“Looking Through the Smokescreen”
By Gordon D. Taylor, Assistant Special Agent in Charge for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, Sacramento District Office.
Within the past five years, the U.S. Supreme Court has twice said “no” to the “medical marijuana” argument. This has led pro-marijuana advocates to spread misinformation on the subject as they seek to push their agenda forward. It is time to set the record straight.
First, the scientific and medical communities have determined that smoked marijuana is a health danger, not a cure. There are no Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved medications that are smoked, primarily because smoking is an unsafe and ineffective way to deliver medicine.
Americans today have the world’s safest, most effective system for approving prescription drugs, which must undergo rigorous FDA-approved scientific research. They must be proven to be both safe and effective for medical treatment. Smoked marijuana has not passed the safe and effective test, and therefore remains a prohibited substance under federal drug laws.
Marijuana advocates often cite the 1999 Institute of Medicine report as justifying the use of “medical marijuana.’ However, they fail to mention the study’s finding that “marijuana is not modern medicine.” The study concluded, “there is little future in smoked marijuana as a medically approved medication.” While the study recognized that a compound in marijuana may be potentially therapeutic for some conditions, it recommended that further research be conducted.
To that end, the DEA has approved and will continue to approve research into whether the active ingredient in marijuana can be formulated for medical use. Over the last few years, the DEA has registered every researcher meeting FDA standards to use marijuana in scientific studies.
The DEA and medical science do not fear any compound, even those with a potential for abuse. If any substance has the proven capacity to serve a medical purpose, then it will be accepted. The key term is “proven capacity.” Only if compounds from marijuana pass the same tests of research scrutiny that all other drugs must undergo will they become part of the modern medical arsenal.
Unfortunately, there are many people who view marijuana as a harmless or soft drug. Information from tests and studies suggest otherwise. On average, the marijuana today is eight times more potent than it was during the early 1970’s.
Recent studies show that more teenagers enter drug treatment for marijuana abuse than for alcohol and all other illegal drugs combined. Marijuana related emergency room visits for teenagers more than tripled between 1994 and 2001. These statistics directly contradict the claim that marijuana is a harmless drug.
Contrary to what legalizers contend, DEA targets not the sick and dying, but criminals engaged in cultivation and trafficking of illegal drugs. In many instances, those who provide considerable funding to the “medical marijuana” movement use the sick and terminally ill as a smokescreen to hide their true agenda, which is across-the-board legalization of marijuana.
“Medical pot” users often cite minor ailments as their justification to use marijuana, such as anxiety, premenstrual syndrome or sleeplessness. These users, and many like them who use marijuana for so-called medical purposes, are simply exploiting California marijuana laws to shield themselves from local law enforcement and to disguise their desire to get high.
The recent U.S. Supreme Court decision on marijuana should prompt parents to discuss with their children the problems and hazards associated with marijuana use. We owe it to our children to tell them the truth about the dangers of marijuana and help them see through the “medical marijuana” smokescreen.
Gordon Taylor, a veteran of DEA for over 18 years, has oversight of DEA operations in 34 counties throughout the Central Valley and Northern California.