Guy W. Farmer: What’s the hurry on medical marijuana?

Chad Lundquist/Nevada Appeal

Chad Lundquist/Nevada Appeal

“What’s the hurry?” I asked myself Thursday evening as the Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 (Supervisor Jim Shirk voted “No”) to bring so-called “medical marijuana” to Carson City. But a key question remains: Is marijuana smoke “medicine?”

“Medical marijuana is an oxymoron.” That’s what Dr. Delmar Snider, a retired anesthesiologist, told the Carson Men’s Club late last month, and I agree with him on grounds that marijuana smoke isn’t “medicine” and potheads aren’t “patients.” Sorry about that.

Dr. Snider pointed out that there is no clinical trial evidence to support claims that marijuana smoke is medicine because there haven’t been any scientifically valid “double blind” clinical trials on that issue. All of the alleged evidence supporting medical marijuana is anecdotal, he said; that is, people claim that marijuana cures a variety of ailments ranging from headaches to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), but fail to supply any scientific evidence to support their claims.

So if I convinced a group of my friends to assert that chocolate cupcakes cured our headaches, could we classify cupcakes as “medicine?” Maybe so, if I could find a doctor who would accept $100 (and I’m sure I could) to write me a “prescription” for medical cupcakes. That’s absurd, of course, and it’s why most doctors and almost all pharmacists don’t want anything to do with medical marijuana, and why Nevada’s medical marijuana program is regulated by the state Agriculture Department rather than the Pharmacy Board.

Just last week the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime issued a report concluding that “the widespread public perception that pot is a low-risk drug is dangerously mistaken” and that “cannabis use, especially at an early age, can be very harmful to a person’s health.” A few years ago the U.S. Food and Drug Administration declared that “marijuana has a high potential for abuse, has no currently accepted medical use in the U.S., and has a lack of safety for use under medical supervision.” The FDA added that regular pot smoking can cause health problems ranging from memory loss to panic attacks.

So I return to my original question: Why was the Carson City Board of Supervisors in such a hurry to approve an ordinance on local regulation of medical marijuana cultivation and “clinics” (pot shops) for our town? For some unknown reason our elected leaders couldn’t wait until after a July 14 community forum on the controversial issue, so they fast-tracked medical pot on Thursday. But why?

Boulder City and Douglas County have opted out of the state’s medical marijuana program and Henderson adopted a six-month moratorium for further study of the issue, which is what Carson City should have done rather than rushing headlong into the medical marijuana business . . . and it is a business, where money matters more than “medicine.”

A slick, highly paid pro-pot lobbyist from Sacramento proved that point last month when he told the board that Carson could make lots of money off local pot shops.

Demand will triple in the first year and tax revenue will increase accordingly, he said. That was too much for Mayor Bob Crowell, who told the visiting snake oil salesman that Carson City isn’t in it for the money.

It was ironic that a Californian touted the benefits of medical marijuana because that state’s counties and cities have closed hundreds of pot shops due to a myriad of law enforcement problems after complaints from cities, counties, police departments (including the state’s Police Chiefs Association), and local citizens.

Carson City’s leaders should have learned California’s lesson and postponed the vote on medical marijuana.

Guy W. Farmer worked on the front lines of the War on Drugs in Latin America during his diplomatic career.


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