Friday, February 23, 2007

Marijuana bill nothing but political hash

By Chuck Darrell

After witnessing the Senate Health, Housing and Family Security Committee hearing on legalizing medical marijuana, I'm convinced SF 345 needs intervention before it pollutes Minnesota with pot like second hand smoke in a public restaurant.

SF 345 reads like it was written by a baby-boomer who once supplied friends and acquaintances with pot grown in a basement, grow light hideaway. Here’s how it works. Once approved by the “commissioner of health”, a “primary care giver” (as young as 18) may grow a maximum of 60 plants to supply marijuana to no more than 5 qualifying patients. This means, depending upon the yield, the 18 year-old may legally grow enough pot to produce approximately 27,000 to 136,000 joints. Enough to smoke 73 to 372 joints a day for 365 days.

However, according to testimony by Mr. Neal Levine of Minnesota for Compassionate Care, a group lobbying for the legalization of medical marijuana, these limits don’t “produce that much [marijuana]” and there is “debate” whether they are sufficient to meet the patients needs.

Not supported by prominent national health organizations.
To his credit, Mr. Levine admitted there was only a small body of medical evidence supporting the medical use of marijuana. According to Levine however, “no-one ever died from smoking marijuana”. In fact, the American Medical Association, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, the American Glaucoma Society, the American Academy of Ophthalmology and the American Cancer Society have all rejected smoking marijuana for medical purposes.

Remarkably, in his opening remarks bill author DFL Senator Steve Murphy (Dist 28) told the committee that opposing testimony didn’t “represent physicians or nurses or their associations.”

Less consumer protection information than on a candy bar wrapper
Although studies show that marijuana is a psychologically addictive drug that causes withdrawal symptoms, memory loss, distorted perception, trouble with thinking and problem solving, loss of motor skills, decrease in muscle strength, increased heart rate, and paranoia the bill lacks the most basic consumer protection information.

“Take a look at the label of a prescription bottle,” testified Tom Prichard of the Minnesota Family Council. The label identifies the name of the drug, potency, dosage, frequency, refills, interactions, side-effects, prescribing physician, cautions and even has a child-proof cap. "To put this in perspective, if you wanted medication for your child to relieve pain and suffering would you use a drug approved by the Minnesota state legislature or the FDA?" he said.

Conflicting testimony
Throughout the hearing, supporters of the bill couldn’t make up their minds if the smoking of marijuana was harmless or a killer. One moment DFL Senator Murphy declared a witness who had testified to having used marijuana as a “picture of health,” and the next, DFL Senator Higgins stated that marijuana was for “…folks who are terminal. This is not for people thinking about what their health will be like in a couple of years,” she said.

Political hash based upon ideology
Terminal or picture of health, Mr. Levine offered the most candid testimony when he admitted the decision to legalize marijuana was political, not medical. MFC urges Minnesotan’s to call their legislator and tell them to vote against SF 345.