In the first installment of this series, I discussed the fallacy of rescheduling as part of the “medical” marijuana issue. This final part focuses on the issues brought up by the governors in their rescheduling petition: a so-called “consensus” opinion of doctors who approve of raw marijuana as medicine, and, the issue brought on by the California Medical Association that essentially says research on marijuana cannot go forward without legalization. I will tackle each at a time.
The governors’ petition asserts that there is a “consensus of medical opinion concerning medical acceptability of cannabis amongst the largest groups of physicians in the United States.” In support of this statement, the petition cites the American Medical Association’s (AMA) alleged “reversal” of its position that marijuana should remain a Schedule I substance. However, contrary to the governors’ petition, the AMA does not believe that there has been sufficient research to justify making herbal marijuana itself available as a prescription medication: “Despite more than 30 years of clinical research, only a small number of randomized, controlled trials have been conducted on smoked cannabis.”1
Furthermore, while the AMA’s Report does state that the Schedule I status should be “reviewed,” it limits the purpose of such review to the “goal of facilitating clinical research and development of cannabinoid-based medicines, and alternate delivery methods.”2 AMA does not recommend that marijuana should be rescheduled in order that it can be directly prescribed and dispensed in its raw form to patients. In fact, the AMA recommendation goes on to caution: “This should not be viewed as an endorsement of state-based medical cannabis programs, the legalization of marijuana, or that scientific evidence on the therapeutic use of cannabis meets the current standards for a prescription drug product.” In the body of its report, AMA further clarified its position:
The future of cannabinoid-based medicine lies in the rapidly evolving field of botanical drug substance development, as well as the design of molecules that target various aspects of the endocannabinoid system. To the extent that rescheduling marijuana out of Schedule I will benefit this effort, such a move can be supported.3
The term “botanical drug substance” is derived from an FDA guidance document: “Guidance for Industry: Botanical Drug Products.”4 It refers, not to herbal plant material, but to extracts or similar preparations of the active botanical components. Rather than accepting that marijuana meets the “current, modern accepted standard for what constitute medicine,” the AMA is essentially stating that research into crude marijuana plant material is a dead end.
Rescheduling is not necessary to make marijuana products available for research
A committee of the California Medical Association recently called for the rescheduling of marijuana “so it can be tested and regulated.” However, it is not necessary for marijuana to be rescheduled in order for legitimate research to proceed. Schedule I status does not prevent a product from being tested and researched for potential medical use. The FDA (and its Controlled Substances Staff or CSS) will allow an investigational product containing a controlled substance (including Schedule I substances) to be tested in clinical (human) trials if there is adequate evidence of safety from non-human studies.5 The CSA imposes stringent security, record keeping, and other requirements, but these apply equally to Schedule I and Schedule II substances.
Under the CSA, the only differences between Schedule I and II are rather technical:6 Before granting a Schedule I research registration, the DEA will separately inquire whether the FDA believes that the researcher is qualified and competent and the trial design will elicit scientifically valid data.7 A Schedule I research registration must be renewed each year, whereas research registrations for other controlled substances are valid for 3 years. Schedule I research registrations are protocol, as well as substance, specific. By contrast, a Schedule II registration is valid for research into all Schedule II substances and protocols. Physicians, if they possess registrations to prescribe and administer products containing controlled substances, may conduct research (if permitted by the FDA and the relevant ethics committee) on any Schedule II substance; they need not obtain a separate research registration from DEA.
These additional Schedule I restrictions can delay a research program but are not insurmountable. Furthermore, it may be possible to make minor amendments to the CSA to “equalize” Schedule I and Schedule II research requirements without necessitating a rescheduling of marijuana. Now that would be an interesting thing for governors and the CMA to call for, but apparently neither seemed bothered enough to do the homework required to make such an argument.
Today, Schedule I research certainly does go forward. In a recent pharmaceutical company-sponsored human clinical study investigating a product derived from marijuana extracts, the DEA registered approximately 30 research sites in the U.S. and also registered an importer to bring the product into the U.S. from the U.K., where it was manufactured (this is for a drug called, Sativex, which combines two of marijuana’s active ingredients). What other research projects are happening? That will be the subject of a soon-to-be released report I am working on – stay tuned.
