'Medical marijuana' is a Trojan horse

By chillinwill · Oct 23, 2009 · ·
  1. chillinwill
    My post about “medical marijuana” stirred a lot of comments, some of them approving, the vast majority hostile and vituperative -- and one or two actually threatening. So, let me try this again. As I wrote, I think decriminalization of marijuana is worth debating.

    I have no objection to letting AIDS patients and other truly desperately ill people smoke marijuana if it makes them feel better. I have no objection to the administration of THC, pot’s active ingredient, in properly tested and dosed pharmaceuticals. What I do object to, strongly, is the claim that smoked marijuana is some sort of wonder cure with a multiplicity of proven, but officially repressed, therapeutic uses.

    There’s a good survey of the literature on the American Cancer Society’s Website; it calls the research findings “mixed”:

    The most in-depth investigation into the medical use of marijuana was authorized by the U.S. Government in 1997....

    First, it found that scientific data indicate that cannabinoids, particularly THC, have some potential to relieve pain, control nausea and vomiting, and stimulate appetite. Cannabinoids probably affect control of movement and memory, but their effects on the immune system are unclear. It found that some of the effects of cannabinoids, such as reduced anxiety, sedation, and euphoria, may be helpful for certain patients and situations and undesirable for others. Based on the many studies reviewed, researchers also found that smoking marijuana delivers harmful substances and may be an important risk factor in the development of lung diseases and certain types of cancer. The IOM stated that because marijuana contains a number of active compounds, it cannot be expected to provide precise effects unless the individual components are isolated.

    The National Multiple Sclerosis Society’s Website offers this:

    There is a very real need for additional therapies to treat stubborn and often painful symptoms of MS. However, based on the studies to date -- and the fact that long-term use of marijuana may be associated with significant, serious side effects -- it is the opinion of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society's Medical Advisory Board that there are currently insufficient data to recommend marijuana or its derivatives as a treatment for MS symptoms. Research is continuing to determine if there is a possible role for marijuana or its derivatives in the treatment of MS. In the meantime, other well tested, FDA-approved drugs are available (including baclofen and tizanidine) to reduce spasticity in MS.

    Why does this bug me so much? It always bugs me when some group of true believers tries to foist its views on the public in the guise of science (e.g., "creation science"). This is especially pernicious when it involves selling phony remedies for real diseases (or real drugs for phony diseases). Yes, the Food and Drug Administration is a highly imperfect agency. But it’s all we’ve got -- and a considerable advancement over the deadly unregulated market, which the Pure Food and Drugs Act replaced more than a hundred years ago. I don’t know what you call it when a doctor “recommends” smoking a dried plant (perhaps under a brand name like “Afghan Gold Seal”) at a lounge where the dosage and purity of the active ingredient cannot be systematically controlled. It sure doesn’t sound like medicine to me. Of course, laws like California’s, which, in practice, permit people to get pot for practically any purported malady under the sun, show that the medical rationale is a cover for recreational use. I note that a Denver alternative newspaper recently posted an ad for a “medical marijuana" reviewer.

    “Medical marijuana” is obviously a Trojan horse for legalization of pot as a recreational drug. In a democracy, people should pursue their policy objectives openly, not under false pretenses. In that respect, I thought that the attorney general created a certain amount of inevitable confusion when he announced his non-prosecution policy toward consumers and sellers of pot under state “medical marijuana” laws, while continuing to pursue large-scale traffickers and growers. Is marijuana a sometimes-therapeutic substance, as the AG implied by referring to “medical marijuana” smokers as “patients,” and those who provide pot to them as “caregivers” following "treatment regimens?" Or does pot have “no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States” as federal law provides -- and, I would add, the evidence suggests? To be sure, the Justice Department's directive to prosecutors focused on individuals with "cancer or other serious illnesses" who are complying with state law. But since many people who don't have cancer or anything close to it are getting high under medical pretenses, plenty of ambiguity remains.

    By Charles Lane
    October 23, 2009
    Washington Post

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  1. chillinwill
    Charles Lane at The Washington Post stepped in it big time yesterday with an awful piece that literally had to be edited after publication for shocking insensitivity. Now he's returned with another, falling back on the desperate argument that medical marijuana is a Trojan Horse for recreational legalization.

    Listen, medical marijuana isn't a trick and it's pathetic to pretend that the people trying to legalize marijuana are behaving surreptitiously when we've been screaming "legalize marijuana" at the top of our lungs for a damn long time now. You can't blame us for the fact that the medical marijuana debate necessarily serves to illustrate so much about the absurdity of marijuana prohibition as a whole. Nor does it in any way undermine our credibility when we place the interests of seriously ill patients before those of casual users when setting our political priorities.

