Legal Cannabis and Morality
#21
(09-17-2019, 01:22 PM)piscis Wrote:
(09-17-2019, 01:11 PM)Credidi Propter Wrote:
(09-17-2019, 12:14 PM)piscis Wrote: The magisterium and relevant congregations or bodies of bishops have in fact addressed marijuana and recreational drug use a number of times in the past few decades and, as far as I know, condemn it for recreational purposes. The general consensus seems to be that THC is different than alcohol insofar as the former creates a high, of various degrees, and this is always immoral since it directly goes against temperance, but also the other health issues make the consumption of THC dangerous to an extent that alcohol does not, such as developing psychosis or schizophrenia, which multiple studies have examined. From the paper above:


Quote:We have seen that marijuana use entails a high, which indicates some level of intoxication. Thus marijuana is contrasted with alcohol, which can be consumed moderately without the user becoming intoxicated [....]

I’m not sure why alcohol always gets a pass among Catholics, even though it can cause plenty of problems in the wrong hands too. I have friends who smoke marijuana all the time. I also have friends who are alcoholics. When my friends get high, they write stories, listen to music, and eat. When my friends get drunk, they cry, they yell, they disappear for hours and their loved ones can’t find them, and they pass out right before it’s time for them to go to work. They also tend to urinate where they shouldn’t.

I don't know, maybe because our Lord Himself (God) is fine with alcohol, and the Catholic West gave us wine and beer? Or are you talking about the abuse of alcohol, which the same Catholic West has always called a mortal sin because, well, the Bible also strongly suggests that? I don't think you were trying to argue, but your wording makes it seem that way.

I also said immediately after what you just quoted: "It is not a product that constitutes a moral act, but a human's free choice based on intelligent (or lack thereof) deliberation, which is always more or less culpable. It's sort of like asking which type of gun is more sinful than others. The gun isn't the issue. The issue is the intention of the user." Which is basically what you just said.

What you just quoted from me points to the medical literature, and I referenced it only to make the point that the physiological and psychological effects of alcohol vs. THC are different to an extent that it affects the morality of using either substance as argued by the Dominican theologian in the paper I linked to. Nowhere did I say or suggest the abuse of alcohol is acceptable.

I’m talking about the abuse of alcohol. It’s so easy to do, and so many in the Church don’t seem to care.

I have some friends who I cannot recommend they attend any church function, because the beer that flows EVERYWHERE in the Catholic social world would turn into a week-long drinking binge for them and it would bring a bunch of other problems associated with alcoholism too. When I was a young adult, I occasionally attended functions that the Catholic young adult group put on in my diocese. If I had attended them all, and if I had decided to drink whenever it was offered, I suspect I would have a problem now. Everything they did involved at least the opportunity to drink. Mass?  Sure...followed by drinks. Adoration?  Sure...followed by drinks. A presentation or discussion?  Nice, but let’s make sure it’s at a place that has a bar. Every single thing they did involved an opportunity to drink alcohol.  That way, those who struggled or were on their way towards an addiction were at least tempted among a group where they should have been safe.

Don’t get me wrong- I like a drink now and then. I’ve been known to enjoy a beer at a restaurant or a ball game once in awhile. I also had a bottle of champagne when President Trump was inaugurated (that stuff sure is expensive, but what a time to celebrate!). Also, there’s nothing like coming in out of the bitter cold during wintertime for a couple shots of fireball whiskey. I just think the Church has freely allowed a culture of alcohol to develop without adequately addressing the risks it poses.
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#22
One of my moral theology professors once went through a whole exposition on the topic.

His conclusion : Marijuana use is a grave sin, but might admit of certain circumstances in which it could be venially sinful.

Those conditions which might make its use a venial sin and not mortal would be things like very light use on a one-off occasion ("just a puff" not a joint).

Before anyone gets up in arms about this, this is exactly the same judgement that all moral theologians hold out concerning lies. A lie is a mortal sin, admitting of light matter, making it then only a venial sin.

But there are other grave sins which tie into marijuana use, particularly scandal.