We should also mention the marijuana-based medications already on the market today. Dronabinol (Marinol ®) and Nabilone (Cesamet ®) are concentrated, synthetic versions of the most active ingredient in marijuana – THC – taken as a pill. They are in Schedule III and Schedule II, respectively, and they have been shown to be effective in the treatment of nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy in people who have already taken other medications without good results. These have undergone FDA’s process and are completely legal under the Controlled Substances Act.
By contrast to the careful and detailed structure of the Controlled Substances Act, the governors’ petition offers no criteria or guidelines that would clearly identify the scope of legitimate “medical use.” The CMA report also misstates the facts. At present in California, and several other states, it is widely recognized that the concept of “medical use” of marijuana is highly questionable. For payment of a small cash sum, almost anyone can obtain a physician’s “recommendation” to purchase, possess, and use marijuana for alleged medical purposes. Indeed, numerous studies have shown that the most customers of these dispensaries do not suffer from chronic, debilitating conditions such as HIV/AIDS or cancer and are instead otherwise healthy individuals.8,9 Both sides of the argument agree that this system has essentially legalized marijuana for recreational use, at least amongst those individuals able and willing to buy a recommendation.10 The governor’s petition would potentially expand that system on a national scale, permitting any physician in any state to prescribe any form of marijuana for any medical condition. The CMA call, while a great way to generate publicity on legalization, is also predicated on a false assertion that the only way to do research into marijuana is to legalize the drug. Sadly, vociferous calls for rescheduling and legalizing like these simply further muddle and confuse an already highly charged debate.
Kevin A. Sabet, PhD, Policy Consultant and Assistant Professor, University of Florida, College of Medicine, Division of Addiction Medicine, Department of Psychiatry. To read more from Dr. Sabet, visit www.kevinsabet.com or follow him on Twitter@kevinsabet.
Gov. Jack Markell has suspended the regulation-writing and licensing process for medical marijuana dispensaries — effectively killing the program — and criticized the federal government for sending mixed signals on law enforcement, The News Journal has learned.
U.S. Attorney Charles M. Oberly III has adopted the hard-line stance that just came out of President Barack Obama’s Department of Justice. This stance accentuates the inherent conflict between federal marijuana laws and what is playing out in states that have authorized limited marijuana use for medicinal purposes.
“[G]rowing, distributing and possessing marijuana, in any capacity, other than as part of a federally authorized research program, is a violation of federal law regardless of state laws permitting such activities,” Oberly wrote Thursday to Markell’s attorney. “Moreover, those who engage in financial transactions involving the proceeds of such activities may also be in violation of federal money laundering statutes.”
Markell’s office told The News Journal on Friday that Oberly’s stance prevents the Department of Health and Social Services from issuing licenses to medical marijuana dispensaries, whose employees and owners may be subject to federal raids and prosecution.
The governor’s office recently sought guidance from Oberly on whether state employees responsible for regulating and inspecting licensed, not-for-profit medical marijuana dispensaries could do their jobs without fear of prosecution.
“State employees who conduct activities mandated by the Delaware Medical Marijuana Act are not immune from liability under” the Controlled Substances Act, Oberly wrote.
In a statement Friday, the Democratic governor said he had no choice but to stop the program.
“To do otherwise would put our state employees in legal jeopardy, and I will not do that,” Markell said.
With the federal government firmly against large-scale dispensaries, state legislators may need to consider amending the law to allow doctor-approved patients to grow their own pot at home, said Rep. Helene Keeley, D-Wilmington South.
“Maybe we have to tweak the current law to make this happen,” Keeley said. “We can’t give up.”
Oberly’s letter is evidence of the U.S. Department of Justice’s changing attitude toward state medical marijuana laws since Obama took office.
During his campaign for president in 2008, medical marijuana advocates were encouraged by Obama’s vow to respect state laws. Oberly, a Democrat and former attorney general, is an Obama appointee.
“I think it’s a great betrayal of what he said when he was running for office,” said Karen O’Keefe, director of state policies at the Marijuana Policy Project, a Washington, D.C.-based lobbying group that helped write Delaware’s law. “It’s been a great disappointment.”
In 2009, when the first version of a medical marijuana bill was introduced in the Delaware General Assembly, a key impetus for the debate was the newly elected Obama’s pledge not to send his Department of Justice after those involved in state-sanctioned medical marijuana operations.
That policy was codified in an October 2009 memo written by then-Deputy Attorney General David Ogden that said prosecutions of medical marijuana patients and caregivers was “unlikely to be an efficient use of limited federal resources.”
