Pubdate: Fri, 29 Oct 2004
Source: Billings Gazette, The (MT)
Copyright: 2004 The Billings Gazette
Author: Judy Martz
Cited: Initiative 148 ( )
Cited: Office of National Drug Control Policy ( )
Bookmark: (Opinion)
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)


On Tuesday, Montana voters will cast their vote on many issues,
including Initiative I-148, the Montana Medical Marijuana Act. I would
encourage a no vote on this initiative. Ballot initiatives such as
this ignore the prevention efforts of the many community anti-drug
coalitions throughout the state, give the false impression that
marijuana is a benign drug, and discount the medicinal alternatives

Most of us know a loved one who has suffered from chronic illness, and
wouldn't want to deny them any possible relief. You can obtain legally
and without guilt, a pill containing marijuana's active ingredient.
It's called Marinol and was approved by the FDA in 1985. The U.S. Drug
Enforcement Administration even lowered the scheduling on Marinol to
make it easier for doctors to prescribe the drug.

Smoking 'crude weed'

We support the right of doctors to prescribe this drug if they feel it
would best serve their patients' needs. This fact leaves the marijuana
legalizers in the awkward and exposed position of trying to explain
why smoking a crude weed is superior to a pill or other nonsmoking
delivery systems in development.

To quote Andrea Barthwell, M.D., deputy director for demand reduction,
Office of National Drug Control Policy, "In light of these
scientifically proven medicinal alternatives, the idea of telling
suffering patients that the best we can do for them is to encourage
them to inhale the hot smoke of a burning weed seems medieval at best."

Efforts to promote the myth of "medical" marijuana severely dilute the
message that marijuana is dangerous and can have serious consequences.
Marijuana is the most widely used illicit drug in America. It is much
more powerful today than it was 30 years ago, and so are its
mind-altering effects. In fact, according to the 2003 National Survey
on Drug Use and Health, about 52 percent of youth treatment cases were
for marijuana use.

Further, results from a Montana Youth Risk Behavior Survey Report of
2003 shows that 44 percent of high school students have used marijuana
at some point in their lives. And, the same survey reports that the
median age of first use of marijuana was 11-12 years old. This is
unacceptable, and passage of I-148 will only exacerbate this problem.

Pressure-group politics

Since 1996, nine states have passed medical marijuana laws. According
to the 2002 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse, all of these
states are well above the national average in terms of drug addiction
and use and occupy three of the top four slots, and six of the top 10
slots in ranking of drug addiction and abuse.

Why is it so important that Montanans reject this proposal? The
reasons go to the very foundation of our medical system, which relies
on science, not easily manipulated public opinion, to determine what
medicines are safe and effective. Endorsing smoked marijuana turns our
modern, hundred-year-old medical system on its head, allowing pressure
group politics rather than medical judgment to determine what is safe
and effective, and sends a misleading and dangerous message about
marijuana to our children.

Simply stated there is no compelling scientific evidence that smoking
marijuana relieves the myriad of ailments that its proponents claim.

Further, proponents often cite the 1999 Institute of Medicine Report
to validate their claim that marijuana has medicinal uses. However,
the IOM report also states that in spite of any medicinal value that
marijuana may have, "because of the health risks associated with
smoking, smoking marijuana should generally not be recommended for
long-term medicinal use ... we see little future in smoked marijuana
as a medicine."

Montana voters want to make decisions that are right for their
communities, but to do so they must have accurate information. Please
check the facts on I-148. Legalizing the use of medicinal marijuana
ignores prevention and public safety issues and will have a
deleterious effect on youth and communities throughout the state. I
would urge you to vote no on Initiative I-148. 
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