For a Catholic to be at a place where marijuana is being used and not to leave or object suggests consent to it, and thus a scandal. To work to produce marijuana which is likely to be be used to obtain a high is a kind of scandal. To sell it when it is very likely to cause a high in the person buying is a scandal.

Then there are other things like sins against the Fifth Commandment from drugged driving. Add to this that rarely is marijuana use done without a gravely sinful context including the abuse of other things, often mixed company and sins against the 6th and 9th commandment, etc.

The drug culture itself is surrounded by more moral sins than just drug use.

The essential principle behind this is that one may not intentionally impair or lose his reason without a proportionally serious reason. So use of any psychoactive which does so will need to have said reason with it. Anesthetics for surgery, clearly a justified reason even though consciousness is lost. Morphine for severe pain, even though one's reason is often lost, justified.

Smoking marijuana because you want to relax and enjoy the high, not justified and a grave sin.

(09-17-2019, 01:52 AM)1Faith Wrote: 1. The Catechism of the Catholic Church claims that the use of drugs, except for therapeutic uses, is gravely sinful. Fair enough. But what constitutes a drug isn't really clearly spelled out. Is caffeine a drug? I'd say probably a majority of us use that on a daily basis and it's not exactly done for medicinal purposes. Is alcohol a drug? The church actually permits recreational use of that drug, as long as drunkenness is avoided. Now that marijuana is legal, at least in my state, where does it fit into this framework?

The civil law is meant to be a reflection of the moral law and not vice versa. Civil law does not make something moral or not, but this is generally the modern Nominalist attitude : call it legal, then it is good.

Alcohol has never commonly be understood as a drug in itself, nor caffeine. These chemicals (and many others) existed in other things that were consumed for their own sake and not in order to get high, drunk or to impair reason. Alcohol in wine is a preservative. Caffeine in coffee and chocolate (and various other foods) does not exist at such levels that it caused any kind of serious "high" without serious abuse. Even cocaine was originally used as a light stimulant in South America where people would chew the leaves. Chewing the leaves will get you sick before it gets you high. Plenty of other plants were used in a similar way, such as the traditional use of kava (not the modern use) in social and communal gatherings in Polynesia.

It is only when these chemicals were concentrated or developed into forms that were easily abused that one has real problems. It is those concentrated forms or any form which is intended for a high that are considered drugs in the sense the Catechism is using them.

Only puritans or those trying to promote recreational use of drugs will make some equivalence between the bit of caffeine in my morning coffee and a caffeine pill. Only those same people would consider my having a glass of wine at dinner "drug use". There is always an agenda behind abusing language like that.

(09-17-2019, 01:52 AM)1Faith Wrote: This actually gets extremely complicated. One could say that smoking marijuana is sinful because its intoxicating. Sure that's true; assuming you are smoking a high thc strain of cannabis. But with the legal market there are literally hundreds of different cannabis products, from flower to tinctures to edibles and everything in between. Some strains have high thc and low cbd and can greatly impair the mind. Other strains are low in thc and high in cbd and have a relaxing effect without hardly altering the mind at all. Some are equal parts thc and cbd and cause a sedative effect while mitigating the mind altering effects. Are all of these products in the same category morally? What about hemp products, which contain less than .3% thc? If those are fine, then what about a cannabis product containing 1-2% thc, which is legal in a state like mine? Does that suddenly become immoral? How much of a mind-alteration is necessary to make the use of a cannabis product morally illicit? Could one eat a high-cbd, low-thc edible morally, as an alternative to alcohol after a hard days work? Or is that immoral?

It is not that complicated.

People smoke and consume marijuana for the high.

Legitimate medical use would involve extracting the chemicals which are beneficial and using those separately, not smoking. That should be obvious from the evidence of what smoking anything does to one's body. It makes no sense to harm the body through smoking in order to get some medical benefit which could be better had if medicinal drugs could be made from the plant.

To have some hemp rope or cloth is clearly not a problem. It's one of two licit fabrics (the other being linen) for making albs, altar cloths, corporals, palls and surplices. But, no one is going to smoke or consume hemp. They smoke or consume marijuana for the high. Hemp in its natural state does not contain enough psychoactives to have any real effect. Hemp is high in CBD but low in THC (about 0.3%). It was only by breeding that THC levels were increased, and why? For the high.

