Not ready to jump on this bandwagon

Wait for it … wait … wait for the other shoe to drop, because inevitably it will.

The headlines and Internet chatter all scream for the legalization and increased use of marijuana, and I sit here waiting for the other shoe to drop. Sure it relieves some physical discomforts, but … no one knows the long term effect because the primary usage for decades has been illegal and few would admit using marijuana, not even when answering questions for medical research.

The lag between usage and detrimental side effects happens, as they did about 20 years ago when Risperadol came on the market providing amazing results. It became the medical relief of choice with no known side effects (except the exorbitant cost) found in the pre-market launch. That premise changed as the use spread across the country over the years. It still works well … with some qualifications.

Anyone over 40 or 50 years of age has seen the great paradigm shift in the consumption of cigarettes.

Prior to the beginning of the 1900s, no one considered cigarettes liable for anything more than a “smoker’s cough.” Throughout World War II, soldiers’ rations typically included a pack of cigarettes. For decades bright, colorful ads promised so much for smokers: sophistication, a good time, medical approval and a way to calm one’s nerves.

Those same companies have greatly modified their sales pitch through the years.

So while the advocates and nay-sayers squabble about the benefits and detriments of marijuana, I wait. I look. I listen. I watch with skepticism as yet another wave of enthusiasm flows across the nation. This time the enthusiasts seek to change the laws to allow legalizing marijuana. “It is safer than tobacco cigarettes,” they claim. It eases the side effects of chemotherapy. It purportedly has great medicinal uses, but the studies have previously been limited because the laws prohibited its use even medicinally.

OK. I get it. So some folks find benefits from using marijuana. In the 1800s many found benefits for cocaine. A brief search of the Internet yields ads from that time which purported the great advantages of using cocaine cough drops. Coca Cola’s original formula included cocaine. It changed that more than a century ago.

In the decades before the Surgeon General declared cigarettes detrimental to one’s health, national magazines carried attractive ads proclaiming the benefits of cigarettes. Before the decades of research on the effects of tobacco, smiling actors with cigarettes in their mouths assured readers that their cigarette came with no unpleasant after-taste and a carton of them made a great gift. Even that benevolent old soul, Santa Claus, smoked them – if you believed the drawing of him with a cigarette. According to repeated national surveys reported in these ads, more doctors smoked Brand X than any other. Probably so. My earliest memories of medical visits to a local country doctor carry the smell of cigarettes and rubbing alcohol.

Evidently some doctors advised their patients to not smoke. At least one company took that advice to not smoke and assured the smokers, “Tests showed 3 out of every 4 cases of smoker’s cough cleared on changing to (our brand).”

Ads claimed tobacco had a soothing factor according, it could ‘literally relieve fatigue and irritability.” (I think some use that same claim for marijuana. Personally I wonder how much the relief has to do with taking deep cleansing breaths and letting the air out slowly.)

One of the oldest ads seen online states, “For your health: ‘Asthma Cigarettes’ for the temporary relief of paroxysms of asthma … hay fever, foul breath, all diseases of the throat, head colds, bronchial irritations. Not recommended for children under 6.” But hey if you are seven go right ahead and light up to cure that cold.

Another from the 1940s purported a cigarette smoking-man declares, “As your dentist I would recommend …..”

Today there are laws against even smoking around children in public areas; laws written to reduce the effects of second hand smoke. Back then even chubby cheeked babies cautioned, “Before you scold me Mom, maybe you’d better light up a … (cigarette).

Try blowing smoke in another person’s face today and you will, at the least, get the cold shoulder. Not so in a mid-1900’s ad depicting a sexy couple with the man gently exhaling his smoke into her face, “Blow in her face and she’ll follow you anywhere.” Today she will reject you and complain about the lingering smell of cigarettes in her clothes and hair.

Yep, things have changed mightily since the good old days of cigarette machines found on every corner, and trays of the white cylinders offered at parties and in restaurants.

One brand said that a medical specialist made regular monthly exams of folks who smoked. After 10 months he reported no adverse affects on the nose, throat and sinuses from the group smoking his company’s brand.

Today the first thing a responsible expectant mother does is stop smoking. But a 1940’s book of advice to the pregnant included the following: “While most obstetrical authorities disapprove of excessive smoking in pregnancy (twenty-five or more cigarettes daily), there is no reason for believing that a woman who smokes moderately, let us say ten cigarettes or less a day, need change her custom at this time. If you have been used to smoking considerably more than this for several years, by no means try to give them up in pregnancy. There is no surer way of upsetting the nerves at a period when you should be calm and happy, or of converting a placid, sweet-tempered girl into an intolerable shrew. With negligible effort, even the most inveterate smoker can usually be content with a package a day or somewhat less, and if you arrange this there is no great cause for concern.” (

How the times have changed! It just took a few hundred years and decades of discussion before it happened.

So excuse me if I don’t jump on the marijuana health benefits bandwagon – at least not just yet.

(Joan Hershberger is a staff writer for the News-Times. Email her at