The Pot Conundrum

An Op-Ed By

Steven Dickey Arnold

In order to make appropriate decisions regarding the laws governing use and possession of Cannabis in all it’s forms, we must first remove the decades old emotional, and often hysterical, reactions from the mix. In the 1920’s, pot use was associated with other behaviors that were considered by many citizens as deviant or sinful, i. e. alcohol, sex, dancing, jazz music, etc. Participants in one were quickly bundled with the rest and regarded as a plague on our society. Thus began a culture war played out from pulpit to statehouse to courthouse to jailhouse, nationwide ever since. Described as a “War On Drugs,” this penchant for controlling other people’s behavior through government coercion, over zealous penalties and goose step like enforcement policies has created much of the issues we need to deal with today. Those issues, as related to Cannabis are:

It’s listing as a Schedule I substance. Schedule I drugs, substances, or chemicals are defined as drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. Some examples of Schedule I drugs are:

Heroin, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), marijuana (cannabis), 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (ecstasy), methaqualone (Quaaludes) and peyote.

While it can be argued that Cannabis affects people in negative ways, similarly, it can be argued that it has beneficial effects for many conditions both mild and severe. However, neither position can be quantified in our “double blind study or its invalid” scientific mindset due to the extraordinary restrictions placed on possession of Schedule I substances. This has resulted in almost no traditional modern medical research on Cannabis in spite of a plethora of anecdotal reports of positive and sometimes life altering beneficial results. The best choice here would be for the Federal government to remove Cannabis from it’s current Schedule I status and do whatever it takes to stimulate multiple medical research studies in order to establish a knowledge base of the substances effects, both positive and/or negative, on a variety of medical conditions and circumstances.

Legalization of Cannabis for medical purposes. CBD and THC are both active chemicals found among many others in Cannabis plants. Each has a unique impact when ingested by humans. Even the method of delivery changes the apparent effect of these chemicals on the user. As we have a dearth of scientific data to guide us, anecdotal evidence would suggest that a carefully designed and regulated policy, enacted and administered by the state and local governments would bring an enormous amount of relief to people with chronic and severe conditions. While we are waiting on sophisticated scientific studies to pull the wool blinders from our eyes, we must recognize the dilemma our fellow citizens face in seeking treatment with cannabis based products under current conditions in most states. In states without a robust, well run medical marijuana system, patients must further choose from an unsatisfactory list of possible acquisition methods including the local black market, importation from a legal market, moving to a state with a legal medical market that their condition is approved for treatment or growing their own plants. One can only imagine the fear and anxiety produced in a parent who, desperate and at the end of their non-hemp rope to provide some relief of their child’s pain, nausea or other chronic symptom, would experience in even attempting to make face to face contact with a street thug/dealer of a variety of illegal drugs in order to acquire an unregulated, possibly dangerously prepared illegal product of unknown potency in a dubious or even obviously dangerous encounter. I cannot imagine putting a friend or family member in this position. While a safer option might be to make arrangements with a legal dispensary in a state that has legalized medical marijuana use, there are hoops to jump through regarding qualification for treatment under the state’s statutes, finding a physician and dispensary who will cooperate with an out of state patient and the fact that transporting even legally acquired Cannabis products across states lines is specifically outlawed in every state that has approved medical marijuana in some capacity. That leaves two other choices:

Moving to a state with an appropriate medical marijuana program for the specific condition of the patient. While at first glance this sounds like the best choice so far, it comes at a potentially huge cost to the patient and their family. When was the last time you up and moved across the country? In addition to the obvious out of pocket costs, there is enormous physical and emotional turmoil in finding new employment, pulling up roots, severing relationships, leaving familiar physicians and care givers and in some cases breaking up family units indefinitely. Of course people often move to a new location for far less compelling reasons, however, we’re still talking about serious financial and emotional impact on families who are already at Defcon 2 from tending to the patient in all other aspects of their medical condition.

Finally, there is the option to “roll your own”, that is to acquire the knowledge, seeds and equipment to grow a sizable crop of marijuana plants, then process the resulting raw material into a suitable dosage and delivery method for the particular patient. This provides several challenges to the average person. I’m sure there’s a YouTube video on every aspect of marijuana cultivation, harvesting and processing. And due to their diminutive size, the seeds would be relatively easy to transport in an airplane passengers carryon bag or via mail order or drug mule or in a car driving from state to state, thus committing several federal, state and local offenses in the process.

Once the initial seeds are grown into healthy, mature plants, new plants would be easily generated from seeds harvested from the previous crop. Yeah, right! How many house plants have died in your care over the past 10 years? It takes a special effort just to keep indoor plants alive, much less thriving enough to produce the desired quantities of magic goo in the right concentration to provide the consistent dosage required for a particular patient. And who will determine the appropriate dosage? Trial and error I suppose. Then there’s the local sheriff’s position on the matter. Is he needing a public showing of how tough he is on crime in order to raise campaign funds from the local church ladies auxiliary? Will he just ignore an easy bust and go without that extra series of re-election ads out of compassion for an individual who is blatantly green thumbing their nose at the law? It’s not a risk I’d want to take in most of the counties in Texas! In addition, having several thousands of dollars worth of illegal drugs on hand, even in the form of living plants, creates the risk of being targeted by local gangs, drug dealers, users or teenage hoodlums looking to possess the plants or by-products by whatever means required. “Oops there goes another one!” Goes the old refrain. Those folks are serious and dangerous.

In a perfect world it would be a blessing to many ailing Americans and their caregivers to see all the states pass legislation authorizing medical marijuana compassionate use provisions including options for those who want to grow their own. (This option would still require a Doctors diagnosis certificate.)

And so tonight, when you’re enjoying a cold one, a nice, crisp Chardonnay or maybe even a shot of Texas’ own Balcones Single Malt Whiskey, for medicinal purposes of course. Consider your neighbor who might benefit from a change in Cannabis laws in Texas and elsewhere. Then contact your State Representative and let them know that it’s okay to vote FOR legal Cannabis in Texas.

Let’s do this Texas!

Footnote:

(As I write this, under the recently expanded Texas Compassionate Use Act, the Texas Department of State Health Services has drafted definitions of qualifying medical conditions, “Incurable Neurodegenerative Diseases” and guidelines for physicians to follow in prescribing Cannabis treatment. It’s a step in the right direction.)

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