Pubdate: Wed, 02 Jul 2003
Source: Washington Times (DC)
Copyright: 2003 News World Communications, Inc.
Author: Robert Weiner and Amy Rieth
Note: Robert Weiner, a public affairs consultant, is a former public affairs
director for the White House Drug Policy Office (1995-2001) and former
communications director for the House Narcotics Committee (1986-1990).
Amy Rieth, a sophomore at North Carolina State University, is an
advocate of drug-free communities.
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)


Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrlich recently signed legislation into law allowing 
patients using medical marijuana, if taken to trial, to raise an 
"affirmative defense of medical necessity."

Now, as long as the patient successfully shows that his or her use of 
marijuana is for medical purposes, the maximum fine allowed would be a mere 
$100. Canada has also changed its marijuana policy, with the courts 
allowing "medical" use, the government's creating an Office of Cannabis 
Medical Access and punishing possession of small amounts of marijuana with 
a lesser fine, similar to a traffic ticket.

Since 1996, eight states preceded Maryland in liberalizing or outright 
legalizing medical use of marijuana or even the so-called harder drugs for 
medicinal purposes: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, 
Oregon and Washington.

Let's look at the truth here. Legislation permitting the use of medical 
marijuana is a wedge for those who support drug legalization, undeniably 
because they desire the high. California found that very few people going 
to medical marijuana clinics were terminally ill; the vast majority were 
simply potheads who wanted dope.

It is ironic that advocates for legalizing marijuana to help poor, 
suffering and pain-stricken individuals do not support the drug in other 
forms such as patches, suppositories, aerosols, or pill form. They only 
push for the smoked form of marijuana.

Legalization advocates argue that marijuana helps cure severe headaches, 
glaucoma and even Parkinson's disease, and say it prevents nausea, reduces 
pain, sparks the appetite, reduces muscle spasms and decreases eye fluid 
pressure in glaucoma cases. However, glaucoma treatment is actually just 
delayed by marijuana, not helped. Medical marijuana is no better than 
medical gin -- taking a shot of it blurs the pain and makes you hungry, 
too. Marijuana is not a miracle drug. It does not cure anything.

Science, not politics, and not "high hopes," should determine what is safe 
and effective medicine. Certainly, hot, burning smoke in someone's throat 
is not it. In comparison to tobacco, Dr. Zuo-Feng Zhang of UCLA's Jonsson 
Cancer Center points out that "the carcinogens in marijuana are much 
stronger than those in tobacco." At the same time, smoking marijuana can 
lead to tachycardia, a serious increase in heart rate, often accompanied by 
an increase in blood pressure. Concentration, motor coordination, memory, 
lungs and reproductive and immune systems are all adversely impacted by 
marijuana use, according to the National Institutes of Health.

In 1996, the California ballot initiative passed, making the state the 
first to remove criminal penalties for qualifying patients who grow, 
possess and use medical marijuana. But such initiatives are funded by 
people like George Soros, who has contributed more than $15 million to 
initiatives and propositions pushing for drug legalization (currently, 
federal and most state campaign laws do not limit personal contributions 
for initiatives, only candidate races).

The answer to the war on drugs does not lie in decriminalizing marijuana. 
Doing so could very well mean heading down a dangerous path that will 
likely require societal and legislative corrections in the future. Do we 
really want to reproduce problems of the '70s and '80s, when drug use and 
crime were at their highest?

An annual survey of 100,000 students shows, surprising to legalization 
advocates, that marijuana is disproportionately involved in crime and 
violence. Marijuana is also the most used drug for which teens seek 
treatment, surpassing alcohol. In fact, more teens seek treatment 
nationally for marijuana than all other drugs combined.

Today, drug use in our country is half of what it was in the late '70s and 
early '80s; cocaine use is down by 70 percent, and crime is at all-time 
lows. Legalization of medical marijuana will immediately lead to increased 
availability of the drug and deflated attitudes about its dangers. This, in 
turn, will bring increased usage. Is this what our country wants? More 
people using and even becoming dependent on marijuana, especially if they 
start taking the drug compulsively, as would most likely be the case for 
medicinal purposes? Making drugs more available is not a solution, but an 
aggravation of the problem.

Marijuana does not meet the scientific requirements for efficacy, quality, 
purity and safety necessary to be considered medicine. How can anyone 
consider it compassionate or medically responsible to prescribe harmful 
substances to ill people and delude them into thinking they are improving 
their health? The American Medical Association, the Federal Drug 
Enforcement Administration, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, the 
American Glaucoma Society, the American Academy of Ophthalmology and the 
American Cancer Society have all rejected the use of smoked marijuana as 
medicine. The rest of America should do the same.
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