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The War On Drugs

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Michigan is now ground zero for the latest skirmish in the interminable political fixation with drugs. It seems our medical marijuana law, easily passed by the voters, has created considerable angst among our elected leaders who were opposed to the idea in the first place.


Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette just can’t figure it out. Nor is he having much success abiding by the will of the voters.


To be fair, the ballot proposition passed is more than a little muddled. It has put local law enforcement agencies in the difficult position of trying to both decipher and enforce medical marijuana laws that are neither clear nor especially easy to enforce. Or not enforce, whichever the case may be.


The idea seemed simple enough – allow people with certain, somewhat specific medical ailments to use marijuana as medicine. It would require a prescription from a licensed doctor. In some instances it works as an appetite enhancer for those undergoing chemotherapy. Or it can work effectively, for some, as a palliative. It releases pressure in the eyes for some glaucoma patients. It has legitimate, peerreviewed utility as medicine.



Other people could become caregivers, licensed by the state to grow marijuana and sell to a limited number of “patients.”


So, a person with a doctor’s prescription for marijuana would obtain it from a licensed caregiver. It all seemed so reasonable.


It was Schuette and other politicians who helped create the confusion from the beginning, offering up wild notions of the killer weed and how it turns neighborhoods of God-fearing folk into drug-addled fiends. It was as if some surreal modern day version of “Reefer Madness” was playing right before our very eyes.


It’s another foolish sideshow in a war on drugs we’ve been losing every day since Richard Nixon announced the modern version of this circus in 1969. So far, we’ve spent more than $1 trillion in this lost cause. Last year alone, the federal government wasted another $15 billion and states squandered $25 billion on a war that cannot be won the way we’re fighting it.


Into this environment came medical marijuana. Sixteen states now have medical marijuana laws and most seem to have figured out a way to make them work. There have been issues, including fraud and abuse, but not beyond those which were anticipated.


The public understands what the politicians refuse to accept – the war on drugs doesn’t work and marijuana, while not completely benign, is certainly safer than nearly every other drug, legal or not.


In 2009, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 15,000 Americans died from abusing illegal drugs. That includes heroin, cocaine, methamphetamines and all the rest. Marijuana, by the way, accounted for zero deaths.


That same year, the abuse of legal prescription drugs killed about 40,000 Americans. Prescription drugs took at least another 80,000 due to adverse drug interactions, dosage mistakes and other human errors not associated with abuse.


Alcohol, another legal drug, accounted for about 80,000 deaths.


Tobacco, also legal, is the granddaddy of all deadly substances, killing some 400,000 Americans.


It is as clear as it can be that illegal drugs are the very least of our drug-related problems and marijuana is at the very bottom of the dangerous drug list.


Marijuana has not been proven to be addictive despite claims to the contrary. It has not been proven to be a so-called gateway drug, leading the user to need ever-stronger drugs, despite claims to the contrary. It has not been shown to directly lead to violence though drug trafficking, especially in Mexico and including the marijuana trade, is plenty violent. There is not a single documented case of anyone ever having died from a marijuana overdose.


We should, however, be clear – there is no such thing as a safe drug. Marijuana, like nearly every other drug, is especially unsafe for young people whose brains and bodies are still developing. There is ample evidence it can retard adolescent IQs and executive decision-making capabilities. There is also evidence it inhibits normal testicular development in pubescent boys which one would think would be sufficient discouragement from use by itself.


The debate over the interpretation of Michigan’s law and the rhetoric about the safety and efficacy of marijuana are really just smokescreens. We should, instead, be debating how we can best change our approach to drug abuse, whether the drugs are legal or not, away from the criminal justice system and into the public health arena.


We know, for example, that fully half of those in the federal prison system have been convicted of or pleaded guilty to nonviolent drug offenses. That is an especially expensive and ineffective way to confront the issue.


In Michigan, the discussion should be how to implement a law the voters approved, not how to keep finding ways to subvert it.


The anti-marijuana crowd can spew all the horror stories and scare tactics they want. None of it will change the facts. For some, medical marijuana is a lifeline, the only thing they’ve found to relieve their chronic pain or allow them a chance to eat without overwhelming nausea.


It is an ongoing mystery why it is considered acceptable to prescribe these patients incredibly potent drugs that might relieve their suffering but might also kill them, but it is not acceptable to prescribe them marijuana, which might relieve their suffering but might also give them the munchies.


The voters of Michigan have spoken on medical marijuana and wisely so. It’s time for our leaders to find a way to make the law work so patients can receive the medicine to which they are entitled. The song and dance now being done by politicians to abdicate their responsibility just makes them look dopey.



Edited by AlternativeSolutionsPlus
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