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What Do You Think? Medical Marijuana and the Democratic Process

Sep 22, 2016 10:20AM ● By James Houck
By James Houck

At the time of this writing, the Maryland Marijuana Cannabis Commission and Towson University’s Regional Economic Studies Institute awarded 30 permits to growers and processors of marijuana (15 each) that had applied to the state’s medical marijuana program (one of which was awarded to an Anne Arundel County-based company). This occurred less than one week after the Federal Drug Enforcement Administration made a major announcement—or not so major, depending on your take—that it would maintain marijuana’s drug classification as a Schedule I narcotic; the same classification given to illicit drugs such as heroin, ecstasy, and LSD, among others.

At the Anne Arundel County level, we have a council and county executive whose positions on the subject of medical marijuana seem to mimic the dichotomy between state and federal classifications and legality.

On one hand (county council), the debated merits of medical marijuana fell in line with public and state approval to begin a tight-lidded program of cultivation, prescription, and dispense of the plant. On the other hand, County Executive Steve Schue has proclaimed marijuana a gateway drug and one which he does not want seen prescribed in Anne Arundel County (last fall he proposed to prohibit medical marijuana from being grown, produced, and sold in Anne Arundel County). The two sides did compromise to allow the medical marijuana program to proceed in the county, but under extremely strict protocols, permitting, and procedures—possibly the most stringent of the entire state (possibly the nation).

All of this comes at the time when the public at large, from West Coast to East, repeatedly votes in favor of not only legalizing medical marijuana, but also legalizing its recreational use (see Washington, D.C.). Even the President of the United States was recently quoted as saying he believes alcohol poses more of a public health threat than marijuana.

So who is correct? The public, the government? What say do scientific pursuits have in the legalization debate? Is the Hippocratic Oath even applicable?

When the public, by-and-large, votes one position, and the government—as with the case of the DEA—declares another, does our democracy take a hit (no pun intended)? Who is looking out for our best interests or are they being looked out for at all? When you think about the implication that legalizing marijuana for medical purposes could potentially have on big and small pharmaceutical companies, the haze begins to dissipate. “Big Pharma” doesn’t want marijuana scripts; it purportedly alleviates pain and conditions for which their pills have long been prescribed. A vote for Mary Jane is a vote against their profit. When you think about the implication that legalizing marijuana for recreational use could have on the likes of ABInBev (whose brands include Budweiser, Corona, Michelob, and just about every brand it can gobble up) and other “Big Bev” alcohol companies, the haze is nearly gone. Lobbyist dollars seem to be making the decisions in Washington at the federal level. But this is not new.

The trickledown effect, though, seems to be making it harder, not easier, for honest progression in medical, scientific, and entrepreneurial endeavors. Conversely, the inchworm progress made at the state level is consistently ignored at the federal. Take it one step further; do you have the right to choose your medicines and treatment?

What do you think and why?
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