The common thread is that marijuana use is about the high, not about medicinal usage.

Hemp usage and production is where one can obtain the better CBD levels (which is where one finds some medically-beneficial effects), and also fibers (one of its original uses) as well as seeds for food use. All of that is not only legitimate but good.

In short, all of the beneficial medical and practical effects from Cannabis sativa, can be had from non psychoactive varieties. Marijuana use is about the high.

(09-17-2019, 01:52 AM)1Faith Wrote: 2. What constitutes therapeutic use? I'm sure most of us could agree that cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy would be well within the bounds of morality to use cannabis, even high thc cannabis, to relieve nausea and pain. But what about other "therapeutic" uses? Suppose someone has insomnia and has a terrible time getting to sleep and staying asleep. Cannabis, THC especially, is known to have a powerful sedative effect and can help people fall asleep and sleep through the night. Is taking it for that "therapeutic" purpose immoral? Must one have a doctor involved for it to be moral, or can a person assess their own symptoms and use the substance therapeutically? Where do we draw the line with therapeutic use, which even the catechism clearly does permit?

It it well to recall the principles above. One may not lose or impair his reason without proportionate justification.

Recalling this, I would say that marijuana itself cannot be used "therapeutically". Some of the products of it might be used as good medicine, but then would be prepared as medicine, not smoked. There are CBD and THC preparations available by prescription which have essentially the same effect on chemo side effects as smoking marijuana without the side effects of the marijuana itself, and often without the high, since the relative levels of CBD and THC could be controlled. It seems a high CBD level compared with THC can reduce the high. As above this further shows the whole "medical marijuana" canard was about legalizing recreational use, not about medicine. If it were, pharmeceutical preparations would be made and "pot shops" wouldn't be opening.

Medical use of the preparations would be licit for a proportional reason. Given that CBD is not psychoactive, and does not induce the high, there is no moral issue with its medical use by self-referral. One cannot lose his reason by using CBD.

Medicines which have a psychoactive effect are rightly and tightly regulated. So any preparation with THC would need to be prescribed just like other scheduled drugs.

(09-17-2019, 01:52 AM)1Faith Wrote: 3. Is it morally permissible to work or invest in the legal cannabis industry? In legal states, like mine, the legal cannabis industry is a huge and booming industry that will create countless jobs and tremendous profits. Many people who are currently unemployed or underemployed could get into this industry and make a great living. Would that be a legitimate career choice or a cooperation in evil? What about auxiliary businesses that don't deal in cannabis directly but are nevertheless integrally linked to the industry? What about working/investing in the medicinal side of the industry?

Short answer, no.

The industry is about marijuana use, and as established above marijuana use is about the high. The industry is inseparable from this end, and so to work or invest in this industry is a grave sin.

To invest in, own or work in a marijuana shop would be a grave sin of scandal.

To work at a hemp farm, or to invest in industrial hemp is different, since there is no direct connection to supporting the marijuana industry.

To work in medical research, provided the research was moral in itself, would be generally okay.

(09-17-2019, 01:52 AM)1Faith Wrote: As you can see this is becoming a very complex moral subject, which unfortunately the magisterium of the Church hasn't really addressed. How should we as Catholics in legal states navigate all of this? To be honest I used to use cannabis regularly and it was tremendously helpful in helping me stay asleep all night, it'd be nice to know I can use it for that purpose without committing mortal sin. But I submit myself to what is right and true and not what I may desire. So these moral issues have a personal dimension for me as well, as i'm sure they do for many other Catholics as well. So what are your thoughts on these moral questions?

It's not very complex unless one ignore principles and tries to do morality by feeling. The principles is clear and enunciated above.

To answer to your question, if you want to know if your personal actions are sins, it's best to speak with a good solid orthodox Catholic priest. It's not a good idea to come onto a forum and ask opinions to gauge your moral actions by this. No matter what the majority of people say, this does not make something any more right or wrong.

