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GetSmart About Drugs - A DEA Resource for Parents

News Release
June 15, 2004

The dirty little secret regarding “non-medical marijuana”
Statement of Anthony P. Placido, Special Agent in Charge of the New York Field Division of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration
June 15, 2004

JUL 9 -- Characterizing recent efforts to decriminalize marijuana as a debate about medicine is as misleading as it is dangerous. Forget for a moment that highly respected organizations like the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics flatly reject the use of marijuana as medicine, and instead focus on the fact that doctors are already free to prescribe a pharmaceutical drug that contains the active ingredient found in marijuana. This medicine, Marinol, provides the same benefits as smoked marijuana with one important difference -- it doesn’t get you high! The well-organized national campaign to promote marijuana as medicine is a thinly veiled effort to legalize drug abuse.

Government officials must rely on medical experts and scientific studies to determine the potential value of any substance as medicine. These experts and their studies have consistently rejected the use of smoked marijuana as medicine – period! Even if lawmakers reject the science, they should consider the issue in context, which includes acknowledging that marijuana is abused by tens of millions who are not seeking relief from any medical malady. According to a 2002 survey, more than 25 million Americans admitted they used marijuana in the past year. These millions have one thing in common, a desire to get high. There is no data on the scant numbers of people claiming to use marijuana as medicine, but if the proposed legislation is approved the numbers will grow exponentially.

Marijuana is more potent than ever before as evidenced by the 139% increase in the rate of marijuana related emergency room visits between 1995 and 2002. If we are to seriously debate the value of marijuana as medicine consider that prolonged use of this psychoactive drug has negative effects on short-term memory, concentration, attention span, motivation, and problem solving which clearly interfere with learning; adverse effects on coordination, judgement, reaction time, and tracking ability, which contributes substantially to deaths and injuries associated with the operation of motor vehicles; and negative health effects similar to those associated with smoking tobacco. Marijuana is often the first illegal drug abused by children and often acts as a gateway to other dangerous drugs including cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine. Moreover, permissive views about marijuana abuse will certainly lead to increases in substance abuse of all types.

Governments are already overburdened with the challenges of regulating pharmaceutical drugs that are prescribed over the internet and dispensed via on-line pharmacies. The costs borne by taxpayers could be staggering, should governments attempt to regulate the production, prescription, dispensing and possession of a drug that can be cultivated in backyard gardens across the state. Governments would have to spend tens of millions to effectively regulate the use of marijuana in hope of aiding a tiny group of people who can already be treated with existing medicines, such as Marinol. But, the campaign to promote medical marijuana is not about alleviating suffering, its goal is legalization. The organizers of the legalization movement hope governments will forego costly regulation and turn a blind eye to the problem.

The recent interest in legalizing marijuana is not only inconsistent with the public interest, it obstructs federal law and exacerbates social harm and health risks to users and non-users alike without providing any of the benefits it purports to offer. How can a State increasingly concerned with the dangers of second hand cigarette smoke, drunk drivers and crime fail to grasp the true implications of this perverted effort to portray marijuana as medicine?

 

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