Medical Marijuana and Responsiveness
State Sen. David Brinkley (R., Frederick/Carroll) has introduced his medical marijuana bill again this year. At cursory glance, this might not seem like a big deal. The senator makes an impassioned plea that he’s trying to help people who are suffering from cancer and other debilitating illnesses by easing their pain.
However, Senator Brinkley fails to recognize several unintended consequences that occur with marijuana usage.
The issue has already gained national notice from pro-legalization groups and celebrities like Montel Williams. These lobbies are powerful, have lots of money to spend and attract media attention from all over the country. Let’s hope that our elected officials fully understand what legalization would do to impact life in Maryland.
The United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) provides more than two dozen reasons why medical marijuana is a bad idea in their article “Exposing the Myth of Smoked Medical Marijuana.”
The DEA states that “marijuana is an addictive drug that has both short-term and long-term effects, including memory loss, distorted perception, trouble with thinking and problem solving, loss of motor skills, decrease in muscle strength, increased heart rate and anxiety.” Additionally, “studies show that someone who smokes five joints per week may be taking in as many cancer-causing chemicals as someone who smokes a full pack of cigarettes every day.”
In many cases, there are alternative drug therapies already on the market and available for pain management and the treatment of symptoms related to chronic illnesses.
The DEA’s article goes on to state: “It's also important to realize that the campaign to allow marijuana to be used as medicine is a tactical maneuver in an overall strategy to completely legalize all drugs.”
Yet another unintended consequence is that I’m sure most citizens don’t want all drugs legalized due to public health and safety concerns. There is already a serious enough problem with illicit drug use. The correlation between drug usage and crime cannot be overlooked. We certainly don’t need more addicts roaming our streets and committing additional crimes to score a temporary high. What happens when the dispensary is closed and the medical marijuana user needs a fix? Do they look into scoring some cocaine or heroin instead?
And speaking of public safety, how will the potential legalization of marijuana for medicinal purposes impact law enforcement and its never-ending war on drugs? How will an officer determine if a person is driving impaired or simply driving under the influence of medical marijuana? Does the driver lose culpability by presenting a prescription from a doctor during the traffic stop? I certainly hope not.
The facts are simple. Marijuana is a drug. It is addictive. It has an adverse impact on the body of the user.
There are alternatives that are less addictive, and currently legal, to help patients deal with illness. This is not a positive step for Maryland to make and I hope that our legislators will consider all of these concerns before rushing to judgment and supporting Senator Brinkley’s bill.
If you are also against legalizing medical marijuana in Maryland, I urge you to contact your elected officials. A list of the Frederick County delegation members and their contact information can be found here: http://www.msa.md.gov/msa/mdmanual/07leg/html/gacofr.html.
I contacted my delegates and state senator about this very topic and was impressed with their prompt responses. A member of Sen. Ron Young’s legislative staff responded within mere minutes of receiving my e-mail.
Both Del. Galen Clagett and Del. Patrick Hogan responded within one day. Delegate Hogan’s response was the most thorough. He stated that he will not take a position until he has more information about the bill. He acknowledged that he has “supported certain medical marijuana measures in the past, but this is obviously a much more sweeping piece of legislation.” He said that he “may have concerns with the way the system is set up.”
Let’s hope that the concerns outweigh the benefits if this comes to a vote.
[Editor’s Note: The text of Senator Brinkley’s bill can be found here: http://mlis.state.md.us/2011rs/bills/sb/sb0308f.pdf ]