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My view: Marijuana is not a medicine

By George Chapman

For the Deseret News

Published: Wednesday, March 2 2016 12:00 a.m. MST

FILE — Senator Mark Madsen testifies before the committee to consider proposals that would amend Utah law to permit the use of marijuana or marijuana products for medical purposes, Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2015, in Salt Lake City.

Tom Smart, Deseret News

Enlarge photo»

Sen. Mark Madsen’s SB073 medical marijuana bill is now in the House. The pro-medical marijuana group contends that it is for those in pain and suffering. The bill has been changed to only allow pills or oils extracted from the whole plant. Ironically, there is a vigorous illegal economy in extracting oils from whole plant marijuana to increase the THC, the main hallucinogenic compound in marijuana.

There is good evidence that allowing medical marijuana in medicine cabinets will result in giving more teens access to marijuana just like pills in medicine cabinets can be easily taken by family teenagers.

SB073 allows driving under the influence of marijuana (defense for marijuana in system can be using the “cannabis pursuant to Utah law or the law of another state”). Although marijuana may not be ingested in public view or while operating a motor vehicle, the wording allows operating a vehicle after ingesting the “cannabis.”

Sen. Madsen’s bill allows children to be exposed to drug use since child welfare is not allowed to remove a child from a home where it is used. It prohibits “a court from discriminating against a parent using it in a child custody case based on the parent’s lawful possession or use of cannabis product.”

In Colorado, there has been a jump in marijuana related traffic fatalities. There is no nationwide standard to test for impaired driving under THC influence. Recent court cases have thrown out charges because there is no good roadside sobriety test for marijuana. In one recent case, the person charged with impaired driving in Colorado claimed that marijuana helped her pain and therefore it made her a safer driver. The jury found her innocent!

There is a lot of anecdotal evidence that says marijuana has significant medicinal properties. But rigorous and peer reviewed scientific studies are lacking. We don't really know if using just cannabidiol or all of the plant will have negative effects on patients or their pregnancy or babies. Attempting to get around the rigorous FDA requirements and legalize the drug ignores the reason why the FDA is so strict. The disastrous outcomes of using thalidomide and DES are good reasons to not try to go around FDA oversight. What happens if cannabidiol turns out to have dangerous effects on unborn children of pregnant women? Will medical insurance companies be pressured into paying for marijuana and will insurance cover any injuries or negative effects of using marijuana? Will doctors be sued for prescribing it? Will smoking or vaping the cannabis oil result in significant lung disease in the future? It took over a hundred years before we acknowledged the dangers of smoking tobacco.

There is also anecdotal evidence that seems to suggest that marijuana may be a gateway drug. But it does not prove that it is a gateway drug just as it does not prove that marijuana is a medicine. Anecdotal stories should not set policy. Another argument is that people have safely used marijuana for hundreds of years. Tobacco was also used for centuries and was even considered to be a medicine at one time.

Almost anyone will be able to get a prescription for marijuana since the bill allows it to treat a condition which “substantially impairs the individual’s quality of life.” It also allows “compassionate use.”

The main reason against legalizing marijuana use, even for medicinal purposes, is that it will increase the number of incapacitated drivers on our roads. Many more innocent people will be killed and injured. We should be making our roads safer, not more unsafe. Legalizing medical marijuana has too many questions and potential negatives. Sen. Madsen’s SB073 medical marijuana bill should not pass the Legislature.

George Chapman is a former candidate for mayor of Salt Lake City.

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