Medical marijuana? You must be high!

for The Brooklyn Paper
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Marijuana may provide relief to patients with serious diseases as well as chronic pain sufferers, but the plant contains THC, a psychoactive chemical substance.

Each year, my office — along with the NYPD — seizes large quantities of marijuana that originate from multiple states and even other countries. THC levels vary widely among marijuana depending on the source, and at high levels may adversely affect people with pre-existing health and psychiatric issues.

Only a licensed physician should be prescribing marijuana with specificity in dosage, just like any other prescription drug. In addition, pesticides, chemicals, and other illegal substances like PCP are found in marijuana, often far beyond dangerous levels.

The state legislature has a bill that would legalize medicinal marijuana, but it is based on the increase in tax revenue from retail sales of marijuana. But the public health and safety issues that will accompany this bill represent a hidden cost.

Most pain-killers are designated as controlled-substances that must be prescribed by a licensed physician. The proposed bill does not require a prescription from a licensed physician in good standing. Joseph Califano, the chairman of the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, notes that “a small army of non-physicians can dispense this state’s ‘medical’ marijuana, including podiatrists, veterinarians and nurses.” Anyone who wants to smoke marijuana will be able to find someone to provide it.

Before approval for marketing and sale, prescription drugs must undergo rigorous research and testing by the Food and Drug Administration. Anything less results in public outrage and major class action suits worth millions of dollars when a pill is later determined to cause more harm than good. However, instead of the administration, the state Department of Health will be responsible for monitoring and regulation.

This will become an enormous undertaking, requiring an increase in budget of commensurately staggering proportions. Failure to regulate properly will result in multi-million-dollar lawsuits filed against the state much like those brought successfully against tobacco companies.

The bill neither limits the number of marijuana dispensaries nor regulates where they may be located including near schools and parks. California has witnessed such a proliferation of marijuana dispensaries that outraged communities have forced the closure of hundreds of them.

Legalizing medical marijuana as currently proposed, ironically, may end up attracting crime. Dispensaries will naturally emerge in lower-income neighborhoods as cash businesses vulnerable to robbery and extortion.

Perhaps the time has come to consider seriously decriminalizing marijuana for legitimate medical purposes. Unfortunately, the current bill falls short of providing the answers.

Charles Hynes is District Attorney for Kings County.

Updated 5:20 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Ace from Bath Beach says:
Oh, for heaven's sake cut the sanctimonious crap and stop wasting billions of tax payer's dollars. LEGALIZE IT!
Sept. 9, 2010, 11:12 am
DeaconGreen from Manhattan says:
Legalize it is right. If marijuana were harmful we would not have cannabis receptors in our body/brain. Our body wouldn't make the THC mimic chemical Anandomide, but we do and it does. The human body not only has cannabinoid receptors it makes a chemical called Anandomide which mimics THC and its effects. Therefore if you have never used marijuana it is safe to say that your body is Cannabis Deficient, an unhealthy state.
Sept. 9, 2010, 6:40 pm
RevRayGreen from DSM IA says:

Green Central Station LIVE Saturdays 6-7pm (mute .20 seconds) at starter the first :17 minutes interview turn sound to low feedback on interview with with Robert Platshorn (who did 30 years in prison for marijuana smuggling charges in Florida back in the late 1970's), feedback thru phone and main mic issues and all, it was still a great interview.From there Deacon and Saint Michael help bring show magic and clean audio to Green Central Station epic show#3.
Sept. 10, 2010, 12:06 am
Bri from Brooklyn Heights says:
While the DA does bring up some strong points of why Medical Marijuana in NY may cause some problems, I believe he counters his own argument in this case. The FDA regularly allows private testing instead of public testing on drugs to be released to the public since they do not have the funds to adequately test the products themselves. If the government is worried about an excess of THC in the medical marijuana crop, have the distributors or the grows be legally forces to put disclosures on their product with their THC percentages, exactly like we have proofs on alcoholic products. With the number of terrible side effects of common drugs, it seems unlikely that Marijuana's effects would be significantly more detrimental to the human body over lets say Lexapro (an over the counter anti-depressant). This is a list of Marijuana's Side Effects : Drowsiness, Bloodshot eyes, Dry mouth, increased heart rate, decreased social inhibitions, impaired concentration and paranoia; this is Lexapro's: Drowsiness, nausea, insomnia, decreased sexual function, rapid changes in heart rate, seizures, behavioral changes including anger, panic and suicidal thoughts.

This is not an argument intended against pharmaceuticals, but instead one to say that the concern that people may have an adverse reaction to marijuana as a medication is relatively silly when perfectly legal drugs seem to have a significantly higher health risk to their patients.
Oct. 20, 2010, 3:46 pm

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