With the Ogden memo as its backdrop, Delaware’s legislative effort continued, culminating with the passage of the Medical Marijuana Act last May.
A month later, new Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole issued a memo with a different tone in response to inquiries from a group of federal prosecutors nationwide.
Drawing a corollary from the Ogden memo, Cole said patients and their caregivers were still safe from enforcement action but prosecutors were never meant to ignore “large-scale, privately owned industrial marijuana cultivation centers” like those authorized in some states.
In the months after the Cole memo, federal law enforcement agencies raided growers and dispensaries in California and Montana.
A U.S. attorney in northern California sent a letter to local public officials, warning them to quell their efforts to regulate and license marijuana growers or face criminal charges.
In January, prosecutors in Colorado mailed letters to two dozen medical marijuana dispensaries located within 1,000 feet of schools, notifying them of enhanced federal penalties for drug offenses committed near schools.
Since Delaware’s passage of its medical marijuana law, the state Division of Public Health has been studying similar laws in other states and writing regulations that officials expected to publish this spring. Markell’s recommended budget for the next fiscal year includes $480,000 for the implementation of the program, funded by proceeds from licensing dispensaries and patients.
Spurred by the Cole memo and the recent enforcement efforts, Markell’s legal counsel, Michael A. Barlow, sought Oberly’s guidance on the state’s Medical Marijuana Act in early December.
“It was our goal to exercise some caution before we move forward, to make sure we have some dialogue with federal prosecutors in Delaware and solicit their input,” Barlow said.
Specifically, Barlow said, the administration is concerned that the medical marijuana distribution plan outlined in Delaware’s law falls under the parameters outlined in the Cole memo.
The statute mandates the establishment of one marijuana dispensary — called a Compassionate Care Center — in each of the three counties, with the possibility of more centers in future years.
Operators of the centers are to be nonprofit entities selected via a competitive bidding process administered by the state’s Division of Public Health, and would be responsible for cultivating, preparing and distributing the marijuana in cooperation with state regulators and under tight state control.
“If you look at the Cole memo, it focuses on this large-scale, industrial distribution model, and what we have in Delaware is a distribution model that centralizes that into one place,” Barlow said. “It seems to be something the Cole memo is looking to specifically.”
The administration was also worried that Delaware’s medical marijuana distribution structure could put state employees in danger of federal prosecution because of their close work with the dispensaries.
“The governor’s concern is that we’re not doing things to put state employees potentially in the way of the federal government’s new enforcement,” Barlow said.
In his response to Barlow, Oberly reaffirmed the Cole corollary to the Ogden memo and said the DOJ will not target patients or caregivers, but distribution is to be treated differently.
“Enterprises engaged in the cultivation, manufacture and sale of marijuana directly violate federal law,” he wrote. “Individuals and organizations that participate in the unlawful cultivation and distribution of marijuana could be subject to civil and criminal penalties.”
Oberly also said state workers are fair game for prosecution, just like anyone who is part of a marijuana distribution operation.
Prosecution decisions would made on a case-by-case basis, Oberly said.
The compassion centers were the linchpin of the medical marijuana bill’s getting bipartisan support in the Delaware General Assembly, Keeley said.
“In the absence of such compassion centers, patients may be forced to obtain marijuana illicitly, unlawfully grow their own marijuana or forgo use of medical marijuana entirely,” Barlow wrote Friday in response Oberly’s Thursday letter. “That appears to be the unfortunate consequence of a federal policy that appears to offer mercy to cancer patients and others with a serious medical need for marijuana, but actually threatens criminal and civil sanctions for those who might help them safely obtain that relief.”
Last week, NORML, the nation’s oldest marijuana legalization organization, published in their weekly newspaper that “medical marijuana has no discernible impact on marijuana use.” NORML cited a new article in the Annals of Epidemiology (a respected journal for sure; the same one that will soon release a study showing that marijuana is significantly linked with car crashes) which critiques an earlier article by Wall and colleagues showing an increase in marijuana use among states with medical marijuana. Essentially, the authors replicated the Wall study using different methods and got different results.
