Marijuana not a safe or effective medicine

Peter Bensinger is former administrator, of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and former director of the Illinois Department of Corrections. Andrea Barthwell is former deputy director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

The marijuana bill the Illinois legislature is considering does away with the Food and Drug Administration process, and the legislature assumes the role of the FDA.

The FDA has concluded that marijuana has a high potential for abuse, has no accepted medical use and lacks an acceptable level of safety even under medical supervision. The FDA has approved Marinol, which is not smoked, but is marijuana in pill form.

Over a century ago, people bought all sorts of stuff from salesmen selling heroin, cocaine, marijuana — out of the back of a wagon. Often called Snake Oil Salesmen, they sold products touted as painkillers.

We had almost 3 million heroin addicts in the early 1900s. The Harrison Narcotics Act passed in 1914, then the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, the FDA was established and Charles Walgreen opened a drugstore.

Today people know where they can get medicine approved by the FDA as safe and effective — at drugstores — and manufacturers list the ingredients, directions, side effects and warnings. This bill would make medical marijuana available to 18 year olds, but it won’t be with a prescription or at a drugstore.

Marijuana as medicine means more use and more abuse. Each cardholder can get 2.5 ounces of marijuana every 14 days (2.5 ounces makes 183 joints). Medical marijuana cardholders will either sell their marijuana or give it to others. This is not debatable; this will happen. Based upon Michigan’s experience, Illinois could expect more than 270,000 medical marijuana cardholders.

Research documents that regular users of marijuana have twice the motor vehicle crashes as non-users. In Colorado, since medical marijuana was introduced, the number of drivers causing fatal motor vehicle crashes testing positive for marijuana has more than tripled.

Substance Abuse Treatment centers for children report marijuana as the leading cause for admission. Marijuana is second only to alcohol at adult substance abuse treatment centers.

Illinois employers responsible for a safe work environment prohibit employees from coming to work under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs. Employers would now have new problems dealing with employees and applicants using marijuana. Can employers maintain a safe work environment when people with marijuana in their system come to work under the influence or stoned, threatening the safety of the workplace and co-workers?

Since when is smoking good for your health? Marijuana is fat soluble and stays in the fatty tissues and the brain 75 times longer than a drink of alcohol.

If smoked marijuana is good for cancer, glaucoma and multiple sclerosis patients, why do national associations representing these patients oppose marijuana as medicine? The legislation sponsors argue that marijuana can provide relief from those suffering untreatable pain, but as the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled on January 22 “no adequate and well controlled studies exist on marijuana’s medical efficacy.”

This is about whether Illinois citizens want the legislature to decide on how to approve and dispense medicine instead of the FDA. The medical marijuana lobby has put together myths and money that will not make for a safe or healthier Illinois. The proposal endangers our youth, our highways and our workplaces and increases costs for employers and taxpayers. It is bad medicine.

Source: Springfield, Illinois, State Journal-Register April 12, 2013

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