Weeding through marijuana legislation - East Valley Tribune: Ahwatukee Foothills

Weeding through marijuana legislation

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Posted: Thursday, December 23, 2010 2:00 pm | Updated: 4:58 pm, Thu Nov 15, 2012.

Marijuana legislation is not a simple issue. In fact, it is a muddled quagmire of complex concerns. Most people have seen the 1938 propaganda film Reefer Madness depicting the tragic events and eventual insanity of high school students lured into using marijuana. In the 72 years since the film was produced, much research has been done to bring valid awareness to the dangers as well as medicinal qualities encompassed in this herb. Laws, however, haven't changed much since a movement in the '70s and passionate arguments are being fired from both sides.

Pro

If marijuana is legalized there will be:

• Quality control by FDA.

• No need for bootlegging, ending the demand filled by the deadly Mexican drug cartels.

• Hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue for debt-ridden states.

• Less burden on the prison system to house convicted recreational and medical users.

• A safer, more effective treatment option for some serious medical conditions.

Con

• Marijuana use is associated with impaired cognitive function, respiratory illness and mental disorders such as depression and anxiety.

• Marijuana is a gateway drug causing some users to move on to more dangerous narcotics.

• With easier access and lower prices, there will be an increase in usage.

• There will be more auto accidents as the rate of impaired drivers increases.

• High costs to health care, criminal justice and the workplace in lost productivity will arise.

Personal, not political

To some this is a political or legislative issue and purely ideological. For others this is very personal. There are many stories of marriages being brought to ruin, lives of teens being damaged and other devastating consequences attributed to on-going use of marijuana. For those people, legalization seems like the worst possible choice.

To others who have received relief from chronic pain, marijuana is a gift from God. People suffering horribly from multiple sclerosis, cancer or AIDS aren't seeking a recreational high; they simply want a more effective treatment option.

Laws are inconsistent and widely varying

Legislation varies widely from state to state as well as counties ... and those laws are often in conflict with federal regulations, which prohibit the use or possession of the drug altogether. California is the top state for approved medicinal use and is leading the charge for legislative reform of recreational use. There are about a dozen states where marijuana use has been decriminalized including Alaska, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, Ohio and Oregon. Users typically don't get jail time or a criminal record in these states. Southern states tend to maintain stricter policies, with Florida's laws considered the harshest in the U.S.

This year's mid-term elections included many reform measures on ballots across the country. The most prominent was Proposition 19, an effort by some Californians to legalize pot for recreational use in that state. It was defeated by 54 to 46 percent, but younger voters (under age 50) are highly supportive and many don't vote as often in the mid-terms. With this in mind, politicians on both sides of the aisle simply can't dismiss the issue and it appears to be looming larger in the 2012 election from coast to coast. There is likely to be similar legislation proposed in Washington, Oregon, Alaska, Colorado and Nevada in upcoming years. Right here in Ahwatukee Foothills we may soon see clinics dispensing medical marijuana.

Seeking truth

There is a mountain of seemingly valid and credible research supporting both sides of the legalization debate. There does seem to be a bias against medicinal use that doesn't exist for other treatment options. If the slate was wiped clean and marijuana was being evaluated by the FDA from scratch it would likely be considered a safe and useful prescription. However, current perception prevents a non-biased assessment by virtually anyone.

While there does seem to be a case for providing medically approved use of marijuana to those suffering serious, chronic or terminal illnesses, and the current system appears to be one of extremes. In most states it is not available for legal use under any circumstances while it is readily accessible for minor pain in those states that have laws approving medical use. Those laws are clearly being abused.

As you consider and pray about marijuana legislation: Take a fresh, honest look at this issue. Seek ways to protect and encourage families with drug-related problems. Pray for God to comfort and ease the pain of serious illness sufferers and for guidance, wisdom and non-political motives for elected officials as they decide on new legislation.

Most information is available on these site and associated links: http://norml.org/index.cfm and http://www.whitehousedrugpolicy.gov/publications/pdf/mj_legal.pdf.

Local resident Diane Markins can be reached at Diane@DianeMarkins.com. Visit her blog www.DianeMarkins.com.

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