    Critics of medical marijuana advocacy often accuse us of demanding unusual regulatory exceptions for marijuana, complaining that it hasn’t been approved by the FDA and that the whole concept of medicine by referendum is absurd, as though there exists any other path for us to take. It really shouldn’t be necessary to explain all the ways in which endemic and entrenched anti-pot prejudice across numerous government agencies renders preposterous any notion that we could just play this out by the usual rules. We've been trying that for decades now and we get cheated at every turn, so you can save your appeals to procedure.

    Marijuana can't be treated like other medicines, because it's nothing like them. It was here first and it's vastly cheaper, safer, and more versatile than its modern pharmaceutical counterparts. It's a bush that just grows out of the ground and what we want is for the government to stop arresting people who've found ways to use it. There's nothing even the least bit complicated or disingenuous about that.

    Those who now lament the cascading political momentum of medical marijuana as some sort of grand conspiracy have it exactly backwards. Marijuana was prohibited through a vicious series of outrageous lies and perversions of science. We all know the history of racism, demagoguery, and blind hysteria that somehow turned a helpful plant into a scary satanic deathbush. From the very beginning, there has never been a time when any of this made sense. To now stand proudly atop the pedestal of prohibition while questioning our credibility and our motives is just insane.

    Yes, there is a massive lie at the center of this debate, but we're not the ones telling it. The drug war itself is the true Trojan Horse that masquerades as a symbol of health and safety, while harboring destruction within its folds.

    by Scott Morgan
    October 22, 2009
    Stop the Drug War Chronicle Blog
  2. EscapeDummy
    What a joke - he uses a 1997 government study on weed, rather than the dozens that have been done by independent researchers, and people on both sides of the spectrum that have come out in the past few years?

    And, I believe he acknowledged in the original article that weed is "no worse" than alcohol or tobacco - so, can he explain what's wrong with it being recreational??
  3. Master_Khan
    Marijuana definitely needs to be moved off schedule 1, say down to schedule 4 or 5. If I was President it would be in aisle nine of every CVS between the Q-Tips and the cough drops, but since I ain't runnin for Prez, I guess we take baby steps......sigh.
  4. everytingirie
    I completely support the use of medical marijuana by seriously ill patients. I also support the outright legalization of cannabis. There are certainly a huge number of sufferers who's symptoms are alleviated by the use of marijuana. I am very happy about the legislation in fourteen of the United States (some more so than others), and I hope that more states can pass legislation, even if very conservative in number and variety of patients it covers.

    With all this said, I do feel as though we are going about this in the completely wrong manner. Why are we prescribing a plant that is smoked? Obviously, there are significantly safer ways of consumption. Perhaps if only edibles were available, or extracts? This seems a bit more logical.

    Even better yet, instead of --or maybe even in addition to-- these concentrated extracts, designed to be consumed orally, we should actually isolate each individual cannabinoid contained within the cannabis plant. From there, we can begin to study how each individual cannabinoid effects the body. The doctors can then prescribe the appropriate isolated cannabinoid, or even derivatives of those isolates, for the condition. In this manner, we are able to more effectively treat the patients individual condition with fewer side effects, while simultaneously providing the patient with a much more convenient route of administration.

    Granted, there are some circumstances in which the patient might be unable to afford their medicines. These sufferers perhaps don't have health insurance. Without insurance, should these chronically ill patients have to continue to suffer? If the marijuana these patients grew I completely support the use of medical marijuana by seriously ill patients. I also support the outright legalization of cannabis. There are certainly a huge number of sufferers who's symptoms are alleviated by the use of marijuana. I am very happy about the legislation in fourteen of the United States (some more so than others), and I hope that more states can pass legislation, even if very conservative in number and variety of patients it covers.

    As I mentioned earlier, I support both the legalization of medical marijuana (and isolates&derivatives), and the outright legalization of cannabis for all purposes. Because of this, I have chosen to take a somewhat pragmatic view on the issue. If legalizing medical marijuana, which must be done, leads to the further liberalization of the laws surrounding the plant, then why not support medical marijuana? I must admit, even if I did not even remotely care about the medical uses of marijuana, I would surely know that legalizing medical marijuana could lead to outright legalization, and would thus support it.

    Wow, that's longer than I had originally planned.
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