Pubdate: Mon, 03 Sep 2012
Source: Walla Walla Union-Bulletin (WA)
Copyright: 2012 Walla Walla Union-Bulletin
Author: Kim Marie Thorburn


As the former Spokane Regional Health director, I appreciate the
concern over the current medical marijuana mess ("Treat medical
marijuana like all prescriptions," Union-Bulletin editorial Aug. 27).
However, I do not believe rescheduling the marijuana plant will solve
many problems.

The overwhelming majority of marijuana use is for pleasure, not
therapeutic relief.

During alcohol Prohibition, whiskey became medicinal. Today "medical"
marijuana offers some legal cover for adults who do not wish to be
arrested and jailed for their recreational marijuana use. The question
is whether cracking down and making more arrests is an effective way
to address marijuana use.

Decades of experience with marijuana prohibition prove that hardening
our approach is not effective. Even though marijuana arrests have
skyrocketed from less than a third of all illegal drug arrests to more
than half, its use has not gone down. We should not expect different
results from tightening up medical marijuana laws.

I am careful about my use of the term "gateway drug." The scientific
literature indicates that early use of any forbidden substance,
including alcohol and tobacco, is a red flag for later problems.

The correlation has more to do with young people experiencing life
problems without adequate social support and coping skills than
pharmacological properties.

When it comes to marijuana, there is also the confounding problem that
its prohibition makes it available only from sellers who may offer
other harder drugs.

As explained by the Institute of Medicine report "Marijuana and
Medicine: Assessing the Science Base" (2003), the gateway drug theory
is properly understood as a social theory; it "does not suggest that
the pharmacological qualities of marijuana make it a risk factor for
progression to other drug use. Instead, the legal status of marijuana
makes it a gateway drug."

We know what works to prevent and delay marijuana use by young people:
Public education and evidence-based prevention programs. Such programs
exist but are underfunded.

According to the state Office of Financial Management, bringing
marijuana out of the black market and under regulatory control, as
Initiative 502 proposes, could generate as much as $1.9 billion in new
tax revenue over the next five years. Over $100 million would go to
public health education and youth drug prevention strategies each year.

Kim Marie Thorburn

Cosponsor of Initiative 502

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