Leon Worden

Marijuana initiative is bad medicine

Leon Worden · October 2, 1996

Supporters of Proposition 215 say their "Compassionate Use Act" will legalize marijuana when a doctor prescribes it to ease the pain of cancer. If that were the whole truth -- if that's all Prop. 215 would do -- I might not be writing this column today.

The truth is, Prop. 215 does much more than that. Prop. 215 is dangerous. Prop. 215 makes marijuana far more accessible to children at a time when the last thing our children need is greater access to drugs.

When you sit down and read the initiative, you quickly see why all the old pot legalization activists are rallying around it. It isn't cancer victims who are doing most of the talking, even in this newspaper. Using terminally ill patients as a cover, Prop. 215 is a thinly-veiled attempt to make marijuana available to everyone who wants it.

Prop. 215's most glaring problems are:

No prescription required. The measure doesn't say pot smoking is legal only when a physician prescribes it. It says a doctor's "recommendation" may be oral, and no record keeping is necessary. Under 215, anyone can tell the cops that their doctor says pot will make them feel better, without having to produce written proof.

Any excuse will do. Prop. 215 legalizes pot smoking for the treatment of "cancer, anorexia, AIDS, chronic pain, spasticity, glaucoma, arthritis, migraine, or any other illness for which marijuana provides relief." Never mind, for a moment, that even the Yes-on-215 campaign admits "marijuana is not a cure" for any of these things. It's the "or any other illness" phrase that is the real problem. Tell the cops you're under stress and your doctor says smoking pot will help, and you're free to smoke.

No consumer protection. I'm no fan of the Food and Drug Administration, but in all the years the FDA has been around, it hasn't found so much as a far-fetched excuse to legalize pot. Under 215, no FDA approval is required, nor is any other mechanism established to control quality or safety. If pot is indeed "just another medicine," why treat it differently from all others?

It makes sick people sicker. The American Cancer Society says pot smoking may be more cancer-causing than tobacco.

It's not about medicine. The active ingredient in marijuana, THC, is already available in the prescription drug Marinol.

Kids can smoke pot, too. Prop. 215 has no age barriers. What applies to college students applies to third graders.

It encourages lawbreaking. Prop. 215 exempts patients and caregivers from state laws prohibiting the cultivation of pot. It can't exempt them from similar federal laws because a state law can't override a federal law. The upshot? Prop. 215 encourages the violation of federal law, because supporters know the federal Drug Enforcement Agency doesn't have the manpower to bust every pot grower in California. (State and local police enforce only state and local laws, which would be changed to allow cultivation.)

Neighborhood greenhouses. Prop. 215 does not allow pharmacies to sell marijuana to patients. Rather, it says people who grow their own pot would not be punished under state law. Can you name one other "medicine" which the state allows you to manufacture in the comfort of your own home? Why should pot be an exception?

And once your neighbors start growing it, exactly how long do you think it will take the neighbor kids to get their hands on it and start giving it to your kids? There is no requirement in 215 to grow pot in a secure location where kids can't get at it. Good luck trying to control it once it's openly growing in your neighborhood!

California's biggest doctor group opposes 215 because no valid medical reason has been found to legalize marijuana. Law enforcement organizations oppose 215 because it would give druggies a fantastic new way to skirt the law. Anti-drug coalitions oppose 215 because it would send children a clear message that smoking pot is healthy.

Proposition 215 was written by a drug dealer. Prop. 215 is financed by drug legalization activists who shamelessly seek to exploit the public's compassion for the sick. But Prop. 215 bites off more than California can chew. Prop. 215 has side effects that go far beyond legalizing pot for medical purposes. PROP. 215 IS BAD MEDICINE!

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Leon Worden is a Santa Clarita resident. His commentary appears on Wednesdays.

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