All you need to do to answer your own question is look at the principles above. If that's not clear, speak to a good priest.
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#23
(09-17-2019, 03:00 PM)piscis Wrote:
(09-17-2019, 02:26 PM)Paul Wrote:
(09-17-2019, 02:19 PM)1Faith Wrote: So for the sake of this discussion, let's grant that recreational use of high-thc cannabis is morally illicit. Where ought we draw the lines when it comes to therapeutic, and how might we make the proper distinctions?

That just sounds like the principle of double effect. Ingesting a substance isn't an evil act; it's even permissible to take certain hormones for a medical problem even if they have the side effect of contraception. Inability to sleep is a medical problem, and fixing it is a good thing. Lots of medications tell people not to drive after taking them; nobody says taking those is immoral. If the side effect is that you get a bit high, but you're sleeping so you're not going to be using your ability to think clearly anyway, what's the harm?


For what it's worth, I'm inclined to agree with Paul that the principle of double effect applies here, but I honestly hate giving moral advice to anyone.

It is probably worth noting that in the indirect voluntary or "double effect" there is a system that needs to be followed :

1. Is the principle act to be done morally good in itself, or at least indifferent? If YES, go to 2. If NO, the action is morally illicit.
2. Does the evil effect come directly from this act? If NO, go to 3. If YES, the action is morally illicit.
3. Is the intention of the person acting only on the good effect, and completely rejecting of the evil effect? If YES, go to 4. If NO, the action is morally illicit.
4. Is the evil effect proportionate to the good effect? If YES, the action is morally permissible. If NO, the action is morally illicit.

To help answer number 4 (which deals with circumstances), there are four questions to ask :

4a. Would the evil effect be a grave matter (i.e. it would constitute a grave sin if fully intended)?
4b. How closely are the evil effect and good action tied together? (i.e. Can the good effect be separated and obtained without the evil effect through another means?)
4c. How certain is the evil effect?
4d. Does the person acting have some office or special duty to prevent the evil effect from happening?

If in looking at these things the actor has a serious duty to prevent the evil, or if the evil is grave matter and certain, while the good effect is not relatively necessary or could be obtained in another way, then the action will be morally illicit.

I think if one starts from the principle that marijuana use is a mortal sin, admitting of circumstances which might reduce is sinful character, it will fail question four pretty easily.

The high is intimately tied to a good medical effect in smoking. There is the issue of scandal, which we have a duty to prevent. The effects are obtainable by other means. The high is a grave sin if intended.

In short, there seems to be no real proportion for most "therapeutic" smoking or oral consumption of marijuana.
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#24
Quote:But there are other grave sins which tie into marijuana use, particularly scandal.
Correct, that's a very good point. Smoking a blunt at a marijuana festival or social club would without a doubt be scandalous for a Catholic to do. Doing it in the privacy of one's home away from any children would be a different matter.

Quote:Then there are other things like sins against the Fifth Commandment from drugged driving
Absolutely. Never use cannabis and drive. I doubt anyone argues that point.

Quote:Only puritans or those trying to promote recreational use of drugs will make some equivalence between the bit of caffeine in my morning coffee and a caffeine pill.
So is taking a caffeine pill sinful? That would be bad news for me, i've been taking a caffeine pill every day I work before work for nearly a decade now. I'm a cook at a busy casino, I'm constantly on my feet and moving fast all day long, I'd have a hard time doing that without those caffeine pills.

Quote:People smoke and consume marijuana for the high.
That's true in many cases. However, as I've explained, there are high-cbd, low-thc strains of cannabis that are becoming increasingly popular and are not used to induce a high. They are used to induce relaxation and relief of anxiety. I fail to see how mild use of such strains is morally different from having two glasses of red wine in the evening.

Quote:Legitimate medical use would involve extracting the chemicals which are beneficial and using those separately, not smoking.
There's a major problem with that line of thinking. The cannabinoids in Cannabis work together synergistically; this is referred to as the "entourage effect". I use a full spectrum cbd tincture daily, which is a whole-plant extract derived from hemp flower. It includes all the cannabinoids in the plant, with thc constituting less than .3%. These preparations work better than isolated preparations because the cannabinoids work more efficiently in the presence of each other. As an example lets consider a cancer patient suffering from extreme nausea. If you were to give them a pill of pure thc, it would relieve the nausea but could induce strong anxiety. This has been often reported by patients who take Marinol, which is pure synthetic thc. However, if that same patient takes a balanced extract of cannabis containing a proportionately high quantity of cbd, the anti-nausea effects of the thc would be in place, but the anxiety-inducing effects of the thc would be mitigated by the presence of cbd. Long story short, your presumption that isolated cannabinoids are more effective is demonstrably erroneous. All of that said, I will agree that smoking is not a good idea, and there are countless varieties of whole-plant extract that eliminate the need to smoke cannabis flower.

