Incoherence by Al Sikes


Dallas Cowboys defensive lineman David Irving announced on Instagram that he’s leaving the NFL, saying he’s prepared to “quit” football unless it loosens its stance on marijuana…….’

“Pass the blunt, bro,” a smiling Irving said into the camera while holding a sizable joint. “Weed … you’re addicted to this, and that. I mean, s–t, if I’m going to be addicted to something, I’d rather it be marijuana, which is medical. It’s medicine; I do not consider it a drug, rather than the Xanax bars or the hydros or the Seroquel and all that crazy s–t that they feed you.”

America, indeed much of the world, is struggling to deal with a psychoactive drug that offers escape. Commercial interests, eager to exploit its marketability, find new and often dangerous ways to broaden its appeal. Marijuana in your brownies? And of course, governments are constantly searching for new revenue sources often preying on human weakness.

As an article in Forbes notes, “Schedule One drugs, substances, and chemicals–like marijuana– are defined as drugs with no currently accepted medical use. Further, they are considered to have a very high potential for abuse. In comparison to marijuana, other drugs in this category are heroin, acid diethylamide (LSD), 3, 4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (ecstasy), methaqualone and peyote.”

History is telling. Alcohol and then tobacco and now marijuana. The first was once prohibited and then turned over to the States with often bizarre results on distribution and sale.

Tobacco was welcomed and then it wasn’t. Watch the old movies on television; glamour and cigarettes were paired. I once smoked and then was moved to quit by the Surgeon General’s findings linking smoking to lung cancer.

We need the Surgeon General to once again, with public health as the mission, make findings and recommendations on how marijuana should be regulated. And, importantly, how its use should be portrayed.

Is it healthy for marijuana to be cool? Is it healthy for either cannabis or its by-products to be portrayed as medicinal? At this point there is only one FDA approved medicinal use; in June of last year, the FDA approved Epidiolex (cannabidiol) [CBD] oral solution for the treatment of seizures associated with two rare and severe forms of epilepsy.

Recently, a troubling study on cannabis was published in The Scientist Magazine. Researchers found that there was a 40 percent greater chance of developing a psychotic disorder among people who had used the drug more than once a week, as compared with those who had rarely or never tried cannabis. The risk was three times greater among daily users, as compared with rare or nonusers, and higher still among daily users of high-potency cannabis.

At present, the incoherence of marijuana laws that are being rolled out state-by-state works in favor of commercial interests. When the commercial culture overtakes important questions about health then the hard work of making a discerning judgment is compromised.

In the United States “a total of 34 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, and US Virgin Islands have approved  comprehensive, publicly available medical marijuana/cannabis programs.” A majority of States have in essence certified cannabis as a constructive medical alternative, while federal law continues to list it as an illegal drug with the likes of heroin.

Often State laws better accommodate the needs in a particular State. But, when it comes to medicine and public health, we have two federal agencies that are specifically responsible for acting. The absence of objective research and findings by responsible agencies is problematic.

President Trump lost a brother to addiction and I suspect a number of Members of Congress have similar family histories. Little will be accomplished in the next eighteen months; political rivalries will paralyze. But, assuming that those elected did not campaign to be meaningless, bringing clarity to our conflicting cultural patterns and laws on cannabis would be something.

Perhaps, contingent on findings, the Surgeon General should begin a campaign against recreational use similar to the one it began decades ago against tobacco. At the same time, the chemicals of cannabis should be freed for medicinal research and development. And the Congress should make the hard decision on whether to nationalize marijuana laws or let them unfold on a state-by-state basis.

Additionally, lawmakers should be motivated by international commerce. Forbes notes that China has become a world powerhouse in cannabis research, holding more than half of the world’s 600 cannabis-related patents.  Israel currently has more than 110 clinical trials involving cannabis underway.

The Surgeon General and the Food and Drug Administration should orchestrate their work on cannabis-related health issues. And Congress should take action on conflicting laws that characterize marijuana as either criminal or just pleasurable. Pharmaceutical companies should be freed to engage in research and development. In short, America needs to get its act together.

Al Sikes is the former Chair of the Federal Communications Commission under George H.W. Bush. Al recently published Culture Leads Leaders Follow published by Koehler Books. 


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