Decrim MJ: It's Far Less Harmful Than Alcohol
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Decrim MJ: It's Far Less Harmful Than Alcohol
Posted by CN Staff on July 17, 2010 at 06:15:30 PT
By Larry A. Bedard, MD, Special To The Mercury New
Source: Mercury News
San Jose -- The California Medical Association in October declared the criminalization of marijuana to be a failed public health policy. Its assessment is appropriate. Marijuana prohibition is a classic case of the so-called cure (criminalization) being worse than the disease (the private recreational use of marijuana). Consider the questionable efficacy of our present policy. Forty-three percent of Americans over the age of 12 admit to having used marijuana, and nearly one in 10 Californians use it now. At an estimated $15 billion, marijuana is California's largest cash crop.
Now let's consider the costs of prohibition. In the Golden State, taxpayers spend $300 million annually to arrest and prosecute 60,000 people  largely Latinos and African-Americans  for possessing minor, recreational amounts of marijuana. Prohibition is also empowering drug cartels, particularly criminal enterprises in Mexico, which now reap between 60 percent and 70 percent of their total revenue from the exportation of marijuana to America and threaten to turn Mexico into a "narco" state.So what's the alternative? In my opinion, it is the passage of Proposition 19, which would legalize, regulate and tax the adult possession, use, production and distribution of marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol. I do not come to this position cavalierly. I am a board-certified, career emergency physician who witnesses the adverse health effects of licit and illicit drugs daily. Yet the recent RAND report on the financial impact of Proposition 19 reaffirmed my belief that the legalization and regulation of marijuana would make our communities safer and more just.According to RAND, fewer than 200 total patients were admitted to California hospitals in 2008 for "marijuana abuse or dependence." This relatively low number did not surprise me. In my 35-plus years as an emergency physician in busy ERs in Northern California, I have never needed to admit a patient due to an adverse reaction or medical problem caused by marijuana. Personally, I have taken care of fewer than 10 patients during my entire professional career whose chief complaint was related to marijuana. Mostly these were parents who were cajoled to smoke by their teenage kids and then experienced an anxious reaction. One hysterical woman called 911 because her dog had eaten a baggie of marijuana. Both the patient and the dog ended up fine. Comparing the health care consequences of marijuana to the health care consequences of alcohol is startling. In 2006, there were 72,771 hospitalizations in California related to the use of alcohol. Of these, 34,292 hospitalizations were due to illnesses or chronic conditions caused by alcohol consumption. This total is roughly 200 times the number of hospital admissions associated with marijuana. From a physician's perspective, marijuana is a minor ailment. The supposed cure, criminalization, is like the IV administration of a toxic, expensive antibiotic to treat a cold. An adverse effect of the inappropriate and ineffective use of antibiotics is the growth of drug-resistant bacteria. The adverse effect of criminalization of cannabis is that is stigmatizes 60,000 people a year as criminals.As emergency physicians, we are the ultimate realists. We know that the prohibition of marijuana is a failed public health policy. California's nearly 100-year-old war on marijuana is an expensive failure. Let's get real: Legalize, regulate, control and tax marijuana. As physicians we know the best way to deal with marijuana dependency is by education and treatment, not by criminalization. Larry A. Bedard, MD, is past president of the American College of Emergency Medicine and is a California Medical Association delegate. He wrote this article for this newspaper.Source: San Jose Mercury News (CA)Author:  Larry A. Bedard, MDPublished: July 15, 2010Copyright: 2010 San Jose Mercury NewsContact: letters mercurynews.comWebsite:  -- Cannabis Archives 
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Comment #3 posted by Paint with light on July 17, 2010 at 21:30:01 PT
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This article finally made me contact my Tennessee Representative.Here is what I sent......."Dr. Hensley,
I have wanted to contact you for a long time but have always felt it wouldn't do any good.
Could you please explain why your opinions differ so much from this Doctor's statements?
I think I know why, but I also think it is time we had a dialog about it. You will have to deal with it next election cycle."Now let the games begin.I will post our dialog if he decides to have one.For anyone that doesn't remember, Dr. Hensley's reply to supporting medical cannabis was,"That stuff is equal to heroin, I will never support it."He was one of the loudest and most opposed to our medical cannabis act that tried to move through the legislative process last spring.A lot of people think because he is a medical doctor that he knows what he is talking about.I think it is time to confront him. Legal like alcohol.
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Comment #2 posted by FoM on July 17, 2010 at 14:25:08 PT
Thank you. I have it posted now.
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Comment #1 posted by konagold on July 17, 2010 at 14:09:18 PT
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