Quote:It was only by breeding that THC levels were increased, and why? For the high.
That's because it was only found within the black market for so long, and the illicit drug trade is all about producing intoxication, so it's no surprise that dealers bred the plant to produce high quantities of the intoxicating compound. Under a legal market, the plant is used in a thousand different ways and low-thc preparations are both popular and sought-after for their therapeutic effects.

Quote: But, no one is going to smoke or consume hemp.
You must not be aware of the booming hemp-flower industry then. Since the 2018 farm bill that descheduled hemp, smokeable hemp flower has become very popular. Why would anyone smoke that? Because the hundreds of cannabinoids in the plant induce relaxation, just without the head high and euphoria induced by thc. I've smoked hemp flower before and it does have a noticeable psychoactive effect, just without being in any way intoxicating. Its like being very relaxed but with a completely clear head.

Quote:The common thread is that marijuana use is about the high, not about medicinal usage.
Not true at all. I highly recommend watching the CNN documentary series "Weed". Its available for free on YouTube. There you will find countless stories of people who have suffered debilitating diseases and have found tremendously relief from the use of (whole-plant) cannabis. This whole notion that whole-plant medicine is somehow not medicinal is a product of a blind faith in the Pharmaceutical industry. Often times plant medicines work much better than pharmaceuticals do, with far fewer side effects. After all, God gave us the plants of the earth for food and medicine.

Quote:Medicines which have a psychoactive effect are rightly and tightly regulated. So any preparation with THC would need to be prescribed just like other scheduled drugs.

You are using the term psychoactive incorrectly. Even caffeine is psychoactive, meaning it affects the mind. CBD is absolutely psychoactive, if it wasn't it would do nothing at all for anxiety. CBD is non-intoxicating, but it is psychoactive. Also I find it odd the blind trust you have in the western pharmaceutical establishment. Suppose someone has no health insurance and can't afford to have a physician. Can they not use a legal substance to relieve their symptoms? What about someone in the third world who has no access to a physician? Can they not use cannabis in place of opium to manage pain? Why is one morally obliged to have the consent of a physician? People have after all been self-medicating for far longer than they have been seeing professional physicians. The western medical establishment is a comparatively recent innovation in human society.

Quote:The industry is about marijuana use, and as established above marijuana use is about the high.
You did not establish that at all, countless people use it for various therapeutic reasons. Let's compare it to alcohol. Is it morally impermissible to work in the alcohol industry, because many people will binge drink, get drunk, and do stupid things? No, of course a Catholic can work in the alcohol industry. How is it different then with marijuana? If the product is used by some for relief of debilitating symptoms, others to sleep better at night, and by others to get intoxicated and make poor decisions, how is working in that industry intrinsically sinful? Only one of the uses is sinful, while the others are not, which would mean, it seems, that the culpability for the misuse falls on the person misusing it. Your whole argument about the immorality of working in the industry hinges on the notion that the only reason people use cannabis is to get high. This is demonstrably false.

Let me make one thing clear again though, I absolutely agree that using intoxicating strains of cannabis for recreational purposes is sinful and violates the virtue of temperance. I am not making an apology for recreational marijuana use. But it seems there are morally licit uses of the substance, it's just a matter of determining where to draw the lines.
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#25
Pot is a hedonistic stimulant which turns people into worldly slugs. Inherently sinful.
"The Heart of Jesus is closer to you when you suffer, than when you are full of joy." - St. Margaret Mary Alacoque

Put not your trust in princes: In the children of men, in whom there is no salvation. - Ps. 145:2-3

