Ky. Voices: Marijuana is not medicine; Ky. must reject efforts to legalize its use

October 21, 2013 

  • At issue: Aug. 23 Herald-Leader editorial, "Sensible plan on medical pot; doctor could prescribe small amount"

After reading several opinions in recent months by individuals and editorial boards advocating the use of marijuana as medicine, I feel that many Kentuckians have been misinformed about the ramifications associated with the attempt to legalize marijuana under the guise of medicine.

While individual cannabinoids may have medicinal applications, unregulated smoked marijuana is far too impure to be considered medicine. Medi-pot proponents would have you believe that the entire plant has medicinal benefit, when, in fact, it is only a few cannabinoid compounds that have the medicinal value.

Marijuana is currently a Schedule I controlled substance under the Controlled Substance Act and is not approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Yet, 20 states and the District of Columbia, through ballot referendum or legislation, have seen fit to ignore sound science and reasoning to sanction this harmful substance as medicine.

This defies logic.

Kentucky does not need to follow a course that will only bring more despair to a citizenry that has suffered from decades of substance abuse.

Proponents will argue that marijuana is not addictive and that chronic use is no more harmful than the two legal drugs — alcohol and tobacco. Kentuckians are being sold a bill of goods and we need to set the record straight. How do we do that?

Well, let's look at the data that we have from the 20 medi-pot states and the two states that recently legalized marijuana for recreational use.

In these medi-pot states, marijuana has been marketed as a "compassionate-use" drug that would only be utilized by people with debilitating or life-threatening illnesses. While this, at face value, sounds noble, these are not the folks who are seeking medi-pot.

In California, 96 percent of the Compassionate Use Card holders list stress or pain as their reason for needing to smoke marijuana. The largest percentage of cardholders is 18- to-34-year olds who list stress and insomnia as the reason for their desire to smoke dope. Less than 5 percent of the cardholders in California are listed as chronically ill or have debilitating life-threating illness that require them to smoke marijuana in an attempt to mitigate their symptoms.

Teen usage rates far outpace the national average for youth 12 to 17 years of age in the medi-pot states.

In 2011, in Colorado, for example, the 12 to 17-year-old group was 10.72 percent, compared to the national average of 7.64 percent. Teen usage rates are higher in most all medi-pot states, as well as usage rates among 18 to 25 year-olds.

The average usage rate in Colorado for this age group was 27.26 percent, compared to the national average of 18.7 percent for the same group. One in six kids who use marijuana will go on to use other drugs.

Does it not concern anyone that we are sending a message to our children that marijuana is not harmful and that using marijuana will not have any long-term results?

Research has shown that smoking marijuana on a regular basis is not only harmful but can actually lower the IQ of teen users by up to 8 points.

According to professor Didier Justras-Aswad of the University of Montreal and Dr. Yasmin Hurd of Mount Sinai Hospital, "Data from epidemiological studies have repeatedly shown an association between cannabis use and subsequent addiction to heavy drugs and psychosis."

They have reviewed over 120 studies that have looked at the different aspects of the relationship between cannabis and the adolescent brain, and have concluded that cannabis use and abuse have clear implications for our society.

I have been in law enforcement for 48 years and I can assure you that the marijuana that existed at the beginning of my career is not the same as the marijuana that is available today.

Outdoor potency levels range from 8 percent to 12 percent while potency levels of marijuana cultivated indoors have reached levels well into the 30 percent range.

The bottom line is this: Marijuana, particularly smoked marijuana, is not medicine.

I find it interesting that there is not one valid scientific study showing that smoking marijuana is an effective medicine. If it exists, I would like to see it and if it did, I am sure medi-pot proponents would have produced it.

Kentuckians deserve to be told the truth and we in law enforcement are committed to do just that. My question is: "Why isn't everybody else?"


At issue: Aug. 23 Herald-Leader editorial, "Sensible plan on medical pot; doctor could prescribe small amount"

Frank Rapier is director of the Appalachia High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area based in London.

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