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Hagan’s medical marijuana proposal merits discussion



Published: Mon, May 6, 2013 @ 12:00 a.m.

State Rep. Robert F. Hagan. D-58th, has been in favor of legalizing marijuana in the state — especially for medicinal use — for years and has introduced bills to do so in the past. He’s doing so again — with a two-pronged approach this time — but he has to know that the chances for a Republican-dominated Legislature to jump on the legalization bandwagon is slim.

Even dangling the possibility of a 15 percent sin tax on the sale of recreational marijuana isn’t likely to attract fiscal conservatives to Hagan’s cause.

As one of his Democratic colleagues, Ronald V. Gerberry of Austintown, said, “this is the most conservative Legislature I have served with in the past 25 years, and based upon that, it would make passage very difficult.”

That’s probably an understatement.

Hagan’s House Bill 153 would allow medical marijuana use, with qualifying users required to register with the state and obtain physician certifications.

Hagan also is offering a joint resolution that would place an issue on the ballot to allow adults “to legally purchase, cultivate and use cannabis recreationally.” That proposal, modeled after a recently passed amendment in Colorado, would create state-licensed outlets and tax sales at 15 percent.

The time may have come for a serious discussion of the alleged unique benefits of marijuana in the treatment of some medical conditions. If the case can be made for marijuana as a treatment or palliative for some diseases or conditions, the first question is whether the drug must be smoked, or whether the chemical components of marijuana couldn’t be dispensed in pill form as a prescription drug. Some patients claim that only when they smoke marijuana do they receive its benefits, but that’s anecdotal, not scientific, evidence.

The second question would be what specific conditions would be approved for treatment with marijuana, and specific is the key word. The potential for abuse under a poorly written medical marijuana law is immense.

Potential for abuse

Kevin Sabet, a nationally known crusader against medical marijuana in the traditional form, spoke earlier this year at the Ohio Statehouse when a ballot issue to legalize marijuana was being discussed. The Columbus Dispatch reported that he testified that in 18 states and the District of Columbia where medical marijuana is legal, just 5 percent of those receiving the drug have severe medical problems. He said the typical user is “a 32-year-old white male with a history of drug-abuse problems and no major medical history.” Ailments for which marijuana was most often prescribed were headaches and stress.

That makes a mockery of any attempt to provide marijuana to those for whom it is the only medical alternative, if such patients exist.

As to expanding the legalization of marijuana for casual use, that is largely uncharted waters. Let those states that have already done so be the laboratories for marijuana experimentation.

We see two key arguments against wholesale legalization. One is that no matter what the states do, marijuana remains a illegal under federal law.

The other is that, unlike alcohol and many other drugs, tests to show marijuana impairment are far from exact science. A company has a right to maintain a drug- and alcohol- free workplace. The casual use of marijuana shows up in blood tests for as much as a month. Though an employee can claim he or she was unimpaired from marijuana use in the somewhat distant past, a company would have no choice but to discipline or terminate the emloyee who failed a screening.

A job killer

At a time when some industries are already reporting trouble in finding qualified employees because too many applicants fail the drug test, exasperating the situation by legalizing marijuana makes bad economic sense — for industries, companies and families.

Hagan is once again spurring the debate, and it will be interesting to see the response. A recent Saperstein Associates poll of more than 1,000 Ohioans conducted for and reported on by The Dispatch found that legalizing medical marijuana is favored, 63 percent to 37 percent, but making the drug legal for casual use was opposed by a 21-point margin.


Comments

1Duncan20903(3 comments)posted 11 months, 2 weeks ago

It was definitely intentional. Stupid puns about cannabis and/or those who choose to enjoy cannabis are mandatory in any news article. It wouldn't be so bad if they came up with some new material once a decade or so but it might actually also be mandatory for one of these stupid jokes to be at least 30 years old.

The news media just does not have the capability of treating this issue with the gravitas it deserves. People going to jail, sick people being forced to suffer more than needed, oh my yes, let's call a comedian.

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2formerdemliberal(181 comments)posted 11 months, 2 weeks ago

If you want to understand the true reasoning behind anything Bobby H proposes, follow the money (more tax revenue to play with).

If anyone out there really thinks that Bobby really cares about those who advocate or could benefit from medical marijuana, stop your delusions. You are just pawns in Bobby's little world of taking as much money as possible from as many people as possible for his own political benefit.

