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Pontifications on Poison

Being some ramblings on events associated with poisonous plants.

Saturday 9th June 2012

The term ‘medical marijuana’ has been in the news in the USA, again. It is not a term I’m fond of for reasons I’ll deal with, later. I’ve been trying to find out who first used it and why but, for once, the Internet has failed me.

It is fairly obvious that it would have been coined by those wanting to suggest that it was being used for a different purpose to that normally associated with Cannabis sativa. But, what I can only surmise is that part of that need for separation was the underlying racism of the prohibitionists.

Anyone who doubts that cannabis use is viewed as a black and Hispanic pastime need only see what Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly said about moves to reduce the number of speculative searches in New York. Reilly believes ‘the cops "know who the wise guys are," and they're only bothering people who deserve it’.1 Those ‘wise guys’ have been granted permission to take action against the city after evidence that the police in New York target blacks and Hispanics for illegal searches was accepted by a district judge.2

‘Medical marijuana’ has been in the news as a result of a court case in Boston, Massachusetts where the Massachusetts Prevention Alliance (MPA) challenged the proposed wording of a question to be put on the ballot in the state in November.3

I haven’t found the wording of the proposed question but the reports of the court case suggest that it only said that state penalties would be lifted for cannabis use by sufferers of certain medical conditions. It did not make clear that up to 36 distribution centres would be permitted and that growth for personal use would be allowed.

The MPA’s argument seems to be intended to suggest that having a neighbour grow a few cannabis plants for personal use would plunge the neighbourhood into a world of criminality peopled by undesirables.

The Boston Globe headline says the MPA won its challenge but reading the story suggests it was only a partial victory. Although the court agreed that the wider effects of a positive vote should be set out in the question it upheld the description ‘medical marijuana’ which the MPA wanted outlawed because federal law still says that cannabis has no medical benefits.

Kevin Sabet, who contributed written evidence to the HASC inquiry, seems to have forgotten that he tries to portray himself as moderate by tweeting triumphantly about a 'major victory' for the anti-cannabis lobby. If having a court confirm that 'medical marijuana' is an acceptable term with a defined meaning counts as a victory, the prohibitionists must be really desperate.

I can understand the need to remove the therapeutic uses of cannabis from the ‘reefer madness’ view of its recreational use, still widely believed by many people. Prohibitionists use fear as their primary weapon and the historic view of marijuana that can be dated back to Henry J Anslinger in the 1930s is a very useful way of promoting fear.

My concern, however, is that you should not call marijuana a medical product. It is absolutely clear that components of cannabis have substantial beneficial effects in certain medical conditions but, as I argued here and here, it is wrong to consider any plant as being a reliable medicine in itself. Allowing the sale of marijuana without controlling its production leaves me with concerns about both dose levels and potential contamination.  

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