Rev. Mark H. Creech
By a vote of 35-10, the North Carolina Senate approved SB 711 – N.C. Compassionate Care Act on Thursday – a measure that would make so-called medicinal marijuana legal in the Tar Heel state. The bill remains on the calendar for a third reading, which will likely be voted on Monday evening.
I must say that I expected the proposal to pass. I didn’t expect the number of Republicans who voted for it. GOP lawmakers have staunchly opposed measures of this kind in the past. When the Raleigh News and Observer asked Senate President Pro-Tempore, Phil Berger (R-Rockingham), why the change, Berger reportedly told the N&O, “Some of the facts on the ground have changed. And people should expect their representatives to vote based on facts, not emotion.”
Senator Berger is probably one of the finest persons I’ve ever known. He is a lawmaker of tremendous capabilities, and his leadership has been good for North Carolina. I have told him so more than once. However, on this issue, I dissent. It is clear to me Senate members did not vote based on the facts; they voted primarily on emotion.
Throughout the hearings in various Senate committees, Senate members heard many emotional testimonies from people saying they needed legal access to marijuana for treatment as medicine. Their stories were, at times, admittedly heart-wrenching and compelling. Nevertheless, they were anecdotal evidence of marijuana as medicine and certainly not scientific. The issue of medical marijuana is much bigger than “compassion,” as stated in the legislation’s title.
As a part of his lobbying activity, my friend and colleague, Jere Royall of the North Carolina Family Policy Council (NCFPC), provided Senate members with unadulterated facts about so-called medicinal marijuana.
As noted in a report to its supporters on the NCFPC’s website, Royall explained to lawmakers that “the American Medical Association, U.S. Food and Drug Administration, American Psychiatric Association, and American Academy of Neurology, all ‘encourage continuing research, but currently do not support the medicinal use of marijuana.’ He also listed a host of significant public health risks associated with marijuana use that the AMA recently cited in a friend-of-the-court brief. These include: ‘drug abuse and addiction, change in brain function, lung disease, intoxication and impaired driving, developmental interference, impaired cognition, psychological illness, cardiovascular abnormalities, negative social functioning effects, and cancer.'”
Using smoked marijuana as employed today for a laundry list of medical and psychological conditions is nowhere accepted in serious scientific literature. It’s just the opposite. Smoked marijuana is not medicine. In no way does it meet the standards of modern medicine. Doctors cannot prescribe it as such. There is no way to measure the dosage. It hasn’t been subjected to evidence-based review and regulatory oversight as other medications. It has to be sold at a dispensary and not a pharmacy, which means it’s really an end-run around medicine.
Lawmakers ought not to be deciding what’s medicine anyway. That’s something the FDA should do. And currently, there is no sound scientific study that supports the use of smoked marijuana as a medical treatment.
What so-called medical marijuana does is outpace the science, giving people false hope and distracting us from pursuing scientifically researched standardized approved drugs. It also dresses up an illicit mind-altering product to appear as something good, misleading more of our young people to use it to their detriment.
This kind of legislation is being politically driven across the country by the very lucrative marijuana industry, which is set to become the next Big Tobacco – something one of the brave souls who voted against the measure courageously said on the Senate floor.
Senator Jim Burgin (R-Harnett) astutely told his fellow legislators, “We’ve spent billions of dollars and passed numerous laws to stop people from smoking. We’re now voting on a new version of Big Tobacco.”
Kevin Sabet, executive director of Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM) based in Alexandria, Virginia, has written:
“We saw an interesting phenomenon play out in the twentieth century with persistent naysaying from hard-core cigarette users and industry groups trying to ignore or vehemently deny the health dangers of tobacco. [There were even commercials with doctors endorsing cigarettes.] We’re seeing the same thing being paraded about again in the twenty-first century as the zealous pro-legalization crowd chooses to dismiss findings that challenge their ‘pot is safe’ dogma. My hope is that reasonable people will see through the legalization smokescreen once the accumulated medical evidence is widely disseminated.”
The scientific evidence that medical marijuana will do more harm than good in the long run is growing exponentially.
SAM also admonishes:
“For the marijuana industry, medical legalization is the surest way to achieve full legalization [recreational cannabis use]. The former director of the [National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws] NORML, Richard Cowan, said, ‘…once there’s medical access, if we continue to do what we have to do…then we’ll get full legalization.’ Many licensed marijuana companies in medical states are also licensed to sell recreational marijuana in states where it is fully ‘legal,’ giving these companies a hand in both markets.”
Not everyone who supports medicinal marijuana wants to see recreational marijuana legalized in North Carolina. However, that seems to be what most Democrats, such as Senator Paul Lowe (D-Forsyth), a primary sponsor of SB 711, want. The N&O reports that during debate on the bill, Lowe “told his fellow Democrats that this bill’s passing doesn’t mean the fight for drug reform is finished. ‘This is a medical cannabis bill,’ Lowe said. ‘It’s not recreational. It does not do all things that a recreational bill will do, and that’s for another day.’”
No, it wasn’t the facts that prevailed when the Senate voted to approve a medical marijuana bill this week; it was emotion. Stories of pain, sickness and anecdotal claims of the almost snake-oil status of the healing properties of marijuana moved sufficient Senate members to get the measure safely over the goal line. However, as Senator Berger wisely said, sound public policy isn’t based on emotion; it’s based on facts.
Yes! If only that had happened, but it didn’t! It was a colossal mistake — an error in judgment the House shouldn’t make when the measure comes to them.© Rev. Mark H. Creech
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