Hey Bob, why not propose legislation legalizing marijuana use for those poor lifer politicians who lose their jobs because of term limits? I'll bet Ron Gerberry will co-sponsor that bill.

But there's always that one-day-a-week job on the railroad, right Bobby?

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3Tjay(7 comments)posted 11 months, 2 weeks ago

Two comments, neither having anything specifically to do with the merits of Hagan's proposal:

1) I'm guessing the humor of "joint resolution" was not lost on the reporter who first wrote of this story, nor on the editorial writers. (It sure wasn't lost on me...I sent the story to several of my friends!) But, hey, that's what Hagan introduced: a joint resolution. How else could this have possibly been reported or referred to?

2) Speaking of the editorial writers, I'm a bit aghast to see the obvious misuse of "exasperating" in the penultimate paragraph, when obviously "exacerbating" was meant. I guess no one is perfect, but an error of this magnitude was rarely if ever seen 25 years ago. Someone needs to needs to get 20 lashes with a wet newspaper for this.

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4Tjay(7 comments)posted 11 months, 2 weeks ago

Two comments, neither having anything specifically to do with the merits of Hagan's proposal:

1) I'm guessing the humor of "joint resolution" was not lost on the reporter who first wrote of this story, nor on the editorial writers. (It sure wasn't lost on me...I sent the story to several of my friends!) But, hey, that's what Hagan introduced: a joint resolution. How else could this have possibly been reported or referred to?

2) Speaking of the editorial writers, I'm a bit aghast to see the obvious misuse of "exasperating" in the penultimate paragraph, when obviously "exacerbating" was meant. I guess no one is perfect, but an error of this magnitude was rarely if ever seen 25 years ago. Someone needs to get 20 lashes with a wet newspaper for this.

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5formerdemliberal(181 comments)posted 11 months, 2 weeks ago

Foolishly, I forgot to ask those advocates of medical marijuana why Bobby H would fleece those needy sufferers with a 15% tax? Why not subject transactions to prevailing state/local sales tax rates?

Of course! Someone is going to have to pay for the new bureaucracy created by Bobby to regulate and track "legitimate" medical marijuana transactions and abuses to the "system". And who do you think will fill those vital government positions? Who else but Bobby's political cronies that he'll need for his next election bid.

Bobby, why not learn from your pal, Denny Kucinich, and establish residency in another state on either the left or right coasts and push your ideals on those burned-out elitists. I'll take up a collection for your moving expenses if you promise never to return to haunt this area again. I'll give the extra millions collected from the many in this area who just want the Bobby H nightmare to end to charity, not the government.

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6wm97(11 comments)posted 11 months, 2 weeks ago

Let's start with some basics. Why is marijuana illegal in the first place?

Marijuana was originally outlawed for two major reasons. The first was because "All Mexicans are crazy and marijuana is what makes them crazy." The second was the fear that heroin addiction would lead to the use of marijuana - exactly the opposite of the modern "gateway" idea.

Only one medical doctor testified at the hearings for the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937. The representative of the American Medical Association said there was no evidence that mj was a dangerous drug and no reason for the law. He pointed out that it was used in hundreds of common medicines at the time, with no significant problems. In response, the committee told him that if he wasn't going to cooperate, he should shut up and leave.

The only other "expert" to testify was James Munch, a psychologist. His sole claim to fame was that he had injected marijuana directly into the brains of 300 dogs and two of them died. When they asked him what he concluded from this, he said he didn't know what to conclude because he wasn't a dog psychologist.

Mr. Munch also testified in court, under oath that marijuana could make your fangs grow six inches long and drip with blood and, when he tried it, it turned him into a bat. He then described how he flew around the room for two hours.

Mr. Munch was the only "expert" in the US who thought marijuana should be illegal, so they appointed him US Official Expert on marijuana, where he served -- and guided policy -- for 25 years.

Marijuana prohibition was absolute lunacy, passed by lunatics, from Day One. Congress literally didn't even know what they were voting about. There never was a sensible reason for it.

All of the modern excuses for marijuana prohibition have one thing in common -- they were all made up because people stopped believing that marijuana will turn you into a bat.

