Is the pot black, or just the kettle of fish?
Reefer, cannabis, marijuana, Mary Jane, pot, Bud...whatever you want to call it, may be in your face or in your backyard soon. The questions are limitless.
· Should it be totally legalized for recreational use?
· Is it a medical necessity?
· How can it be controlled?
· Should it be taxed?
Would it help the free market, provide jobs, and help pay off a state's debt? Or could it be a funding source for education, roads, or providing mental health?
Is it the responsibility of the government to tell us what we should ingest?
Is prohibition working?
Marijuana and its legality is the latest fad for state governments to choose whether to pass legislation for health matters, decriminalize small amounts, or legalize, regulate and sin tax it to improve the coffers of the state.
In 1970, Title 21 of Federal Code defined cannabis as a Schedule I Controlled Substance.
Substances in this schedule have no currently accepted medical use in the United States, a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision, and a high potential for abuse.
Some examples of substances listed in Schedule I are: heroin, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), marijuana (cannabis), peyote, methaqualone, and 3, 4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine ("Ecstasy").
Now, fast forward 40 years and we have been able to prove that there is some accepted medical use.
Individual states are passing the legislation with the blessing of the federal government, as long as it is regulated. Each can determine their own needs, based on evidence and lobbyists to control a substance that has been a street drug for an entire generation.
As of now there are 20 states and the District of Columbia that have passed legislation allowing marijuana to be used for medical use; only Colorado and Washington State have passed laws for recreational use.
During the 2014 state legislative hearings, there is many more voting to join in.
Maryland passed legislation last year that will make medical marijuana available through academic medical centers and research centers, although this may not be possible before 2015.
This year in Maryland’s General Assembly, HB881 and SB923 corrects the previous bill, permitting certifying physicians to prescribe marijuana to qualifying patients, with chronic or debilitating diseases or medical conditions listed in this bill.
Unfortunately, the language with the first bill served to do little for the cause and was not forecasted as such. The correction has passed the House of Delegates and is making its way to the Senate.
The Senate also passed SB364 to decriminalize the use or possession of up to 10 grams. The fine for this would be up to $100, can be prepaid, will not be listed in the state Judiciary site, and for the most part is being treated like a traffic ticket.
A similar House Bill HB879 proposed civil fines up to one ounce.
Still, there are concerns that there is no recourse for those who don't pay the fine.
The House will hear this bill tomorrow.
Other bills include legalizing use for adults 21 and over, mimicking alcohol regulations and other legalization efforts. Even if this bill does not pass the muster, we will surely be hearing this again in 2015.
Maryland is behind on many things, but you can be sure if California moves forward with legalization, we will be right behind them; maybe the Colorado revenue will be enough to encourage passage.
Through referendum, Colorado passed legalization, bundling it with school construction and sales tax. January alone netted $2 million in taxes from marijuana sales for recreational use and $1.5 million in medical use. These numbers are hard to argue, as reported in USA Today.
One thing for sure, this is a non-partisan issue and based on personal preference and medical advancements.
Meanwhile in Frederick County, we have several politicians and groups dealing with a climbing heroin market.
Education is the best policy when creating safety for others and preventing death, which is much more certain with a few other Schedule 1 Controlled Substances. No one chooses to be an addict, and there are affects that make pain medications gateway drugs, yet they are prescribed often.
Not to sound like proposing the 1970s subliminal messaging is the right way to go, but surely we are onto something by studying the effects of infused products, regulation, legalization, and the differences of the medical and recreational pot differences.
With that in mind, marijuana may be a better alternative to pain. Maybe it is better than prescription medications for ADHD or bi-polar disorder, which was relieved for years by self medication usage.
If you are fond of natural products, eastern medicine, or alternatives to synthetics, this is a great idea. After all, how many legal medications have the Food and Drug Administration had to pull from markets?
It seems we have another grand experiment in the works. The choice will be yours to say no or to try it. Maybe it is not for you, but maybe it could add years onto someone's life, or helps you make it through a miserable day of pain.
There are so many unknowns. Let's keep the discussion going.
If you need immediate help please call the 24-hour Crisis and Intervention Hot Line by dialing 211 or the Frederick County Health Department at 301-600-1029. If this is a life-threatening emergency, dial 911. To find out what education events are happening in Frederick County or for more information, visit www.FrederickCountyMD.gov/drugawareness.
Retraining my brain for the future, conferring with the past...