The passage of two state referenda (California & Arizona) legalizing the possession of marijuana for "compassionate, medical" use has launched a polarizing national debate. Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA) has become increasingly concerned as the medical marijuana issue evolved from an unlikely "niche" campaign to law in two states. The language crafted in the California and Arizona bills allows a broad interpretation about what constitutes medical use, and creates considerable confusion for regulatory and enforcement sectors.
The California and Arizona initiatives are of great concern to CADCA for two primary reasons:
1. The initiatives have created serious confusion for our youth about the use and abuse of marijuana at a time when the rates of experimentation and habitual use are going up among 12-17 year olds. The message that these initiatives send is that marijuana is medically benevolent and therefore is not a harmful drug.
In addition, these initiatives can only increase access to marijuana for a young population who will be damaged by drug use. All available research indicates that smoking marijuana regularly is developmentally very dangerous, and that it increases the risk of developing memory, learning, and emotional disorders, as well as a host of smoking-related problems.
2. The initiatives have thrown out all of the accepted rules of medical research and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval. The rigorous FDA approval process is designed to protect consumers who cannot possibly conduct their own research. An approved drug must demonstrate that it causes no harm when taken properly, and that it shows a demonstrable and consistently positive effect on the medical condition in question.
The argument promoting medical marijuana is that the drug is a folk medicine miracle which is being kept from a needy public because of administrative apathy and industrial influences. This is simply not true. Smoked marijuana has been extensively researched, and has not yet been documented to be a safe and effective medical treatment. Instead, it has been shown to be a likely cause of many negative health effects. Furthermore, there are many approved drugs currently available which are appropriate, safe and effective treatments for the same ailments marijuana allegedly helps.
The bottom line in the medical marijuana debate is that Propositions 200 and 215 have very little to do with compassion for the terminally ill. These initiatives are dangerous and misconceived responses, not solutions, to the medical needs they purport to serve.