You can find a good short history of the marijuana laws at http://druglibrary.org/schaffer/Histo... It contains links to other references, such as the complete transcripts of the hearings for the Marihuana Tax Act. Marijuana prohibition is absolute insanity. Read it for yourself.

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7wm97(11 comments)posted 11 months, 2 weeks ago

"The time may have come for a serious discussion of the alleged unique benefits of marijuana in the treatment of some medical conditions. "

The editors are at least fourteen years late to the party, or more like 24 years late, depending on how you want to count.

In 1988, the DEA's Chief Administrative Law Judge heard the evidence from both sides, and accumulated 15 volumes of research on the subject. He concluded that marijuana met the legal definition of a medicine and that the government's campaign against it was arbitrary, capricious, and cruel. You can read the entire text of his ruling at http://druglibrary.org/schaffer/Libra...

But the prohibitionists couldn't accept that, so in 1999 the Drug Czar commissioned the Institute of Medicine to do the "official" report on the issue. They found that marijuana was the only medicine suitable for some people. You can read their report at http://druglibrary.org/schaffer/Libra...

But you could have guessed how either one of those would have come out if you knew that the US Government ships medical marijuana to a number of patients each month. They send them each a big tin can full of 300 joints. The reason the Feds do that is because some of those patients went to court and proved to a legal certainty that marijuana is the only medicine suitable for their needs. Your taxes help pay for it.

So this issue was settled so long ago that it is practically ancient history.

But, the editors really missed the major point. The major point is simple:

It produces no benefit to punish people who have done nothing more than to try to relieve their own suffering -- even if you disagree with their choice of medicine.

So, whether you have read any actual literature on the subject in the last 30 years or not, and whether you agree with medical marijuana or not -- the best you can do is butt out and leave sick people to deal with their own problems.

That is, unless you want me to stop by your medicine cabinet and second-guess which medicines might be appropriate for you. If you aren't willing to allow strangers to make judgments on your medical treatment, then don't be making judgments about others. It is that old "do unto others as you would have them do unto you" thing.

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8wm97(11 comments)posted 11 months, 2 weeks ago

"The second question would be what specific conditions would be approved for treatment with marijuana, and specific is the key word."

This is an illustration of the fact that there are lots of rules about drugs, but some of them apply only to marijuana. Like this one, for instance. Can anyone name any other drug where the law makers have gone to the trouble to make a specific list of the ailments for which it is legal?

Of course not. What a drug may be good for is a medical question, not a legal question. Lots of drugs are used in "off-label" ways by doctors, and quite legally. There is a reason that it is this way -- because doctors know more about it, and medical science advances faster than law.

It would plainly be stupid to try to write a list of all the legal uses of all the other drugs. Apparently, marijuana is so dangerous that it needs rules that apply to nothing else on the planet. The people writing the rules are, of course, the same people who believe that Reefer Madness was a documentary.

And just in case anyone was wondering about the true level of the dangers of marijuana, the DEA's own Chief Administrative Law Judge ruled that it was probably the safest therapeutically active substance known to man. The link to that has already been posted.

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9wm97(11 comments)posted 11 months, 2 weeks ago

"The potential for abuse under a poorly written medical marijuana law is immense. "

The biggest abuse is people who get busted and dragged through the criminal justice system when they have harmed no one but themselves.

The second biggest abuse is to the taxpayers who have to pay for it.

I am quite sure that neither the editors, nor Kevin Sabet, can even accurately define what they mean by "abuse", but let's assume they could.

Let's suppose that Johnny Pothead scammed the system and claimed that he has a headache and marijuana is the only thing that relieves it and he is now sitting on his couch smoking some recreational marijuana under the false pretenses that it is "medical."

So how did that affect you? What difference did it make to your life whether Johnny Pothead's headache was mild or severe, or what he used to treat it? Why do you care whether he took aspirin, Tylenol, ibuprofen, or marijuana? What business is it of yours in the first place? What do you even know about it?

The answer is that everyone complaining about the "abuses" share some things in common. The first is that they get all their information from media reports. They don't actually know any significant number of patients.

The second is that they know nothing of the personal medical histories of any of these patients.

The third is that they wouldn't have the medical knowledge to actually judge whether any medication was appropriate, even if they did know the people, and did have access to their medical records, etc., etc., etc.

In other words, they are talking out their rear end on a subject they really know nothing about.

