Marijuana or cannabis is not new nor is the current fascination with it as some kind of wonder drug, but what is new is the concerted effort to conflate medicinal and recreational use. There are a few factors driving the ongoing push to legalize “medical marijuana.” For some, it’s just an excuse to normalize marijuana use and make it more readily available for recreational use. For those seeking enormous profits from the emerging “medical marijuana” market, it’s a cynical ruse to deceive the public that “medical marijuana” is about medicinal applications and not just about the money.
Marijuana has been known and used for thousands of years (marijuana history per Brittany Tackett at recovery.org). There are references by ancient Egyptians, Hebrews, ancient Chinese, ancient Indians, and the Romans. In the Middle Ages, the Arabians used it for migraines, pain, and syphilis. Before America was discovered, the English documented marijuana’s utility for menstrual cramps, convulsions, rheumatism, gout, joint pain, muscles spasms, insomnia, and to promote uterine contractions in childbirth.
In 17th century America, hemp cultivation and production were common for making clothing, rope, and sails. By the 19th century, marijuana was accepted in mainstream medicine and available over the counter. In 1850, the U.S. Pharmacopeia added marijuana as a treatment for opioid withdrawal, pain, appetite stimulation, and relief of nausea and vomiting. In 1862, Hashish candy was even advertised in an issue of Vanity Fair as a “pleasurable and harmless stimulant that could cure melancholy and nervousness.”
In 1906, The Food and Drug Act required any product containing cannabis be labeled appropriately; it was marketed as a painkiller but was also used for sedation and to treat muscle spasms. However, Mexican immigrants introduced the recreational use of marijuana in the early 20th century. There was a backlash to this recreational use as an intoxicant and even called the “Mexican menace.” From 1914 to 1925, 26 states passed laws prohibiting marijuana.
The stigmatization of marijuana continued and by the 1930s the Federal Bureau of Narcotics started a campaign to criminalize marijuana, but first the federal government passed the Marijuana Tax Act to control usage with a heavy excise tax (sound familiar?). Marijuana was removed from the U.S. Pharmacopoeia in 1942 and doctors began to discredit marijuana as not having any medicinal use. Finally, the 1952 Boggs Act federally criminalized marijuana.
Marijuana recreational use saw a resurgence with the 1960s counterculture. Since then, use and stigma has ebbed and flowed, but chronic substance abuse has steadily increased particularly among our youth. Yet despite now epidemic addictions, pop culture and profits are propelling renewed interest in making marijuana legal.
Marijuana does have medicinal applications. Pharmaceutical marijuana which is available in various drugs containing the operative ingredient THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) can be prescribed by physicians, but the “medical marijuana” being pushed now would be available in new “dispensaries.” There may or may not be a prescription, but there won’t be a licensed pharmacist involved. Physicians and pharmacists are charged with ensuring patients are not prescribed drugs that conflict with each other or together cause detrimental side effects; that safeguard will be absent in the proposed “medical marijuana dispensaries.”
While various states are rushing to cash in on the “medical marijuana” boom, marijuana is still illegal under federal law, so customers may legally buy cannabis products in certain states and still run afoul of federal law for possession based on THC content. None of the state laws or proposed local ordinances address this disparity, so while the “medical marijuana” entrepreneurs rack up sales, their customers run the risk on their own and probably unaware.
The reality is pharmaceutical marijuana is already available and can be made more available, but the current push for “medical marijuana” is a contrived deception to legalize “recreational marijuana.” At the pharmacy, THC products are prescribed in various forms of inhalers or pills for specific maladies, but at the “dispensaries” there will be a variety flavored THC infused gummies and products available for anyone to purchase. They’re not fooling anyone; “medical marijuana” is simply a ploy to make THC available for recreational use.
The cool kids will admonish the opposition to “medical marijuana” for being prudish and not progressive. They insist marijuana is no worse than alcohol. When used as an intoxicant both can be addictive and dangerous, but there is a significant difference. Alcohol is water soluble, so it’s processed out of your body in about 24 hours. Marijuana is fat soluble; it takes about 30 days to be processed out of your body, so it’s also cumulative with regular use.
No one is opposed to legitimate medicinal uses of marijuana, but this is not about “medical marijuana;” it’s about “money marijuana.” Let’s not confuse the people about these proposed dispensaries; it’s about legalizing the recreational use of marijuana. Let’s have that debate and decide accordingly in our communities.
In disturbing irony, authorities have panicked the public about deadly fentanyl pills that look like children’s candy, but they see no problem with making flavored THC infused gummies widely available. Does anyone think our kids won’t find access to these gummies?
Again, the cool kids will claim marijuana is just a benign stimulant, but numerous studies have shown that marijuana negatively impacts brain development. Young people regularly using marijuana have decreased cognitive abilities; there’s a reason it’s called dope. Marijuana is also linked to exacerbating or precipitating mental illness like paranoia and schizophrenia in our youth. Not to mention, almost all drug addicts started with marijuana, contrary to pop culture denials, marijuana certainly shows as a gateway drug. With the epidemic of youthful substance abuse, why would society seek to make any drug use acceptable and casual?
Let’s dispense with the “medical marijuana” canard and face the actual debate. Do Americans want to legalize recreational marijuana use? Perhaps, but this current push for “medical marijuana” is misleading at best. Federal, state, and local laws need to be reconciled before any community takes this leap into euphoria. California and Colorado have not realized the promised tax revenues and have not seen a decrease in the marijuana black market but have endured increased crime and homelessness. Most importantly we must as a society assess the negative impacts on our children. Our children our under assault. We protect them from alcohol, drugs, and tobacco, so this careless frivolous attempt to profit from marijuana should be rejected.
“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8).
Pete Riehm is a conservative activist and columnist in south Alabama. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or read all his columns at http://www.renewamerica.com/.© Pete Riehm
The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.