I attended a talk yesterday on Medical Marijuana here in Colorado. The talk was very well done, and also very well attended. I learned quite a bit about the issue, e.g., Colorado is one of 14 states, and now the District of Columbia, where Medical Marijuana (MM) is legal. The person who uses MM is required to have a prescription from a doctor, and their disease must be “debilitating.” That said, the number of people in Colorado who are using MM are far fewer than the number who are using Marijuana illegally. Still, the potential for prescription abuse exists, and probably happens. The regulation of the industry seems to be the big thing right now in the legislature as the MM business is estimated to be a $4B “industry” right here in Colorado!
When we discussed prescription abuse, I brought up Viagra and gave the parallels to that business. Within 6 months of Viagra coming out, it became the #1 prescribed drug in America. You think a good deal of males in America are impotent don’t you? Well, it makes you wonder, at least we are an over-medicated society, that’s what I would say. And you can be darned sure that the Pharmaceutical companies make a lot more than $4B on Viagra!
Like I said, it was a good talk, well attended. We had representation from the users, the dispensaries, and interested folks like me, all sides were represented, and the discussion was very moderate and non-polarized at the end of the discussion. I was “neutral” when going in to the talk, and I came out realizing that the medical industry usually self-regulates quite well. The question of how much money is going to be made in this business and who is going to make it seems to be the largest unanswered question at this point. Legislation is in the works to force dispensaries to grow 70% of what they sell. I’m not sure that will fly, or even if that would be a good idea. In fact, it’s probably a rotten idea.
The goal is to insure that the supply of MM is coming to the dispensaries from legal growers in the US, so that we are not supporting the illegal drug trade (mainly from Mexico at this point). I think that is a fair goal, but the ways we go about getting there are going to need some refinement. One of the dispensary owners who was present made the point that MM is not in itself a “gateway” drug, and I tended to agree with his viewpoint. The notion that one drug or another is a “gateway” is somewhat of a fallacy. The drug dealers themselves are the “gateway” being the ones who push users to try stronger and more powerful drugs in order to get a better “high.”
MM has quite a long history of use in many societies. The decision to make it “illegal” in the 1930’s seems quite arbitrary when you view it in the light of history. While I am definitely not a user, I do support the notion that MM has places where it has legitimate value in medicine. Many people have and will continue to benefit from MM use. At the same time, being a drug addict, I was able to bring that viewpoint to the discussion and I would argue here that no drugs should ever be used for “recreational” or experimental purposes. That type of use is both dangerous and irresponsible. Why our society every proceeded down that path to begin with makes no sense to me at all anymore. Of course, since I don’t even drink alcohol any longer, and haven’t for over 27 years, the whole idea of “getting a buzz” just doesn’t make sense to me at all.
But that has little to do with the debate surrounding MM. Abuse of drugs will be around as long as there are humans. We must remember that it was the British who brought the commercial opium trade into China during the 19th century. If there’s money to be made in the drug business, then money-grubbers will always be in that business, and they’ll do lots of disreputable things to make sure their trade can be lucrative. Compare that to today’s “drug wars” along the Mexican border. Kinda scary isn’t it?