would they be so coincidentally close to schools?

Posted by: Adamakis | Feb 2, 2012 2:37:48 PM

So, in terms of whether human beings should be put in cages for voluntarily ingesting certain substances, is the standard whether Bill Otis and other drugs warriors think it's good for you?

Never mind that thousands of doctors and scientists have attested to the fact that marijuana has valid medicinal applications. Bill and his fellow drug warriors think it is icky, and that human beings need to be caged for years, and sometimes decades, for voluntarily ingesting marijuana.

Thoroughly disgusting and authoritarian.

Posted by: Calif. Capital Defense Counsel | Feb 2, 2012 3:15:26 PM


Our Justice System (if you can call it that) is one based on Processes, not Principles.

It there any wonder why our lawyers (and laws - which is intentional) are so disenfranchised from reality. Why we can repeal the laws of thermodynamics by an Act of Congress.

More icky sugar please!

Posted by: albeed | Feb 2, 2012 3:42:28 PM

Everyone should have a legal maximum weight. Anyone that exceeds their maximum should be held in jail on a diet concocted by a court-appointed dietician until their weight falls below their legal maximum. For a second offense they should be held until their weight is five pounds lower than their maximum.

From looking at photographs it appears to me that most members of the Supremes will have to serve some jail time in the unlikely event that there will be such a law. I think a cookie tax has a better chance.

Posted by: John Neff | Feb 2, 2012 7:25:58 PM

Excellent satirical point Mr. Neff. Let's hope the drug warriors understand that the satire is directed at their drug war.

Posted by: Calif. Capital Defense Counsel | Feb 2, 2012 8:18:18 PM

The war on drugs was never about public safety or public health. That's why hundreds of thousands of people die every year in America from tobacco-related diseases, while marijuana, which has never killed anyone, is a feared and reviled drug to the point that we tolerate a virtual civil war in Mexico because of its prohibition. So the Government will never make any serious effort to control people's sugar intake, nor should it.

Fortunately, while prohibition is an abject failure, education and publicizing real dangers works wonders. According to the American Lung Association, smoking has decreased some 50% since the 1960's, when education campaigns started in earnest. We can probably do the same with respect to sugar.

Meanwhile, hand me that maple syrup for my vanilla ice cream.

Posted by: C.E. | Feb 2, 2012 10:45:05 PM

Considering the amount of money that the refined sugar and processed foods lobby can bring, it is more likely that Congress will pass a law declaring that refined sugar is good for you than to ban it.

and albeed, the attempt to repeal the laws of thermodynamics is called "Supply Side Economics" - under President Reagan, the newly created United States Department of Free Lunches decided that the proper way to increase revenue and help the poor and create jobs was to cut taxes for the rich and deregulate everything. Naturally now that that policy has failed misarably, their solution is more tax cuts for the rich, tax increases for the poor, and more deregulation. Of course, being the chickenhearted lightweight Republican in Disguise (or RID if you prefer) that he is, President Obama refuses to abolish the United States Department of Free Lunches despite its 30 year history of failure and in fact has signed on to its basic premises :)

erika :)

Posted by: virginia | Feb 3, 2012 9:02:15 AM

incidentially, natural sugar is so much better tasting and not nearly as bad for you as the heavily processed stuff generally called sugar and the foods they are in.

erika :)

Posted by: virginia | Feb 3, 2012 9:06:24 AM

"People who drive after using marijuana are nearly twice as likely to be involved
in a FATAL car crash. ...In the study, published in the medical journal BMJ, researchers reviewed information on 10748 ..."

"[A] recent large, well-conducted study of fatally injured drivers by Drummer et al. suggested that those who tested positive for marijuana were almost three times more likely to be culpable for the crash."

"Court upholds conviction in wrong-way Route 202 fatalities"
Published: Thursday, January 19, 2012 By Michael P. Rellahan: "A state appeals court has upheld the conviction and sentence of a former Immaculata student who struck and killed a Norristown couple while driving the wrong way on Route 202 after a day of marijuana smoking".

"Driver charged in killed groom crash"
Published: Thursday, 26 Jan 2012 : "Jeffrey Hinds faces 6 felony counts in fatal crash...
two counts of operating under the influence of a controlled substance or marijuana/THC causing death." http://www.woodtv.com/dpp/news/local/allegan_county/Driver-charged-in-killed-groom-crash

"Stoner gets 10 years in fatal crash"
Created: Tuesday, January 24, 2012 By Mike Mendenhall NDN Staff Writer: "a mandatory urinalysis preformed by Stoner’s probation officer showed marijuana in the 19-year-old’s system"

Stoner: Isn't that satirical, Calif. Capital Defense Counsel?

Posted by: Adamakis | Feb 3, 2012 10:16:30 AM

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