Medical Marijuana Misinformation in Illinois

Last week in the Illinois Daily Herald, a Dr. Dora Dixie collaborated with Peter Bensinger on an editorial about medical marijuana entitled “Medical marijuana is bad medicine, bad policy”.  As anyone who cares to click through will quickly discern, it is pure unadulterated trash masquerading as legitimate opposition to medicinal cannabis from the medical community.

First, a few words about the authors of this piece.  Dr. Dixie is described as a “medical director of The Women’s Treatment Center in Chicago”.  While I’m sure much of the work done by the good Doctor at this center is admirable and even heroic, it’s hard to rely on treatment officials for objective views on drug policy.  First of all, they receive an extremely biased sample of users of any drug – obviously, people who can responsibly use drugs while maintaining a respectable life are not likely to end up in any rehab facility.  Dr. Dixie only sees the worst of the worst, and makes the common human mistake of considering her personal anecdotal experience to be statistically significant.  Secondly, her job and the jobs of many others depend directly on the continued prohibition of marijuana, which has increasingly fueled huge numbers in the treatment industry as an alternative to jail.  As for Mr. Bensinger, he holds an even bigger stake in maintaining marijuana prohibition: he is “president of Bensinger, Dupont & Associates, a Chicago-based consultant on substance abuse, drug testing and gambling addiction” (emphasis mine).  The drug testing industry relies very heavily upon cannabis prohibition, as marijuana (or, more accurately, its inactive metabolites) is far and away the most oft-detected illicit substance in the industry.  In short, these authors would both personally suffer if cannabis were to gain greater acceptance in our society.

Now, on to the objections raised in the piece to the medical marijuana legislation currently under debate in Illinois:

— Cannabis has not been subject to the same medical review process as other medications

“Why,” asks the piece, “is marijuana being treated differently from other drugs?”  The authors point to other medications, like opioids, and charge that unlike those medications cannabis has not been studied and analyzed properly by the medical community.  They state that because there is no standardization of dosage, delivery method, strain characteristics, quality control, etc, evidence of cannabis’ medicinal utility is anecdotal and doesn’t “meet accepted standards for the development of safe, effective medicine.”

This, of course, is a facile argument.  Researchers and medical professionals know exactly why cannabis has not been “properly” studied by the health care industry: because the federal government will not allow that research.  Thanks to the obscene Schedule 1 status given to cannabis by the Controlled Substance Act, marijuana is legally defined as lacking any accepted medical uses.  This makes it illegal — as in, a violation of federal criminal law — for doctors and research labs to perform exactly the sort of research being demanded by these authors.  All applications for cannabis research must go through the federal government, and must be used with the government’s (inferior) supply of cannabis grown at the University of Mississippi.  Not surprisingly, the government is known to routinely reject any research proposals that seek beneficial uses of cannabis, while happily fast-tracking studies focusing on the possible harms of marijuana use.

— Respectable medical associations reject “smoked” marijuana as proper medicine

According to the authors, “The American Medical Association, National Multiple Sclerosis Society, American Glaucoma Society, American Academy of Ophthalmology and American Cancer Society all reject smoked marijuana as medicine.” This seems to be a strong point: surely these well-respected organizations would avoid political conflict and would focus only on proper medicine.

Well, first of all, the claim is not exactly true.  In fact, just recently, the AMA called for an investigation into the Schedule 1 status of cannabis, with an eye toward greater transparency and a more scientific approach to the question. Other associations to echo similar concerns include the American College of Physicians, the American Nurses Association, the American Public Health Association, and the Institute of Medicine.  Secondly, the insistence by the authors that medical marijuana is about “smoked” cannabis is stubborn and inaccurate.  In fact, medical marijuana legislation in other states has spurred a revolution in delivery methodology.  Patients in many states now have access to all sorts of edibles, drinks, tinctures, pills, and concentrates derived from the cannabis plant.  And, of course, the vaporizer has become ubiquitous in the medical cannabis community, with its ability to deliver cannabinoids to the bloodstream very quickly without introducing carbon combustion products to the lungs.

— Legalizing medical cannabis presents all sorts of societal and law enforcement problems

“Beyond the unanswered medical questions, states that have passed such laws have the highest rates of teen marijuana use,” worry the authors.  “Treatment admissions for marijuana now exceed alcohol at public-funded centers in Los Angeles.”  Also, according to the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police — another group of prohibition profiteers — the legalization of medicinal cannabis will lead to widespread gang activity and funding.

Of course, this is all ridiculous.  For one thing, rates of teen cannabis use have steadily declined in California and other states that have passed medical access laws, according to the Monitoring the Future surveys conducted annually.  And the uselessness of treatment statistics is well-known; marijuana “addicts” are almost exclusively folks who have been busted for minor possession, and who understandably choose an option for a treatment program over incarceration.  Most importantly, it is clearly the prohibition — not the legalization — of cannabis that funds dangerous criminals and cartels.  In fact, there have been several stories recently about cannabis farmers in northern California feeling threatened by the possible legalization of cannabis.  While your typical Humboldt grower is certainly not a dangerous cartel member, the logic is clear: the criminal prohibition of cannabis provides massive profits to a whole lot of people.

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There are plenty of valid objections to your typical medical marijuana bill, ranging from ease-of-access to zoning to economic dynamics.  However, Dixie and Bensinger have neglected those considerations and instead have decided to fall back on the same decades-old propaganda that has so tarnished the debate over cannabis for the better part of a century.  It’s clear that rather than a measured, legitimate objection to the Illinois medical marijuana bill, the piece is a self-interested and factually incorrect attempt at maintaining the unworkable status quo.  To Dixie and Bensinger, the suffering of the ill is a small price to pay in order to prop up a dying prohibitionist mentality for their own financial gain. Which puts them on even moral footing with the Mexican drug lords.

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Comments
6 Responses to “Medical Marijuana Misinformation in Illinois”
  1. Duane says:

    Worst then drug loards, because at least it’s obvious to all why drug loards are in the drug business.

  2. kydelic says:

    Excellent article, although I would suggest posting your concerns as a comment in the original site as well. It is important that we are seen as a large (and correct) force and give information to the uninformed and misinformed.

    • rhayader27510 says:

      Hey thanks Kydelic, and yeah I did share my two cents in the comments thread at the paper’s website. I’d say overall the comments were critical of the piece, but there was definitely a fair number of folks defending the position staked out by the authors.

  3. Danny Mendez says:

    how can any doctor talk shit on marijuana? that’s like doctors talking shit on calcium

  4. I’m happy you mentioned the vaporizer as an alternative to smoking. It’s the first thing I thought of after reading the article.

  5. Louisa says:

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    Editor: Joseph Klare (The Pothead Pundit)
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