Marijuana legalization: Proceed cautiously

February 18, 2013

I have some comments regarding the Feb. 14 editorial, “The time has come for pot legalization.”

You mention that state Sen. Daylin Leach, D-Montgomery, has been joined by, among other groups, “the medical community” in favor of the legalization of marijuana. But you offer little further discussion on that point. As a physician who cares for patients with chronic and often terminal illnesses, I do not know how to go about prescribing the stuff. This is not yet part of the mainstream medical world. “Take two puffs every four hours as needed, call your doctor in the morning, and demand a new prescription?” I should hope not.

Several states have had medical marijuana for years, and I suggest you look at what happens in these states. Generally, people go to special clinics for evaluation, not their usual family doctors, and if deemed qualified, as it appears most are, they are given a license or certificate which, in turn, allows them to buy the substance at a dispensary. Attitudes in Montana, a state with “medical marijuana,” have been shifting. Unforeseen problems associated with the marijuana industry have cropped up over the years and there has been a swing of the pendulum, so to speak, toward the repealing of the relaxed laws. You and Sen. Leach might review the press of that state, which, incidentally, has only a small fraction of the population of Pennsylvania.

You discuss the problems with alcohol, its use, and abuse. You, interestingly, make a fair case for its prohibition, which has been attempted in this country in the past, without success. Kicking about the horrors of alcohol does not make a valid argument for the legalization of marijuana, and I see that as a different issue completely. However, I do agree with your thoughts on the privatization of the liquor sales in our commonwealth. Why is the state in the business of selling booze, anyway?

Two states recently have, essentially, legalized marijuana. Perhaps waiting and watching what happens there will give us some insight on legalization here. It will take years, however, for associated problems and consequences to become evident, but that will be useful information for us to consider.

I want to add that marijuana remains illegal under federal law. It is a Class I controlled substance or drug, which has these legally defined qualities:

1. The drug or substance has a high potential for abuse.

2. The drug or substance has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.

3. There is a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug or other substance under medical supervision.

Like it or not, that is federal law, and you make no mention of this. The current administration and its justice department, as with prior administrations, have chosen not to enforce these laws with respect to marijuana. That attitude might change in an instant with the election of our next president. The DEA might then be instructed to enforce these laws, and our discussions will become moot. Nobody seems to acknowledge this fact.

While I do agree that, in the long run, relaxation of the laws concerning possession and use of marijuana may be a good thing, we have a long way to go and the course will not be simple. Sen. Leach needs to keep that in mind and proceed with caution.

Douglas T. Corwin



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