Substance abuse experts oppose medical pot bill - - The News for South Mississippi

Substance abuse experts oppose medical pot bill


Mississippi State Senate Bill 2252 has created a lot of buzz with its proposal to legalize pot for medical uses, but everyone does not agree.

"We want to rally the cry, 'No way do we want legal marijuana in Mississippi,'" said Carolyn Anderson, the executive director of the Gulf Coast Substance Abuse Task Force.   

The task force is hoping state leaders will hear their plea. With the help of local law enforcement, the group drafted a letter to the bill's author, Senator Deborah Dawkins and to all the state Senators asking that the bill be rejected. 

"It's not just a little marijuana. It's a giant step towards something we do not want for our society," said Anderson.  

The bill cites a 1999 study on the beneficial uses of medical marijuana. It is aimed to give aid to those suffering from certain medical issues, like cancer. 

Substance abuse experts say legalizing medical marijuana would inevitably lead to more abuse of the drug. Anderson says medical needs can be met through more traditional medicines.

"Pharmacology has changed. There are medicines out there that will control this without bringing marijuana into the loop," said Anderson.

Another concern is control. Substance abuse experts fear that there will be no way to properly monitor and regulate use, especially since the bill allows for approved users to grow marijuana. 

"I've seen what's happened in other states. I've been in Colorado. I've been in California. We've worked with this other coalitions across the states and they say, once you have it out there, it is difficult if not impossible to get it back," said Anderson.

Biloxi Police Chief John Miller helped to pen the letter which went out on Thursday. Dawkins has not yet replied. The full letter is below:

Open Letter to Senator Deborah Dawkins and all Mississippi Senators

Senator Dawkins' bill proposing the legalization of medical marijuana in the State of Mississippi presents several issues worthy of discussion and certainly requires much research. It appears, from language in the bill, that Senator Dawkins' is relying on a 12 year old study. According to the National Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medicine study, released in 1999, some beneficial uses for marijuana in the treatment of pain and symptoms associated with certain medical conditions existed. Advances in the medical field including methods of treatment and pharmacology have shot through the roof since this 1999 study was published.  An issue of such magnitude should be based on current up to date information only and certainly not on any single study.

We, like most people, would never want to deprive anyone suffering from a painful or debilitating medical condition the chance or a more comfortable existence. On the other hand legalization of a potentially harmful substance for use as a medication when more effective, clinically proven and safer substances now exist seems like a step backwards.

According to Dr. Robert DuPont, Georgetown University School of Medicine, most studies involving marijuana as medication used controlled doses of purified cannabinoids, bypassing the adverse effects associated with smoking marijuana. Dr. DuPont states that most opponents of the medical use of smoked marijuana are not hostile to the medical use of the, while "most supporters of smoked marijuana are hostile to the use of purified chemicals from marijuana, insisting that only smoked marijuana leaves be used as 'medicine,' revealing clearly that their motivation is not scientific medicine but the back door legalization of marijuana."

Another downside to legalization is the potential for diversion. Society has certainly learned this lesson repeatedly since the turn of the century. The diversion of medications for illicit activities has skyrocketed over the past 25 years. In the last 10 years pharmaceutical drug abuse has become extremely prevalent.

John Miller, Chief of Police of Biloxi Police Department, a former officer supervising a police narcotic unit for 13 years, stated with certainty, "pharmaceutical drug abuse surpassed the use of meth, cocaine, and heroin years ago and stands second only to marijuana (excluding alcohol)."

According to Senator Dawkins' bill, patients approved to use medical marijuana would also be allowed to cultivate their own marijuana plants. The bill refers to the term "adequate supply" and defines this as an amount not exceeding three mature marijuana plants and four immature marijuana plants.

Clearly more thought is needed here. A mature marijuana plant can yield one pound of marijuana. This means a patient could possess three pounds at any given time. The growing cycle and harvesting of hydroponic marijuana is year around. Depending on the strain used and the grower's expertise, marijuana plants can mature in as little as 60 to 150 days.

However, the purpose of Senator Dawkins bill, we thought, was to supply patients with Medical Marijuana. There is nothing medical about marijuana grown in a backroom or backyard. The potency of a product raised in such clandestine operations could never be consistent. The fertilizers, pesticides, and the method chosen by the grower could have detrimental effects on the patient.

Currently, street value for a pound of marijuana is estimated to be $1000.00 to $6000.00. The possibility for much of this personally grown marijuana to end up being sold as street dope is inevitable. The bill further makes reference to "usable marijuana" which does not include marijuana seeds. The sale of seeds has long been a tradition among marijuana growers who pay large sums of money for high quality seeds. The bill makes no reference to how this issue could be controlled.

Very little thought has been given to how law enforcement would be expected to enforce such a law. Patients' medical records are protected by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Law enforcement does not have access to medical records without a court order. According to the Dawkins' bill, fraudulent representation to law enforcement concerning the use of medical marijuana would be a misdemeanor punishable by a five hundred dollar fine. The cost to tax payers and the time consuming investigation by law enforcement to include interviews, subpoena preparation, court time, etc. for a misdemeanor violation would far exceed five hundred dollars. Many drug violators would view the five hundred dollar fine simply as the cost of doing business, since no jail time exists.

Recently Senator Dawkins spoke publicly concerning her proposed medical marijuana bill. She made reference to the University of Mississippi growing and shipping marijuana to other states for use by medical patients. The University of Mississippi does raise marijuana for medical research; however, only four patients in the entire United States currently receive marijuana from the government approved program. These four patients were part of the Compassionate Investigational New Drug Program implemented by the federal government in the 1980's and shutdown in 1992. They received grandfather status to remain in the program.  Understanding why the U.S. Government ended the program should be researched before the submission of a senate bill. Such information could be beneficial to the health and welfare of our citizens.

Another aspect of the Dawkins bill' which needs clarification is where patients, who do not grow their own, would get marijuana? It is our understanding that the marijuana grown at the University of Mississippi is done so with U.S. Government approval. We think it highly unlikely the U.S. Government would allow the University of Mississippi to sell marijuana to any organization without their approval. We must surmise medical marijuana patients would be purchasing their medications from illegal growers in the U.S., Mexico, Canada, or South America. If patients buy marijuana from so-called "medical marijuana clinics", the question of where it came from and how it got there would still remain. Mexican border violence is at an all time high with drug smugglers responsible for much of the carnage. It is unimaginable that drug smuggling hoodlums and thugs could pass themselves off as pharmaceutical suppliers. Even more ridiculous is the notion that citizens of our state, if aware of ALL the facts, would condone such practices.

Gulf Coast Substance Abuse Task Force (GCSATF) has been active on the MS Gulf Coast since 2002. Originally our community based coalition was formed in Long Beach by parents, citizens, churches, schools and law enforcement to help prevent adolescent substance abuse. GCSATF now works in all of Harrison County. Gulf Coast Substance Abuse Task Force strongly urges you, Senator Dawkins, to withdraw this bill. At the same time we respectively request that all

Senators carefully evaluate and withhold support for Senate Bill 2252.


GCSATF Board of Directors

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