This is Part 2 of an analysis of the “Compassion Act” which legalized medical marijuana in Alabama. It is a two-part series based on the research of Dr. Michael Brown, a retired gastroenterologist who obtained his medical degree from the University of Alabama School of Medicine. He is a fellow of the American College of Physicians as well as the American College of Gastroenterology. He has continued his work in research and also as a GI Hospitalist.
See also Part 1: There is no 'compassion' in the Compassion Act
Most would agree that a well-developed, healthy human being is the most valuable asset of any state.
Certainly, a healthy brain is of critical importance to the existence of such an individual. Without this human capital, a state will ultimately fail. In view of this, the state should make every effort to promote healthy brain development and continued good brain function among its citizens.
As a corollary, it is indeed wise governance to at least warn the citizenry about anything that has been noted to have an adverse impact on brain development and/or function in more than just a few random instances.
Regarding the use of substances that adversely affect brain development or function, the foundational principles of liberty and freedom leads many Americans to favor with varying degrees of intensity a "live and let live" and/or "live and let die" attitude, as long as such use does not have an adverse impact on their own lives.
But as we have previously outlined, it is indeed the rare exception that marijuana use only victimizes the user. More often than not, the user has a spouse, children, parents, grandparents, co-workers, employees, employers, students, customers, teachers, fellow passengers, pedestrians, or others traveling in their own vehicles who have been or will be negatively affected by the person who uses marijuana.
In view of these considerations, it is incumbent on the state not just to warn its citizens about the use of marijuana but also to restrict its use.
So now the question arises, why did the leadership of the Alabama Legislature and Governor decide to legalize the use of marijuana in our state? Surely it was not because of a lack of knowledge because both the ruling elites in the State House as well as in the Governor's mansion made it abundantly clear that they already knew everything about marijuana that needed to be known.
Mental health professionals, public health authorities and neuropsychiatric researchers were given extraordinarily little time to present their concerns and were quickly shown the door, whereas the cannabis profiteers were given the red-carpet treatment with direct access to the Legislators and all the time they needed to present their industry-sponsored "research.”
The marijuana advocates were allowed to bring into the State House a large number of supporters as well as patients suffering from various ailments who felt that marijuana is what they needed to make them whole, but those who had experienced significant harm from marijuana were not permitted to speak a word about their pain and suffering.
Why were all these other legitimate stakeholders in the marijuana debate shut out? Why didn’t the Governor use the bully pulpit to call for a more even-handed public debate, or at the very least push for common-sense adjustments to the bill? What would motivate the legislative leadership and Governor to behave in such a fashion?
Surely it would not have anything to do with important endorsements, campaign donations or any personal gain either directly or indirectly through the many carefully-crafted channels for the well-connected.
Surely it wouldn’t be relevant that the companies that provide marijuana-derived prescription medications aren’t poised to release loads of cash in donations, grants and other perks for the Alabama political class and state bureaucracies.
And surely there could be no back-channel connections resulting in the appointment of a physician to head up the marijuana commission who has profited from a network of marijuana clinics in a state to the south of us.
I don't think the average Alabama citizen needs Project Veritas to release the tapes to figure this one out.
Surprisingly, there was another group that was treated even more rudely than the health science professionals and those who had been harmed by marijuana: law enforcement.
The reason for surprise is that the legislative leadership and Governor have always boldly proclaimed that they were the "law-and-order" candidates whenever they were stumping on the campaign trails of Alabama. But they were not interested in hearing from our esteemed Attorney General regarding his thoughtful opposition to the legalization of cannabis use.
Likewise, when the spokesperson for the Fraternal Order of Police came forward to present the experiences and concerns of its members with the public safety and crime-related issues associated with marijuana use, he received nothing but an angry rebuke from the legislative power brokers.
Furthermore, when 23 Alabama District Attorneys well acquainted with the suffering unleashed on our communities by marijuana use released an open letter asking the legislature not to pass Senate Bill 46, they were viciously attacked on social media by those lobbying for passage.
What would trigger the marijuana advocates and their lobbyists to act in such an uncivilized manner as to issue verbal threats and attempt to bring about harm to those who hold a different view of marijuana? Could it be related to the known potential for marijuana use to precipitate aggressive behavior in some individuals?
What are we to conclude? Have these "law-and-order" politicians decided to join the defund the police crowd? If not, then they should swallow their pride, remembering that somewhere it has been written that "pride goes before a fall" and apologetically reach out to these law enforcement leaders to work with them to make appropriate amendments to the marijuana dispensary bill that was passed last year.