Certainly medical marijuana is a complex issue – one where politics, compassion, ethics and science collide. Sixteen states and D.C. technically have laws allowing marijuana as medicine on the books, but these laws, like other drug laws, vary widely in implementation, so it is tough to even perform studies linking medical marijuana with use changes. NORML doesn’t seem too bothered by that. They went on to cite a Brown University study looking at Rhode Island – a state with a barely discernible medical marijuana program in the first place – as further “proof” that medical marijuana doesn’t impact use. And the usual folks, like Reason Online (I’m just waiting for Maia Szalavitz to get to this as well), essentially republished the NORML line without any critical analysis.
A closer look at these studies shows something a little different, and much more nuanced. First, they completely ignore the more thorough studies that in fact do show increases in use. A major study published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence by researchers at Columbia University looked at two separate datasets and found that residents of states with “medical” marijuana had marijuana abuse/dependence rates almost twice as high than states without such laws.
Most importantly, the studies discussed by NORML miss the mark, by failing to take into account the actual implementation of medical marijuana laws. For example, California did not have “dispensaries” until 2003, seven years after the law officially was on the book. And Rhode Island, the state used in the Brown study, had about 1,500 people in the entire program, so it’s not a revelation that would not see any significant effect on teens. Time will tell, with further study and analysis, how medical marijuana is affecting attitudes and use rates in the long term.
What of course is never talked about is how medical marijuana programs in states that have gone full steam ahead actually work. Rarely mentioned is the fact that, for example, according to a 2011 study in the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis that examined 1,655 applicants in California who sought a physician’s recommendation for medical marijuana, very few of those who sought a recommendation had cancer, HIV/AIDS, glaucoma, or multiple sclerosis. A study published in the Harm Reduction Journal (not exactly an anti-drug mouthpiece), analyzing over 3,000 “medical marijuana users in California, found that an overwhelming majority (87.9%) of those queried about the details of their marijuana initiation had tried it before the age of 19, and the average user was a 32-year-old white male. 74% of the Caucasians in the sample had used cocaine, and over 50% had used methamphetamine in their lifetime. Hardly any had life-threatening illnesses.
Finally, we know from other surveys like the University of Michigan Monitoring the Future that the perceived harm for smoking marijuana occasionally or regularly has been decreasing among the 8th grade since 2007. Social disapproval for smoking marijuana once or twice, occasionally, and regularly has been decreasing among 8th graders since 2007. That has translated into a major increase in use, which is no surprise to researchers who know that attitudes effect youth use rates.
And how can we say that today’s medical marijuana programs aren’t having an effect on youth attitudes toward the drug? “Marijuana is medicine” has become a common slogan in America today, as people like Dr. Christian Thurstone, a Colorado doctor working with kids, recently talked about on National Public Radio.
It’s time to get the legalization lobby out of the business of medical marijuana and instead focus our attention on scientists developing non-smoked marijuana-based medications for the truly ill. That would make this issue no longer the sick joke that it is today.
Author: Kevin Sabet
Marijuana is a topic of significant public discourse in the United States, and while many are familiar with the discussions, it is not always easy to find the latest, research-based information on marijuana to answer to the common questions about its health effects, or the differences between Federal and state laws concerning the drug. Confusing messages being presented by popular culture, media, proponents of “medical” marijuana, and political campaigns to legalize all marijuana use perpetuate the false notion that marijuana is harmless. This significantly diminishes efforts to keep our young people drug free and hampers the struggle of those recovering from addiction.
The Administration steadfastly opposes legalization of marijuana and other drugs because legalization would increase the availability and use of illicit drugs, and pose significant health and safety risks to all Americans, particularly young people.
This Web-based resource center provides the general public, community leaders, and other interested people with the facts, knowledge, and tools to better understand and address marijuana in their communities.
This resource center will be regularly updated and expanded to address emerging issues, research, and prevention tools, and highlight successful local efforts to reduce marijuana use.
Visit Resource Center http://www.whitehouse.gov/ondcp/marijuanainfo
It is important to recognize that these state marijuana laws do not change the fact that using marijuana continues to be an offense under Federal law. Nor do these state laws change the criteria or process for approval of safe and effective medications, including marijuana.
Many of these state laws began in order to create a legal defense to state criminal possession laws or to remove state criminal penalties for purported medical use of marijuana. Since then, many have evolved into state authorization for state-based production and distribution of marijuana for purported medical purposes. These state laws vary greatly in their criteria and implementation, and many states are experiencing vigorous internal debates about the safety, efficacy, and legality of their marijuana laws. Many local governments are even creating zoning and enforcement ordinances that prevent marijuana dispensaries from operating in their communities.
