Who says marijuana is good medicine? - East Valley Tribune: Columnists

Who says marijuana is good medicine?

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Posted: Tuesday, August 17, 2010 3:15 pm | Updated: 9:56 am, Sun Aug 22, 2010.

In November, Arizona will vote on Proposition 203, the so-called medical marijuana initiative. As an anti-drug activist for 30 years, I’ve watched the pro-legalization lobbies.

For many years, their strategy has been to legalize illicit drugs by claiming they’re actually medications. Proposition 203 was designed by the Marijuana Policy Project, a group whose stated aim is to legalize marijuana, and Proposition 203 will do just that.

Here’s how it works. The law says only licensed physicians can recommend marijuana, but in other states with similar laws a handful of doctors found they can get rich seeing people for as little as 5 minutes and handing out marijuana cards to anyone who pays $150. These marijuana doctors write almost all the marijuana recommendations. Legitimate doctors hardly write any.

Among serious illnesses that qualify for marijuana, the law includes “severe and intractable pain.” That can be anything, from a sprained ankle to an occasional headache. One woman got marijuana because her high heels hurt.

Besides, pain is easily faked. In Montana, over 90 percent of marijuana patients have pain. Or claim to.

These laws encourage unscrupulous doctors and dishonest patients to collude, and that collusion accounts for 98 percent of the medical marijuana prescribed. Few patients have serious illnesses like cancer, multiple sclerosis or glaucoma.

Basically, medical marijuana is nothing more than a back-door route to legalization, and it’s not harmless. States with these laws have higher rates of both teenage drug use and traffic fatalities caused by marijuana.

Worse, Proposition 203 says people can’t be charged with DUI or fired from their jobs for small amounts of marijuana in their blood streams. However, there’s no definition of these small amounts, and you know their lobbyists will fight any attempt to set the bar low. Do we really want doctors, teachers and truck drivers high on pot while working?

Pro-marijuana groups talk about elderly people with cancer and glaucoma, never mentioning that 98 percent of the pot goes to people with no serious medical problems at all. They also play on fears about government, hinting that the FDA is captive to special interests and doesn’t care about regular people.

However, it’s not just the FDA that says marijuana isn’t medicine. The American Cancer Society, The American Glaucoma Society and the National Multiple Sclerosis Society all say there is little evidence of benefit and that other medicines are safer and work equally well.

These organizations represent the very illnesses medical marijuana supposedly treats, and even they say crude marijuana is bad medicine. Either there’s a huge conspiracy and these organizations are intentionally depriving their own members of good treatment, or else marijuana is being oversold by people with another agenda.

Our country has a tightly controlled supply of medical cocaine, because the FDA looked at the research and found legitimate uses. Marijuana never passed that test. With pot, what they found is that the medical benefits don’t outweigh its negative effects.

Pro-marijuana groups don’t care. Their agenda is to legalize pot as they’re trying to do in California. So they’re ignoring the gold standard of approval used by the FDA — a complete review of all the research. Instead, they pick out tidbits that support their argument, quoting just one study or one person’s story. They want voters to ignore science and override health care standards that have protected the public for years.

If we do, that will be really bad medicine.

Alex J. Romero is the co-founder of Arizonans for Drug Free Youth and Communities, a board member of Drug Watch International, and on the community outreach committee of KeepAZDrugFree.com.

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