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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

'Medical' marijuana — we should look before we leap

Marijuana legalization is all the rage these days, much to my chagrin. I oppose it. Always have. Always will.

Now, of course, I will receive a litany of calls and emails debating legalization’s merits, as I do whenever I come out against it. Leave your messages. Send your missives. My position will remain unchanged. And, anyway, legalization isn’t precisely what I want to talk about this week.

Instead, I want to address the dangerous notion that marijuana is medicine.

Libertarians have long argued that the federal government should legalize marijuana because of its perceived medicinal value. For them it’s a wonder drug. Apparently, libertarians are winning the public relations war. After all, even my conservative colleague Al D’Amato now refers to marijuana as “medicine.” In his Feb. 20-26 column, “Time to face the new reality of medical marijuana,” D’Amato wrote, “Marijuana has become a viable form of alternative medicine for those suffering from many debilitating diseases such as ALS, multiple sclerosis, cancer and others. When traditional medicine fails to offer relief, why not give patients alternatives?”

I support employing any safe, proven measures to relieve patients’ suffering. The trouble is this: There are reams of misinformation out there favoring the use of so-called “medical” marijuana, which accounts for its high public approval rating. Marijuana policy, however, should be guided not by opinion polls, but by science.

The federal Food and Drug Administration has not approved marijuana for medical use, and the major medical societies do not see it as medicine. Yes, they recognize that its active ingredient — tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC –– may relieve chemotherapy’s terrible side effects and the debilitating symptoms of a number of diseases.

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