"For there shall be a time, when they will not endure sound doctrine; but, according to their own desires, they will heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears: And will indeed turn away their hearing from the truth, but will be turned unto fables." - 2 Timothy 4:3-4
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#26
Quote:Pot is a hedonistic stimulant which turns people into worldly slugs. Inherently sinful.
That's it? No engagement with the arguments or facts, just a blanket, unsubstantiated statement? So a cancer patient using a sublingual cannabis extract tincture to eliminate the severe nasea produced by chemotherapy is committing grave sin in the alleviation of his or her suffering?
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#27
(09-17-2019, 06:42 PM)1Faith Wrote:
Quote:Pot is a hedonistic stimulant which turns people into worldly slugs. Inherently sinful.
That's it? No engagement with the arguments or facts, just a blanket, unsubstantiated statement? So a cancer patient using a sublingual cannabis extract tincture to eliminate the severe nasea produced by chemotherapy is committing grave sin in the alleviation of his or her suffering?

You know, that's a similar line of reasoning to those who promote abortion because the child is a product of rape. Yes, there are narrow circumstances like your example, but the vast majority of people are using it primarily for recreation. So I stand by my comment.
"The Heart of Jesus is closer to you when you suffer, than when you are full of joy." - St. Margaret Mary Alacoque

Put not your trust in princes: In the children of men, in whom there is no salvation. - Ps. 145:2-3

"For there shall be a time, when they will not endure sound doctrine; but, according to their own desires, they will heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears: And will indeed turn away their hearing from the truth, but will be turned unto fables." - 2 Timothy 4:3-4
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#28
Quote: So I stand by my comment.
Then you stand by a self-admittedly erroneous statement. If there is any possible morally legitimate way to do the action, in this case using cannabis, then it by definition cannot be intrinsically sinful. Since you agreed that my example would be a morally licit action, you've undermined your own statement. So now we agree that there are some morally licit uses of cannabis. The only question is where do we draw the lines.

Furthermore you're example of abortion is absurd. Murdering a baby is an intrinsically evil action, meaning there can be no circumstances in which it is morally licit. Using an intoxicating substance, whether thc or morphine or anything else, is not intrinsically evil because there are some uses that are morally licit.
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#29
(09-17-2019, 06:54 PM)1Faith Wrote:
Quote: So I stand by my comment.
Then you stand by a self-admittedly erroneous statement. If there is any possible morally legitimate way to do the action, in this case using cannabis, then it by definition cannot be intrinsically sinful. Since you agreed that my example would be a morally licit action, you've undermined your own statement. So now we agree that there are some morally licit uses of cannabis. The only question is where do we draw the lines.

Furthermore you're example of abortion is absurd. Murdering a baby is an intrinsically evil action, meaning there can be no circumstances in which it is morally licit. Using an intoxicating substance, whether thc or morphine or anything else, is not intrinsically evil because there are some uses that are morally licit.

I wasn't comparing pot itself to abortion, but the logic you were using is exactly the same logic used to push forth incremental change. Its legalized for one very specific use, but soon it's open to general use as a recreational stimulant rather than a medical aid as with cancer patients.

Also, given the lives that many people close to me lead after being introduced to the drug, I can say that there is no generally moral benefit to using such a drug.
"The Heart of Jesus is closer to you when you suffer, than when you are full of joy." - St. Margaret Mary Alacoque

Put not your trust in princes: In the children of men, in whom there is no salvation. - Ps. 145:2-3

"For there shall be a time, when they will not endure sound doctrine; but, according to their own desires, they will heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears: And will indeed turn away their hearing from the truth, but will be turned unto fables." - 2 Timothy 4:3-4
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#30
You said it was inherently sinful. That was the thing I had to take issue with, because it's not true. One could say that recreational use of marijuana is inherently sinful, and that would be accurate. Those people you are referencing were obviously using the substance recreationally. This is no different than morphine. Recreational use of morphine is inherently sinful and people who engage in that behavior are going to screw up their lives, but medical use of morphine is acceptable from a moral standpoint. These same distinctions would logically have to apply to THC; the only difference being that THC is far less harmful and addictive than morphine, so it's potential morally licit therapeutic uses are wider than morphine given the decreased gravity of harm resulting from use. Again, its a question of where we draw the lines and how we go about doing so.
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