Thanks to Andy Montgomery for kick starting this column.
Shedding light on marijuana bogeyman
For decades, Jacki Rickert has suffered with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (a defect in the development of connective tissue that results in weak joints subject to easy dislocation) and Advanced Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (also known as complex regional pain syndrome, a neurological disorder that causes chronic pain in the skin, joints, and bones).
Both illnesses are debilitating; neither is curable.
In May 1990, Jacki was approved by the federal government to receive medical marijuana under the Compassionate Use Investigational New Drug Program. The state of Wisconsin followed suit in December 1990. It’s 19 years later and no medical marijuana was provided. Ever since, Jacki has wondered: “Is my medicine legal yet?”
Medical marijuana bills have been introduced into the Wisconsin Legislature since 2001 but, this year, a bill called the Jacki Rickert Medical Marijuana Act has been put before the Wisconsin Legislature, introduced in Senate Bill 368 and Assembly Bill 554.
The question is, will Wisconsin finally join the 13 other states with medical marijuana laws on their books – including Michigan where, just last year, a similar bill was passed? It’s possible. This year, Jacki may finally get the medical marijuana thenpresidential candidate Bill Clinton promised her in 1990.
Rep. Pocan, a sponsor of the Assembly bill, explained that the Obama administration’s recent change in enforcement policy and a turnabout on marijuana by the American Medical Association (which now supports reviewing marijuana’s status as a Schedule 1 controlled substance in order to begin serious, medically driven research) make passing the bill more likely than in previous years.
In addition to the recent endorsement by the AMA and the Wisconsin Public Health Association, the Wisconsin Nurses Association came out strongly in favor of the 2005 version, introduced into the Assembly by then-Rep. Gregg Underheim (R-Oshkosh).
Not everyone in Madison is happy. Rep. Leah Vukmir, although a nurse, finds herself opposing both the AMA and her own professional association when she claims to be worried about safety issues. While still chair of the Health and Healthcare Reform Committee (now in the hands of John Richards, D-19th district, a former volunteer with Mother Teresa), she told the press that “she believes it is better for patients to use medications that have been approved or may soon be available than to have people grow their own marijuana.”
The safety of “approved medications” is no longer comforting. Concerns about the “safety” of marijuana might be prudent, but are a bit ludicrous when you consider that our pharmaceutical industry is currently conducting the greatest unregulated experiment in altering consciousness in the history of our species. Think of the children popping Ritalin and Adderall like Skittles. Think of the recalls and class action suits under way, all the result of “approved medications.” The same federal agencies that approved those drugs listed marijuana as a Schedule I controlled substance. To put that into perspective, PCP and methamphetamine are Schedule II.
Makes me wonder whether the people who made this decision were high at the time.
The safety issue becomes even clearer when you consider that, in 2000, adverse reactions to prescription drugs killed around 32,000 Americans, aspirin (yes, aspirin) killed nearly 7,600, and marijuana killed – nobody. No scientific literature links marijuana with mortality.
But hey, safety and science be damned. Show me the money.
In 2004, when William F. Buckley supported legalization in the pages of the National Review, he noted that the approximately 700,000 arrests for possession each year – generally for small amounts, not trafficking – cost the U.S. taxpayer $10 billion to $15 billion. More remarkable is how much tax revenue medical marijuana could generate. In 2005 economists at Harvard estimated that legalization would save “$7.7 billion per year in government expenditure on enforcement of prohibition,“ $5.3 billion of which would go back to state and local governments. They also estimated that legalization could generate $6.2 billion annually if marijuana were taxed at rates similar to alcohol or tobacco. In the state-by-state breakdown, Wisconsin stood to make $13 million to $15 million a year. That’s a lot of new kindergarten teachers.
While Rep. Vukmir may remain opposed for what must be religious, if not scientific reasons, her most conservative colleague in the state Senate has not joined her. Sen. Glenn Grothman, when asked about the bill reportedly said he has not made up his mind yet, “but is inclined to vote for it unless someone gives him a good reason not to. ... It wouldn’t shock me if I vote for it,” Grothman said.
It is a pleasure to see Sen. Grothman agreeing with real conservatives, like the late Mr. Buckley, who well understood that you don’t make a bogeyman go away by burying yourself even deeper under the quilts of your own ignorance. You make the bogeyman go away by turning the lights on.
For an interesting read on all of this, check out MAPS.