With elections looming just around the corner, the issue of medical marijuana is heating up big time in Massachusetts. Ballet Question 3 offers voters the opportunity to legalize medical marijuana in the state. If it passes, it validates the substance as a credible form of compassionate care. However, it also may open a Pandora’s box of unintended consequences, especially regarding youth access to marijuana, and as a parent, that’s a big if. I'm still sitting on the fence...
In theory, medical marijuana seems a worthy addition to a select arsenal of pain relief.Anecdotal evidence shows that marijuana is extremely effective at relieving the pain/nausea from diseases such as cancer and multiple sclerosis and with less toxicity than many harsh drugs currently in use. So how can we deny that small dose of mercy? If it were my father, my husband, a close friend, I would do anything to help relieve chronic suffering. While there are drugs currently approved to deliver some of the same properties of marijuana, like Marinol, they are generally deemed far less effective. It’s perhaps this humanitarian plea for compassionate care that is my only real selling point for legalizing, but it’s a doozy.
My list of cons is longer, but the majority of my concerns stem from ambiguity in the proposed methodology for controlling and overseeing how all this could work. It’s the unintended consequences that are the most troubling. As a parent, my primary concern is that if the experience of other states holds, legalizing medical marijuana will surely increase the access of marijuana to youth. Legalizing medical marijuana sends a message to kids that it is a safe substance for recreational use, yet scientific research shows that smoking marijuana can have pronounced harmful effects on the developing adolescent brain.
I also find the language regarding who can be prescribed how much marijuana by whom and for what conditions troublingly vague. Some states are grappling with large percentages of medical marijuana falling into the hands of more recreational users. And ultimately, oversight of the 35 dispensaries planned statewide, a huge proportion of which will be centered in this area, appears questionable. The Massachusetts Department of Health, clearly overtaxed as it is, evidenced by the recent scandal over forensic lab testing, doesn’t seem fully prepared to add this dicey responsibility to its list. And what about patients unable to travel to dispensaries who are allowed to grow their own marijuana? Who monitors that?
Opponents of the question frequently dispute marijuana as medicine, since it hasn’t been approved by the FDA as such. I don’t have issues with the claim that marijuana has significant medicinal properties, but I would feel more comfortable if the FDA would expedite the investigation to approve it for medicinal use with a commitment to strongly regulate quality control and dispense through licensed pharmacists. However, with current laws and policies thwarting research that could lead to FDA approval, that doesn’t seem to be in the cards any time soon, which is why states are taking the proposition upon themselves. But ultimately, are states perhaps shooting themselves in the foot to circumvent a frustratingly cumbersome system? Embedded in Question 3 are a host of other unanswered questions that could use more time and planning before we in Massachusetts are pressed to decide yes or no.
There’s a lot to consider – none of us should be cavalier about the decision, but give this ballot question a lot of careful thought as to all the possible consequences. Is the time right to finally recognize the benefits marijuana can provide for people suffering from chronic pain? If not now, when – and how?
Two weeks to decide…