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10wm97(11 comments)posted 11 months, 2 weeks ago

Required reading for anyone who wants to comment.

The short history of the marijuana laws at http://druglibrary.org/schaffer/Histo... Funny, fascinating, and not what you expected.

Licit and Illicit Drugs by the Editors of Consumer Reports at http://druglibrary.org/schaffer/Libra... This is the best overall review of the drug problem ever written. It has been used as a basic college textbook for decades. If you haven't read it, then you don't know the subject.

the Drug Hang-Up at http://druglibrary.org/special/king/d... This is an excellen history of the drug laws written by a former president of the American Bar Association.

Major Studies of Drugs and Drug Policy at http://druglibrary.org/schaffer This is a collection of the full text of every major government commission on the drug laws from around the world over the last 100 years. Not one of them supports marijuana prohibition.

Marihuana, A Signal of Misunderstanding at http://druglibrary.org/schaffer/Libra... This is President Nixon's report. It is the largest and most comprehensive report on the subject ever done.

that's for starters. The difference between the two sides on this issue is simple education. The prohibitionists have never read any of this research, and they refuse to do so. For anyone who has read it, the differences of opinion on what to do are minor, at best. The prohibitionists are simply ignorant, and deliberately so. Ask any of them if they have read any of this research and the only response they will give is a blank stare. They know nothing, and they don't want to know anything.

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11wm97(11 comments)posted 11 months, 2 weeks ago

"That makes a mockery of any attempt to provide marijuana to those for whom it is the only medical alternative, if such patients exist. "

The Federal Government has agreed they exist for about thirty years now.

The DEA's Chief Administrative Law Judge agreed they exist. That was 25 years ago.

The US Institute of Medicine agreed they exist in their official report that was supposed to settle the issue. That was 15 years ago.

So where have the editors of this country journal been all that time?

But let's look at that "abuse". Some of these medical mj patients have headaches. Isn't it "abuse" of the system for them to get marijuana?

Let's look at the comparable standard for other headache treatments. You can get a prescription for aspirin, tylenol, ibuprofen, naproxen, or any of a number of other drugs just by telling the doctor you have pain. He doesn't even have to examine you. You tell him you have a headache and you walk out with a bottle of headache pills.

What's the problem with that? Nothing at all, apparently, even though these common headache pills kill thousands of people per year. There are literally thousands of deaths from overdoses of things like ordinary Tylenol.

So, if you can get a prescription for a drug that kills thousands just by asking the doctor -- with no exam required -- then what should be the standard for a drug that has never killed anybody by overdose?

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12wm97(11 comments)posted 11 months, 2 weeks ago

"As to expanding the legalization of marijuana for casual use, that is largely uncharted waters."

The editors have obviously never read the most basic research on the subject. Over the last 100 years there have been numerous major government commission reports that have studied the drug laws and made recommendations for changes. They all found that marijuana prohibition does more harm than good, no matter what you assume about the dangers of marijuana.

The evidence is so clear and overwhelming that even the major prohibitionist organizations have admitted that they have completely lost the argument on the internet. When the research is only a click away, the old Reefer Madness just doesn't do so well anymore.

You don't have to take my word for what the major government commission reports have said. Read them yourself at http://druglibrary.org/schaffer under Major Studies of Drugs and Drug Policy.

There has never been a comparable commission that supported marijuana prohibition. If you read the history of the laws you will understand why. The history is so ridiculous that it just makes people laugh out loud today. It is time to abandon the stupidity of the past.

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13wm97(11 comments)posted 11 months, 2 weeks ago

"We see two key arguments against wholesale legalization. One is that no matter what the states do, marijuana remains a illegal under federal law. "

First, note that the argument has changed from "marijuana will turn you into a bat" into the more refined "there are legal complications." Not that it is any better of an idea to drag people through the criminal justice system just because you are worried about legal complications. What did those people do to deserve to get punished just because you were confused?

But, it is quite clear legally that the states are under no compulsion to maintain criminal laws just because the Feds have criminal laws. If the states simply want to erase their marijuana laws, there wouldn't be a legal problem.

Likewise, there are a number of ways in which states could actually regulate and tax marijuana, in a manner somewhat similar to alcohol, without conflicting with Federal law. (The discussion of them is too long for this forum, but there are ways to do it.)