There are a number of things that should be addressed regarding this marijuana dispensary bill. The first thing to recognize is that words are important and that there is no such thing as medical marijuana.
Marijuana is a plant and not a medication. The Alabama marijuana law codifies the use of marijuana as though it could serve as a medication for the treatment of any number of medical conditions, from autism, Crohn's disease, depression, and seizure disorders to PTSD, sickle cell anemia, and any number of terminal illnesses. This amazing collection of conditions poised to be assuaged by the distribution of marijuana reeks of pseudo-science, reminiscent of the preposterous claims by the snake oil salesmen of the 19th century in the American West.
In view of this, since the State Board of Medical Examiners’ primary function pertains to the practice of contemporary or so-called conventional Western medicine and the licensing of those practitioners, it should play no role in this marijuana dispensary network being constructed by the Legislature and Governor.
Furthermore, medical practitioners in our state also should not be drawn into this scheme to hand out marijuana cards to their patients in violation of Federal Law, instead of a prescription for an FDA-approved, marijuana-related medication.
Additionally, because of the dangers associated with the use of marijuana, the Legislature should institute appropriate safeguards for the operation of a marijuana dispensary similar to those of a methadone clinic. Alternatively, since the Legislature has determined that the provision of marijuana is so essential, then it could be distributed with those same safeguards through the various public health offices scattered throughout the state.
It certainly should not be dispensed by those who stand to profit from its sale, as the unavoidable result will be to produce ever-increasing numbers of guaranteed return customers driven by the unseen hand of addiction.
This has been the confirmed result in every state that has gone down this path and it is a complete fantasy to believe otherwise. It wasn't for the sake of the suffering that the former president of Purdue Pharma who brought us the “blessing” of OxyContin moved into Canada to help expand the "medical" marijuana industry there.
One thing is for sure: With the state of Alabama giving its stamp of approval for the use of marijuana by its citizens, significant numbers of those citizens who otherwise never would have considered using marijuana will unwittingly assume that it must be safe and therefore will give it a try.
If the political class wishes to campaign with a Bible stuck under one arm during this election cycle, then they should affirm on that Bible that they have not and they will not in any way profit from bringing marijuana dispensaries into our state nor will they do so even after leaving office.
Furthermore, they should legislate that no one can serve on the marijuana commission who has profited or stands to profit from the sale of marijuana in our state or any other locale at some time in the future.
Also, if this program is not just about enriching the marijuana industry, then the protection from lawsuits that is ensconced in this law should be removed for all those involved in the production, the sale, and the “handing out” of marijuana cards should be removed so that those who suffer harm can pursue a legal remedy for relief.
Isn’t it ironic that we used to want to keep marijuana out of our communities but now these so-called conservative leaders are so eager to get marijuana into our homes that they even placed in this law a provision for expansion of dispensaries to “underserved or unserved” areas of our state!
That’s right, it looks like the bold marijuana advocates running our state have concluded that the people of our state are suffering from marijuana deficiency syndrome.
So where is the compassion in the so-called Alabama Compassion Act?
There was surely no compassion extended to those who have been harmed by marijuana use. No compassion was displayed in the rude reception that healthcare and medical research experts received.
No compassion was demonstrated in the disrespect and animosity shown to law enforcement officials.
There is not even any compassion for those suffering from conditions that could benefit from marijuana-based prescription medications.
There certainly will not be enough compassion to spread around for the many Alabama citizens who will be harmed by this state-endorsed marijuana program.
And sadly, there won't be any compassion left for the children harmed in utero by exposure to marijuana nor will there be compassion for the children who so often gain access to marijuana brought into their homes by adult users or who will eventually decide to use the drug like the adults that have modeled this behavior before them.
Obviously, it would be in the best interest of the citizens of this state to completely repeal this marijuana dispensary law in view of the many problems and dangers outlined in this article.
Furthermore, there is not even any need for such dispensaries since the major cannabis-related phytochemical components are already available as prescription medications. The legislature could provide funding for those individuals suffering from conditions that might benefit from these medications but cannot afford them.
"The first to present his case seems right, until another comes forward and questions him."
"It is not good to have zeal without knowledge, nor to be hasty and miss the way." (Proverbs 18:17; 19:2)
A native of Huntsville, Dr. Michael Brown is a retired gastroenterologist who obtained his medical degree from the University of Alabama School of Medicine. He is a fellow of the American College of Physicians as well as the American College of Gastroenterology. He has continued his work in research and also as a GI Hospitalist. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of 1819 News. To comment, please send an email with your name and contact information to commentary@1819News.com.