Pubdate: Wed, 06 Mar 2013
Source: Bradenton Herald (FL)
Copyright: 2013 Bradenton Herald
Author: Rita Chamberlain
Note: Rita Chamberlain, is the associate director of the Manatee 
County Substance Abuse Coalition.
Page: 6


Everyone has an opinion on marijuana legalization. We can disagree 
about whether or not legalization would result in a net benefit or 
net harm to our community, but revealing only half-truths is no way 
to have a reasoned debate on this issue.

The Manatee County Substance Abuse Coalition's position is this:

An Federal Drug Administration process currently exists to get 
effective drugs into the healthcare system. Marijuana should not be exempted.

The U.S. has had to scale back on other drugs historically touted as 
"safe and/or effective" when they were pushed into society without 
regard to public health factors, e.g. opiates. Let's not go down the 
same road with marijuana.

MCSAC unequivocally supports law enforcement's efforts to do their 
job as required by law.

Compassion is an admirable trait: It is not a substitute for 
reasonable discourse on the facts.

In our work on this issue, MCSAC has learned two things:

1. There is a desperate need for data-based information looking at 
marijuana in the context of a pharmaceutical medication.

2. No matter how data-dry and context-bias-free we present marijuana 
information, passionate people hear what they want to hear.

With this in mind, we will not recite the compelling data, statistics 
and research against marijuana legalization (check out our website at But pro or con, we must consider the public 
health impacts of marijuana legalized for medical purposes.

Second-hand smoke: From the viewpoint of a pair of lungs there is no 
difference between marijuana and cigarettes, with some exceptions: 
the "active" ingredient is different (nicotine for one, THC for the 
other) and marijuana is classically smoked without a filter (meaning 
the carcinogens and tars/particulates are more concentrated). 
Ignoring the issue of second-hand smoke, as tobacco interests 
discovered, will not make it go away.

Substance abuse/mental health implications: Recent, high-quality, 
long-term, robust research involving thousands and thousands of 
people over generations of time, in several populations and 
countries, has shown that marijuana use leads to a measurable 
increase in the future development of schizophrenia -- even when 
controlling for family and environment. While most people are 
concerned about the long-term implications of marijuana use for 
addiction and crime (and these are real concerns), we cannot ignore 
the linkage between marijuana and schizophrenia. Shouldn't funding 
for treatment be part of the cost of legalization?

Driving while high: This is a complicated topic, clinically, because 
while data is clear that people who drive while high are definitely 
impaired, the question is how long someone is impaired after using 
marijuana. Enforcement of drugged driving must be addressed in any 
marijuana legalization proposal.

Childproofing: Isn't it just common sense to ask adults to childproof 
their mind-altering and coma-inducing (in children) medications? We 
cannot ignore how marijuana is marketed and how it is sold, e.g., 
classic pill-type bottles vs. bags. Legitimate legislation must take 
into account, as it does for all other drugs, the entire delivery process.

Teen protection: Research has taught us that exposure to 
potentially-addictive substances at an earlier age leads to more 
addiction to the substance and worse long-term outcomes. Explicit 
language to fund and develop reasonable monitoring mechanisms on 
sales must be included if we care about the health of young people.

Quality control: Serious and widespread quality and safety issues 
abound with marijuana. The potential for widespread adulteration in 
any product sold by weight is very high -- what's really in it, 
sprayed on it, etc.? What about contamination with molds and bacteria 
for people with serious health concerns?

We are not denying there is medicinal value in cannabinoids, but 
smoked crude marijuana is not modern medicine. Cocaine and opium both 
have medicinal properties but physicians do not recommend snorting a 
line of cocaine or smoking opium. Legislation cannot ignore the need 
for quality handling procedures and FDA monitoring and oversight.

In the interests of full disclosure, MCSAC voted unanimously in 2012 
to oppose any attempt to legalize marijuana in Florida.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom