Wednesday, January 21, 2015

From the House

Bluffton Today

Last week, I asked for your take on the Medical Marijuana Law filed by my friend and delegation partner, Senator Tom Davis. From the moment the column appeared in last Wednesday’s paper, I have continued to receive a torrent of comment. While the question was directly concerning medical marijuana, your emails were so wide ranging and expressed such a level of frustration with aspects of our health care system, I continue to be taken somewhat aback.


Most of the letters were in favor of some form of medical marijuana availability, and told of experiences similar to that of my brother Tom, which I related in my previous column. There were stories of older parents from family caregivers. Two emails detailed the struggles of military wives trying to deal with the fallout, both physical and psychological, from multiple overseas deployments. There were some libertarian arguments that viewed the fact that medical marijuana, despite studies highlighting its therapeutic potential, was unavailable and illegal in most jurisdictions as evidence of “manipulation of the free market.”


I heard from folks with chronic pain who were taking a dozen or more prescription drugs, some for the pain and the rest to deal with the side effects of the pain drugs. L. Levine of Sun City put it this way “Doctors willingly prescribe all sorts of pain killers which have serious side effects and don’t provide relief. I will not use those drugs. I am close to 80 and…I would like to try marijuana to see if it helps enough so that I can return to a normal life… I cannot understand why those of us in pain are restricted from using a drug because other people will misuse it…My friends and neighbors in Sun City are almost all in support of the legislation, or willing to give it serious consideration.”


Another articulate and well-reasoned email came from C. Davis of Bluffton, a survivor of three “successful but horrendous battles” with cancer. She was a federal employee in Washington, D.C. who describes herself as “conservative and practical by nature.” (She and I both) Being cognizant of the therapeutic potential and the demonstrable downside of marijuana, she emphasized that any medical use of the drug should not look anything like the “California model…with a pot shop in every strip mall.” It needs to be gradually introduced with tight controls and multiple layers of review. Medical marijuana “if handled carefully, can help some of our most ill citizens…If handled haphazardly, it can devastate our most vulnerable communities with increased crime and drug usage.”


Lou Herzog has been a friend, supporter, and advisor for many years. He was also good enough to offer his views on this matter. Lou has been a stalwart in the Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) since 1983, a year in which there were 27,000 alcohol related deaths on our highways. While that figure has dropped to around 16,000 recently, he sees a probable parallel with the increase of “impaired driving” involving drugs, including prescription drugs, potentially including marijuana. While he accepts the inevitability of prescription medical marijuana, he urges us, as lawmakers, to go slowly, review what other states have had success with, and don’t leave a lot of loopholes in the enforcement. In his own inimitable way, Lou says: “I’m 82 now and God willing I’ll be around a while longer, but my and your children, grandchildren, etc., will have to live with the laws we put on the books now.”


Thank you, friends. I am grateful and humbled by your candor and generosity-- and privileged to be your representative.