Furthermore, it has been done in the past. In 1932, California repealed its state alcohol prohibition laws and left enforcement up to the Feds. It quickly became obvious that the Feds did not begin to have the resources to enforce alcohol prohibition by themselves, so alcohol prohibition was repealed at the national level in 1933.

The DEA currently has about 5,000 agents to enforce all the laws on all the drugs, across the entire world. Ninety-plus percent of all drug arrests are made by state and local cops. You do the math for what happens if the states decide they are tired of this Reefer Madness nonsense.

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14wm97(11 comments)posted 11 months, 2 weeks ago

"The other is that, unlike alcohol and many other drugs, tests to show marijuana impairment are far from exact science. A company has a right to maintain a drug- and alcohol- free workplace."

Glad they included the word "alcohol" in there. Is there any reason why we couldn't have the same rules for marijuana that we have for alcohol? After all, alcohol causes far more problems on the job, on the road, and in society than all the illegal drugs combined. Furthermore, the comparison isn't even close. Alcohol wins all the prizes for problems by a big margin.

So why do we need special rules for marijuana when we already have rules for the drug that causes most of the problems? The current rule (in many places) for alcohol and tobacco is that employers can fire anyone who uses them, whether they are on the job or not. Their workplace, their rules for who works there, and they get to live with the consequences of whatever rules they make. It is called "free enterprise" - same thing we have for alcohol and tobacco right now.

Or do the editors think that alcohol ought be outlawed if we didn't have breathalyzers? If so, they should think that one through just a bit.

But, in any event, this is an issue for employers and employees to work out in a civil law system. It does not amount to an excuse to drag people through the criminal justice system. What is the idea here, anyway? You are going to improve their prospects for employment by giving them a criminal record?

This whole argument about employers doesn't even make sense. Clearly the editors didn't really put a moment's thought behind it.

It is a natural reaction on their part. They never read the history of the marijuana laws and didn't really have a clue how stupid these laws were from Day One. They naturally assumed, like everyone else does, that if we have a law then there must have been a good reason for it. They don't know what the reason is, so they make them up. They never really examine the logic of what they made up themselves. It sounds good to them, so we might as well arrest 750,000 people nationwide every year to promote good employment.

The whole thing is nuts. It always has been.

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15wm97(11 comments)posted 11 months, 2 weeks ago

And, BTW, there are perfectly valid methods of testing impairment at work right now. They are cheap, non-intrusive, and they work better than drug testing.

Perhaps the best is a simple performance test. Employees come to work and they have to enter a series of numbers into a key pad. The machine builds a base line of their performance and can then tell whether they are too impaired to function properly. Even better --it works for all forms of impairment, including fatigue, which is a huge cause of problems on the job.

So, besides being irrelevant to the point of whether someone ought to be dragged through the criminal justice system, this argument clearly ignores commonly available cheap technology.

That technology works for all drugs, legal, illegal, and as yet undiscovered.

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16wm97(11 comments)posted 11 months, 2 weeks ago

Is marijuana a medicine under the law?

According to the DEA's own Chief Administrative Law Judge (link posted above), something becomes a medicine when it is recognized by a respectable minority of the medical community as a medicine.

Please note that definition. In legal terms, something becomes a medicine when a respectable minority of doctors recognize it as a medicine.

It doesn't have to have FDA approval. It doesn't have to be authorized by the DEA or any other government authority to fit the legal definition of "medicine." It doesn't even have to have the agreement of the majority of the doctors.

There are good reasons for this, and there is a good discussion of the reasons in the link provided above, provided anyone actually wants to be serious about this issue.

So, cannabis is clearly recognized as a medicine by a large number of doctors. In addition, it is legally recognized as a medicine by law in 18 states and Washington, DC. In addition, the Institute of Medicine said it was a medicine in the "official" government report in 1999, the DEA's Chief Administrative Law Judge said it was a medicine in 1988, and the US Federal Government has recognized it as a medicine by shipping it to patients for more than thirty years now.

So let's just drop this silly question about whether it is a medicine. Read the news on the subject for the last thirty years and catch up.

It is clearly a medicine, so the next question is: What good does it do to punish people who have done nothing more than to try to relieve their own suffering -- even if you disagree with their choice of medicine?

Or, stated more bluntly: Where the hell do you get off interfering in anyone's private medical issues?

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