To vote yes on medical marijuana, we need reliable data. We won’t have that until the Federal Government reclassifies marijuana and the FDA can properly research it, including what conditions are helped, dosage, potential side-effects, and warnings against drug interactions, just like any other drug.
Throughout this process, I have seen individuals being shamed and attacked for holding differing opinions. These tactics are causing many good people who hold strong and valid opinions to keep their heads down and their mouths shut. This does not make for good policy. I do not question the motives or character of those supporting the legalization of marijuana, and I hope you don’t either. It is natural when facing such tragic circumstances to look for a ray of hope, any hope, whether proven or not. The potential for help from this drug looks real. I do not fault anyone who is supporting this measure.
I also don’t know anyone who wants to treat the chronically or critically ill as criminals. Because of this, I initially proposed the creation of an affirmative defense that would offer protection against conviction of anyone treating a diagnosed medical condition with marijuana. This idea had little support from either side.
Typically, data and research is used to inform legislative decisions. In this case, the science is far from settled. There are so many contradictory studies all showing supposedly valid research models, yet providing directly opposite conclusions. With the federal classification of marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug, the ability to get true data and double-blind, clinically sound information is grossly compromised.
When presented with conflicting studies, we are naturally inclined to judge their validity based on our own experience and beliefs. Only by acknowledging natural bias can we account for it when making decisions.
Because I work so closely with criminal justice and mental health services, I frequently talk to people who tell me that they got to this place in their lives because they experimented with alcohol and pot. My first-hand experience with people convinces me that there is real danger of increased substance abuse, risk of impaired driving, and other damage to our society if we are not sufficiently cautious in our approach to medical marijuana.
The Food and Drug Administration requires pharmaceutical companies to demonstrate the safety and efficacy of any drug that they approve. Anecdotal testimonies are not scientific proof. We cannot ignore the process of scientific exploration if we want to have certainty. We shouldn’t sacrifice scientific evidence on the altar of heartfelt compassion; or vice versa. Adding time and research allows room for both.
I am deeply concerned at the level of suffering that I have seen during testimony on this issue. I am sympathetic to the needs. I believe we should put the same level of passion, resources and commitment into reclassification on a federal level so that the FDA can fully and scientifically screen this substance like any other drug. There is a resolution before the legislature that would do just that. S.C.R. 11 – Concurrent Resolution Urging the Rescheduling of Marijuana – is a resolution that would provide for the rigorous scientific investigation that is needed before we open a Pandora’s Box that cannot be closed.