Monday, August 11, 2008

A Congressional Response

I was surprised to log into my email this morning and find I had been written to by a congressman. It was actually in response to a petition I had signed asking for my local representative to support Barney Frank's Personal Use of Marijuana Act H.R. 5843. This is actually a bill that will allow those who use medical marijuana to no longer be persecuted for being sick. Unfortunately, the congressman that responded is the one from Northern Indiana, where I am from originally, but not my current district in New Hampshire - a big difference in ideals! But I wanted to dissect the form response to point out where they are wrong.

I am strongly opposed to efforts to legalize marijuana. Marijuana is addictive, it adversely affects the immune system, and leads to the use of other drugs, such as cocaine.

There is no evidence that marijuana is addictive. If it's being used to treat the pain associated with terminal cancer, then the person is not going to be around very long anyway. What are they scared of? The brain has receptors for cannabis because the body produces its own naturally occurring cannabis. They're called endocannabinoids, and they are involved in pain, memory, and anxiety. I want to quote a research article on cannabinoid addiction from 2002. "
The use of cannabis sativa preparations as recreational drugs can be traced back to the earliest civilizations. However, animal models of cannabinoid addiction allowing the exploration of neural correlates of cannabinoid abuse have been developed only recently." Why is there NOW such a problem when the plant has been used for so long without interference. Could it be that the illegality has pushed it into overuse and misuse? Marijuana only leads to other drugs by socially connecting users with those who sell those other drugs. How? Because it's illegal. If it weren't, the patients would never come into contact with such dealers. Plus, there's a psychological line that's crossed. Also, how come just NOW they are looking into the neural mechanisms yet have been screaming for 35 years how addictive and bad it is. Someone didn't do their homework!

Marijuana also causes cancer, including cancer of the lungs, mouth, throat, lips, and tongue; respiratory diseases and mental disorders, such as schizophrenia and other psychoses, depression, panic attacks, hallucinations, paranoia, hostility, depersonalization, flashbacks, decreased cognitive performance, disconnected thought, delusions and impaired memory. Since marijuana impairs coordination and judgment, it is a major cause of accidents. Babies born to women who smoke marijuana during pregnancy have an increased incidence of leukemia, low birth weight, and other abnormalities.

Replace "marijuana" with "tobacco" and it's true. Yet the tobacco companies have a large lobby in Congress. Money = power I guess. Also, the schizophrenia research was biased government funded research from decades ago. Marijuana actually relieves anxiety, depression, and psychoses in those suffering from them when talking to the patient. From the researcher's point of view the jury is still out according to the most recent research. So why make such conclusive statements other than to scare me? A link has been found that shows that cannabis use predicts psychoses, but does not cause them. They are independent events, though whether they are self-medicating is still open for debate. A person would have to be vulnerable to the development of schizophrenia before cannabis would cause it.

Despite these effects, legalization advocates often promote medical use as a legitimate reason for the legalization of marijuana. This argument, however, is simply a red herring for the legalization of marijuana for recreational use. Studies have continually rejected the notion that marijuana is suitable for medical use because it adversely impacts concentration and memory, the lungs, motor coordination and the immune system. Even though some states have passed measures to legalize marijuana for medical use following multimillion dollar campaigns financed entirely by special interests, such legalization generally has overwhelming opposition.

What special interests? There are no marijuana companies! There are grassroots campaigns by patients, doctors, educated individuals, and others who believe that scientific and medical evidence should be taken into consideration. And how dare he tell me about medical issues...he even addressed me as Dr. Prater and my letter included information about the medical aspects. I KNOW the research. Representative Souder obviously does not. Tobacco and alcohol are legal while their brother is not...I continuously wonder why. If the states have passed the measures then obviously some people somewhere are for it and the will of the people is what is supposed to guide this country.

While some argue that marijuana may help to relieve some of the pain associated with some chronic illnesses, there is only one ingredient, THC, in the drug that has any reported medical use. Furthermore, there are safer and more effective medications that are preferred by physicians. Scientists at the National Institute of Health have declared that there is no evidence to suggest that smoking marijuana is superior to any currently available therapy for glaucoma, weight loss associated with AIDS, nausea and vomiting associated with cancer chemotherapy, or muscle spasticity associated with multiple sclerosis or intractable pain. In addition, the American Cancer Society, the American Glaucoma Society, and the American Medical Association, and the National Multiple Sclerosis Society all oppose using marijuana for medical purposes.

THC alone does NOT have the same effect as the full plant. It does not even have to be smoked, or used in large quantities - a tea or brownie is suitable for many patients. This is true of many medicines. In the context of its natural environment it is effective, extracted, isolated, and purified it is not. Something is lost in the processing. There are still ongoing studies to determine if this is true in multiple sclerosis that are funded by the NIH nonetheless! There are also ongoing clinical trials for HIV pain, general analgesic effects, and whether cannabis treatment will interact with the painkillers given for cancer. Painkillers which are opiates - highly addictive and commonly abused pills derived from opium and a brother to heroin. Yet those are legal!

Some argue that by decriminalizing marijuana, we would be actually taking the profit out of production and sales. However, I believe that legalizing this drug would lessen the stigma of the dangers of its use. We also would most certainly attract new first time "experimenters
who otherwise might not have even had thoughts about trying marijuana. The side effects of this drug, which include those mentioned above, are reasons enough for keeping marijuana illegal. In addition, those who currently make outrageous profits from marijuana will merely move to possibly even more dangerous drugs.

New pharmaceuticals are introduced all the time that have harsh side effects - yet they go to market and kill people before a lightbulb goes off. Why pick on marijuana? It's only been illegal since 1970, yet they act like it's the worst killer ever.

The war against drugs has been, and continues to be, a very difficult one. Statistics show that drug use is up an alarming amount-especially among teenagers-and Fort Wayne and Northeast Indiana are not immune to this increasing trend. As you may know, I have worked hard to fight against this trend. In addition, I have worked to bring a Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) office to downtown Fort Wayne to help with both local and national drug enforcement efforts. I will continue to fight to keep marijuana illegal and combat the abuse of other drugs.

In Indiana the drug of choice is actually Meth. Which is really really bad. But the so-called war on drugs has locked up millions of noncombative marijuana users and spent billions of dollars in attempts to control the cash crop. Let's focus on the major offenders, shall we? And let the sick have a little peace.

I hate the tone of 'well I know better than you, trust me', when our representatives are supposed to listen to what we want and execute those plans. If he had said 'a majority of my constituents feel differently'. Ok, that's how government works. But to lecture me!? I'm insulted. Also, this idea that medical use is just a smokescreen. No, sorry, some of us really do want patients to be allowed access. The bill I support explicitly names patients, it can even be a conditional clause, make marijuana a prescription drug! Go for it! I would be ecstatic! Recreational use is off my radar, what I'm concerned about is the patients. If a few hippies or underclassmen are now able to get access because of the bill I don't think that will hurt much. Everyone smoked in the 60s and 70s and the world didn't end. They just wouldn't have to travel to Amsterdam anymore. By the way, they have had decreased crime and heroin use since decriminalizing.

Oh, and I was provided no links to the supposed research supporting the other side...nice huh?

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