Up In Smoke: Natural Gas Opponents, Citing Air Emissions, Come Out Blazing in Support of Carcinogenic Marijuana Use

A tale only believable in Washington. Several outspoken congressmen who are adamantly critical of clean-burning American natural gas development, particularly the use of hydraulic fracturing – a critical oil and natural gas stimulation technology that’s helping the nation realize ‘enormous’ energy security benefits, as President Obama said in a speech this week – have recently introduced legislation, which they claim, would end Clean Air Act “exemptions” governing oil and natural gas development in the United States.

In a March 17 press release, Congressman Jared Polis (D-Colo.), citing the imperative to ensure air quality safety, says this about the BREATHE Act:

“It’s simply common sense to ensure that we monitor extremely dangerous emissions, equip communities in heavy drilling areas with the tools they need to stay safe, and reverse these exemptions to the Clean Air Act.”

Congressman Maurice Hinchey (D-NY), in the same press release, adds this:

“Whether you’re drilling oil or gas, toxic fumes released in the process pollute the air we breathe, causing health problems for workers at the drilling sites and nearby residents. The BREATHE Act is another commonsense bill that will make sure that oil and gas companies use the best available technology to rid their emissions of harmful pollutants and protect our air and the people who breathe it.”

Subsequently, Energy In Depth completely demystified the host of baseless claims put forth by BREATHE Act proponents (all 8 of them in the entire U.S. House of Representatives). As the FRAC Act would fundamentally rewrite the Safe Drinking Water Act, the BREATHE Act aims to give unelected Washington bureaucrats new, unprecedented authority to regulate – and therefore impede – job-creating American energy production.

Fast forward a few weeks. In a speech this week at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, Rep. Polis – flanked by Steve Fox, director of public affairs at the National Cannabis Industry Association (no confirmation on any relation to Gasland’s Josh Fox) – renewed efforts to legalize marijuana.

Politico’s senior political reporter Ben Smith has a great scoop on Rep. Polis’ efforts today (as does the trustworthy “Weed Blog”):

In several interviews this week, Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) is pushing for marijuana decriminalization or legalization — a fight that has unfolded mostly in the states, attracting few politicians at the federal level willing to talk about the issue.

“Drugs are fundamentally a health issue,” said Polis on MBNBC. “Is there an abuse of drugs? Absolutely. Do people abuse alcohol, tobacco and marijuana? Yes. Should we have a national health strategy around reducing that? Yes. Does throwing people in prison for smoking a joint make sense? No.”

And Polis tells the hip-hop magazine The Source that legalizing marijuana could actually even lead to urban renewal and greening.

“Marijuana farming in major urban centers would increase green space and make urban renewal profitable in the short and long-term,” said Polis.

“Urban renewal”? You can’t make this stuff up.

Importantly, though, how does Rep. Polis square his concerns about the impact clean-burning American natural gas production has on air emissions with the widely accepted fact that marijuana use can be devastating to human health?

Here’s what the American Lung Association has to say about the impact marijuana use can have on health:

Health Hazards of Smoking Marijuana

Marijuana smoke contains a greater amount of carcinogens than tobacco smoke. In addition, marijuana users usually inhale more deeply and hold their breath longer than tobacco smokers do, further increasing the lungs’ exposure to carcinogenic smoke. Marijuana use is not only associated with adverse physical effects, but also mental, emotional and behavioral changes.

People who smoke marijuana frequently, but do not smoke tobacco, have more health problems and miss more days of work than nonsmokers.  Many of these extra sick days are due to respiratory illnesses.

And Harvard University experts determined the following about marijuana use:

The main respiratory consequences of smoking marijuana regularly (one joint a day) are pulmonary infections and respiratory cancer. … It should be noted that one joint has four times more tar than a cigarette, which means that the lungs are exposed four-fold to this toxin and others in the tar.

While today is April Fool’s Day, this is no joke. However, such political grandstanding surely is.

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