There are critical differences in marijuana laws from one state, county or city to another. For more information, see the chart, excerpted from information from the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL).
HELENA, Mont.—A judge has ruled that Montana’s medical marijuana law doesn’t shield providers of the drug from federal prosecution, delivering a new blow to an industry reeling from a state and federal crackdown.
U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy on Friday dismissed a civil lawsuit filed by 14 individuals and businesses that were among more than two dozen medical marijuana providers raided by federal agents last year across Montana.
The providers claimed the raids violated their constitutional rights in part because state law passed by voter initiative in 2004 allows them to grow and produce the drug for medical consumption.
Molloy wrote in his order that the providers can be prosecuted under the federal Controlled Substances Act even if they are following state law. He cited a 2005 U.S. Supreme Court decision that said the U.S. Constitution’s supremacy clause applies in medical marijuana cases.
The supremacy clause says that federal law prevails if there is any conflict between state and federal statutes.
“Whether the plaintiffs’ conduct was legal under Montana law is of little significance here, since the alleged conduct clearly violates federal law,” Molloy wrote. “We are all bound by federal law, like it or not.”
The medical marijuana providers also argued that the Justice Department had said it would not prosecute them, citing a 2009 agency memo called the Ogden Memo after its author, Deputy Attorney General David Ogden.
In that memo, Ogden wrote that federal prosecutors would not pursue “individuals whose actions are in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws providing for the medical use of marijuana.”
Molloy wrote that Ogden’s memo was not a free pass to produce and consume marijuana, and the memo itself says complying with state law does not create a legal defense to violations of the Controlled Substances Act.
“A reasonable person, having read the entirety of the Ogden Memo, could not conclude that the federal government was somehow authorizing the production and consumption of marijuana for medicinal purposes,” he wrote.
Carl Jensen, a Great Falls attorney representing the medical marijuana providers, said Molloy’s ruling should serve as a warning to other providers still operating in the state.
“The supremacy clause has been used by the federal government to hammer anything they want to,” Jensen said. “Absolutely, they should be concerned. If the federal government ever decides it wants to go after them, it can.”
Timothy Baldwin, another plaintiffs’ attorney, said he, Jensen and their clients were discussing whether to appeal the ruling to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
“This is too important for us not to appeal to the 9th Circuit,” Baldwin said. “It’s disappointing to see how the states have essentially paved a path for citizens to engage in what they believe is lawful activity, only to set them up for federal intrusion like this.”
U.S. Attorney spokeswoman Jessica Fehr said federal prosecutors had no comment on the ruling.
The federal raids in March 2010 placed a chill over Montana’s booming medical marijuana industry, causing several providers to close down because their inventories had been seized or out from fear that their businesses would be next. Several raided providers have pleaded guilty to federal drug charges.
Lawmakers struggled last year to come up with a solution for what many people perceived to be an industry that at that time was growing too quickly and with too few rules. The final bill repealed the original voter-approved law in favor of one that aimed to dramatically curtail the for-profit medical marijuana industry.
That legislative action is currently under legal review, and will also appear on the November ballot for voters to endorse or reject.
Portions of the new law have been temporarily blocked by a state judge, but the result has been a dramatic decline in the number of medical marijuana patients and providers. There were 18,012 registered marijuana users at the end of December, compared to 31,522 at the end of May, according to the state Department of Public Health and Human Services.
There were 395 registered marijuana providers at the end of December, compared to 4,650 at the end of May.
By MATT VOLZ Associated Press
Posted: 01/23/2012 12:40:42 PM PST
More and more states are saying yes to medical marijuana. But local governments are increasingly using their laws to just say no, not in our backyard.
In California, with the nation’s most permissive medical marijuana laws, 185 cities and counties have banned pot dispensaries entirely. In New Jersey, perhaps the most restrictive of the 17 states that have legalized marijuana for sick people, some groups planning to sell cannabis are struggling to find local governments willing to let them in.
Dispensaries have also been banned in parts of Colorado [and Montana, California] and have run into opposition in some towns in Maine.
Local politicians have argued that pot is still illegal under federal law, that marijuana dispensaries bring crime, and that such businesses are just fronts for drug-dealing, supplying weed to people who aren’t really sick.
Cities and towns are prohibiting dispensaries outright or applying zoning ordinances so strict that they amount to the same thing. The ordinances typically set minimum distances between such businesses and schools, homes, parks and houses of worship.”
