February 29, 2012
Now that Kentucky's Senate has proposed a bill allowing for the medical use of marijuana, Senate Bill 129 The Gatewood Galbraith Memorial Medical Marijuana Act filed by State Senator Perry Clark, legislators will have to seriously consider the proposal. I'm pretty sure the majority of Kentucky's legislators have not done this before. In truth, one can find out everything known about marijuana, good and bad, by going to two sources. The Marijuana Policy Project, MPP, has in it's library an extensive list of studies, reports, state by state comparisons and general knowledge regarding marijuana and especially information on medical marijuana. MPP can be accessed at MPP.org, click on issues and a list of the various aspects of marijuana will come up. The other clearing house for all things marijuana is The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, NORML, which also has an extensive library which can be accessed at NORML.ORG. One can get a ton of government information from the Drug Enforcement Administration or the Office of National Drug Control Policy, the Drug Czar's office but with the governments 40 year history of misinformation about marijuana and the current government pronouncement that there is no medical value to marijuana, anything they say on the subject is certainly suspect.
Currently 16 states and the District of Columbia have medical marijuana and all of Kentucky's neighbors are currently working on their own medical marijuana laws. This means that medical marijuana has passed 16 senate and 16 house judicial, public safety and health and human services committees. In addition Congress, in voting to allow the District of Columbia to have medical marijuana, may have inadvertently allowed it for the whole country!
What might be the concerns of legislators considering medical marijuana? Certainly teen access to marijuana would be a concern. So far studies have shown a decrease in teen use in states with medical marijuana laws, regulation making it harder for teens to acquire. Another concern might be drugged driving. Laws are currently in place regarding DUI, however, on an anecdotal level, I read the paper every day and watch the local news. In the last 10 years I have only seen 1 story of a marijuana caused accident on the news and the story changed 2 days after it ran. On top of that, an estimated 22 million people in America smoke marijuana on a regular basis. If driving is a problem with marijuana, where are all the reports of marijuana related accidents? Some concerns were raised in California about increased crime in neighborhoods where marijuana pharmacies and facilities are located. Studies on the issue showed that because of the facilities' security measures, cameras and such, crime in the vicinity of these facilities is lower because they are there. Kentucky has an extremely bad problem with prescription drugs and especially opioid pain killers like oxycontin. As a legislator my concern would be how medical marijuana laws impact this problem. So far studies show that medical marijuana users decrease their use and dependence on prescription drugs. Veterans in Medical marijuana states have reported stopping pain meds completely when using marijuana or only needing minimal amounts to cope with their conditions. Finally as a legislator considering medical marijuana for my state I would be concerned about Federal raids on state medical marijuana facilities. One can only rely on the Justice Department's word that they only raid facilities that are not in compliance with state law. Given the challenges to prohibition policy with 6 states having full legalization on the ballot in November, the government might have to finally reconsider prohibition entirely.
On the pro side of the ledger medical marijuana has alleviated the pain and suffering of thousands of patients, and created thousands of jobs in states with controlled distribution like California, Colorado and Michigan to name a few. It creates large sums of revenue for the State, has decreased costs for police and courts, has spread a wave of economic activity thru the states that have it and decreased the use of prescription painkillers.
As a legislator, (if I were one), would I vote to allow medical marijuana in Kentucky?
Given all available information I would have to vote a resounding yes!