AB 390, a bill to legalize marijuana in California, has gone up in smoke at the State Capitol.
Children need to grow up in safe neighborhoods and attend schools free of marijuana users and sellers. We need to continue to protect our youth from the dangers of drugs. That starts with stopping the proliferation of pot.
The demise of this disastrous California bill goes to show that our voice was heard at the State Capitol and legislators on both sides of the aisle agreed we don’t want a proliferation of WEED in our streets and communities…our churches…parks and schools.
Legalizing marijuana is bad public policy and most of the legislators know it. In my opinion, once the public wakes up and understands the dangers of legalizing marijuana, legislators voting to legalize may find themselves on the wrong side of public opinion. A lot of voters are going to let their representatives know they will not stand for legalizing such a dangerous drug.
Marijuana is a dangerous and destructive drug…and we must not rest until the pro-legalizers are defeated once and for all.
To think some California lawmakers would resort to legalizing the sale and manufacture of drugs to generate tax revenue in which to balance our state budget is an outrage!
There are many ways to get the economy moving again. Putting a flood of mind altering drugs on the streets and then taxing their sales is not one of them.
It doesn’t make sense for our legislators to ban cigarette usage in public places because it is harmful to health, while at the same time saying “yes” to marijuana smoke, which is also carcinogenic.
California lawmakers recently banned trans fat because it is harmful to health. And now they want to make marijuana legal because it’s supposedly good for consumption in certain cases?
If we say marijuana is okay for adults…then what message do do send our children? That it’s okay for them too?
How do we expect our youth to say “No!” to drugs when the adults are saying “yes.”
Why would our public policymakers legalize marijuana, tax it and then go back and use that same money AND MORE for drug prevention programs to convince kids to not smoke dope. It’s bad public policy. It doesn’t make sense.
Taxing marijuana is “blood money” plain and simple. And California lawmakers would have blood on their hands if they voted to legalize this dangerous drug.
Pot should never be legal for general use in California. It’s bad for health, it’s bad for our communities, it’s bad for kids and it’s bad for our brains.
California will go down a dangerous path for which there will be no turning back if voters legalize marijuana. To think people will smoke pot while driving on our roads, visiting our parks, walking in our neighborhoods, sitting in their backyards (with the odor wafting over our fences) and passing near our schools. It is a disaster waiting to happen of enormous consequences. Has anyone given any thought to this?
Rogue legislators like Tom Ammiano want to legalize marijuana because they say it will be a windfall for the economy. Many others think it would actually be a drain on the state budget and the root cause of many job losses due to absenteeism and lost productivity.
There is no guarantee that legalization would undercut the black market, especially if the drug is taxed. Drug pushers would simply sell it “tax free.”
Legalizers think the revenue from a new marijuana tax will solve California’s budget woes, but AB 390 specifically states that people can grow their own weed, which many will do. How do you tax that?
Where will we get the money to pay for a new watchdog agency to regulate the drug? And will employees of this same agency be allowed to smoke it during their work breaks since it will be legal?
AB 390 to legalize marijuana was passed in the California Assembly Public Safety Committee (Tom Ammiano’s committee) on January 12, 2010. Increase the use of drugs, and our public will be safer? Was there another motive?
President Obama was right to declare he wants to usher in a new era of responsibility; and that includes ensuring marijuana remains classified as an illegal drug. There’s no excuse for legalizing another harmful drug known kill through the inducements of carcinogens and mental instability.
Because marijuana is illegal at the federal level, one can imagine California becoming a favored destination for drug buyers – and an exporter of drug dealers.
The “legalizers” will argue we are overcrowding our prisons with people arrested for simple possession of marijuana. The truth is: no one ever stays in jail for more than a day just for possessing it. Anyone that is in jail or prison for marijuana either:
- Also had a role in distribution; or,
- Pled down to possession in exchange for information; or,
- Violated terms of parole/probation, and their original crime was much more serious
Legalizers say: “If marijuana is legalized we can tax it and bring in much needed revenue to our state.”
- In 2005, the State of California spent $19.9 billion dollars on substance abuse and addiction or $545.09 per capita on alcohol and tobacco. But, the State of California collected $1.4 billion dollars of tax revenue or $38.69 per capita on the sale of alcohol and tobacco products. The costs far exceeded the revenue, and marijuana would likely follow a similar trend.
- The tax revenue does not account for the additional public health concerns and costs, such as cancer risks due to smoke inhalation or increased mental illness due to prolonged use.
Legalizers say: “People with medical issues should be able to smoke marijuana to relieve pain or other debilitating symptoms.”
- There is likely medical benefit from components in the cannabis plant. This is very different than legalizing smoked marijuana.
- Medicine should never be determined by voters.
- The general public does not have the knowledge necessary to vote on whether a particular pill or patch is beneficial for the treatment of heart disease, attention deficit disorder, or diabetes. Why is this different?
- The 1999 IOM report said that smoked marijuana should generally not be recommended for medical use; we don’t “smoke” medicine.
Legalizers say: “Marijuana toxicity has never killed anyone.”
- Marijuana contributes to dependence, mental illness, lung obstruction, lung cancer, memory loss, motor skill disruption and other harms in a way that tobacco does not, and its harms are underappreciated.
- ER admissions for marijuana-related illness (psychotic episodes, etc.) exceed those of heroin.
- There have been numerous cases of fatal car and other accidents caused by someone under the influence of marijuana.
Smoked marijuana is not medicine. Pot smoke contains more carcinogens than cigarette smoke and is simply not healthy for you. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration routinely tests new drugs according to a rigorous protocol to prove their safety before they are allowed to be sold to the public as medicine. Marijuana has passed no such test.
Legalization will increase drug use and health care costs. Marijuana is an addictive drug that poses significant health consequences to its users. Recent studies have linked marijuana use to birth defects, respiratory system damage, cancer, mental illness, violence, infertility, and immune system damage.
The latest information from the U.S. Treatment Episode Data Set reports that 16.1% of drug treatment admissions were for marijuana as the primary drug of abuse, compared to 6% in 1992.
Legalization will increase crime-related costs. 75% of children in foster care are placed there because of a parent’s substance abuse. Sexual assault is frequently facilitated by substance use – some experts put the number at over 60%. The U.S. Department of Justice found that 61% of domestic violence offenders also have substance abuse problems.
All forms of marijuana are mind-altering (psychoactive). In other words, they change how the brain works. A lot of other chemicals are found in marijuana, too — about 400 of them, some of which are carcinogenic. Marijuana is addictive with more teens in treatment with a primary diagnosis of marijuana dependence than for all other illicit drugs combined.
Long-term marijuana abuse can lead to addiction; Long-term marijuana abusers trying to quit report irritability, sleeplessness, decreased appetite, anxiety, and drug craving, all of which make it difficult to quit.
Numerous studies have shown marijuana smoke to contain carcinogens and to be an irritant to the lungs. In fact, marijuana smoke contains 50–70 percent more carcinogenic hydrocarbons than does tobacco smoke. Marijuana users usually inhale more deeply and hold their breath longer than tobacco smokers do, which further increase the lungs’ exposure to carcinogenic smoke.
Driving experiments show that marijuana affects a wide range of skills needed for safe driving — thinking and reflexes are slowed, making it hard for drivers to respond to sudden, unexpected events. Also, a driver’s ability to “track” (stay in lane) through curves, to brake quickly, and to maintain speed and the proper distance between cars is affected. Research shows that these skills are impaired for at least 4-6 hours after smoking a single marijuana cigarette, long after the “high” is gone. Marijuana presents a definite danger on the road.
Emergency Room admissions for marijuana-related illness (psychotic episodes, etc.) exceed those of heroin.
On September 21, 2011, the United States Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) sent an open letter to the nation’s licensed firearms dealers warning that federal law prohibits drug users and addicts from possessing or buying guns.
According to Assistant ATF Director Arthur Hebert, “any person who uses or is addicted to marijuana, regardless of whether his or her state has passed authorizing marijuana use for medicinal purposes, is an unlawful user” and cannot own, possess, or buy firearms.
Today a full 16 percent of the U.S. population is dependent on alcohol, nicotine or other drugs. Another 27 percent of the general population engages in use of these substances in ways that put themselves and others at risk, including underage and adult excessive drinking, tobacco use, and misuse of pain relievers, stimulants and depressants. For a staggering 43 percent of the nation, then — nearly every other American — addiction and risky substance use are a matter of public health.
Addiction is America’s number one health care and health cost problem. Approximately 30 percent of our federal and state health care spending is attributable to this disease. Across all government spending, the total financial cost is nearly $500 billion annually.
The extent of human misery is incalculable.