Jackson: poor arguments on medicinal marijuana validity only perpetuate ignorance

This rebuttal is concerned with addressing both current social policy regarding the use of medicinal marijuana and rebutting the unfounded assertions in the “Auerbach: don’t be duped, marijuana is not legitimate medicine,” opinion.

I will discuss his assertions regarding, “The agenda of those who are proponents of this decriminalization,” and “whether or not there are negative consequences that far outweigh any possible benefit to either state or the individual.”

Mr. Auerbach simplifies things for the reader, distilling complex arguments down to three well-packaged concepts:

  1. Economic benefit to the state;
  2. Federalism; and
  3. “are there available/accessible forms of treating chronic medical conditions.”

In addition to those issues, Mr. Auerbach distills down for us, most proponents of medicinal marijuana would add that there are fundamental freedoms at play. Further, Mr. Auerbach’s framing of the third issue is flawed: no person should have to choose an “available/accessible” form of treatment over one that works.

Recent “Right to Try” legislation signed by President Trump would seem to indicate greater recognition of both concepts nationwide.

Steven Jackson

In his very brief history of Marijuana, Mr. Auerbach discusses only the very brief history of the war on Marijuana. He seems to forget his later words about “Popularity regarding trends” in his promotion of a drug war that became trendy as recently as 1970. In contrast, marijuana was not only legal, but widely grown over a much longer period in our nation’s history.

Hemp growth was even encouraged by our federal government as recently as World War II.

While I acknowledge there is a sharp distinction between industrial growth and medicinal or recreational use, the trendiness argument falls flat when looked at in the lens of marijuana’s position in U.S. history. Arguing that proponents of medicinal or even recreational marijuana are simply going along with a trend is like arguing that eating organic vegetables in an effort not to consume pesticides is merely the trendy thing to do — as opposed to something the average person considered normal for centuries.

Mr. Auerbach next describes the evil organizations through which “pro-legalization constituencies express themselves,” NORML and the Marijuana Policy Project. He forgets that the public expressed themselves at the ballot box in 2010 when they voted on medicinal marijuana, and with 48 percent of the vote on a bad recreational referendum in 2016.

As a reminder, notable fighters against those referendums were prosecutors in Arizona whose resources are dependent on the amount of crime committed, a pharmaceutical company who has since received FDA approval for a synthetic marijuana product with “high potential for abuse,” and organizations selling alcohol. NORML and the MPP are advocates for sure, but they are not publicly recognized politicians or lobbyists with a monetary incentive.

Mr. Auerbach then correctly cherry picks that marijuana is considered illegal federally, but fails to acknowledge Arizona’s rulings upholding the Constitutional Amendment voted on by our state’s population.

Next, he shifts to the medical case against medicinal marijuana. There, Mr. Auerbach provides no meaningful distinction between the side effects of marijuana and the side effects of currently available drugs for pain, cancer, or AIDS patients. Instead, he simply lists the side effects and potential dangers of Marijuana.

Although he believes marijuana might provide relief for cancer and AIDS patients, he asks the question: “does the use of marijuana benefit the patient or create other, possibly more harmful effects than good ones?”

He fails to even attempt an answer, and instead just goes on to chastise proponents who he claims insist on using only the inhaled version of medicinal marijuana. He then promotes a physically addictive drug, Marinol, which is synthetic marijuana with side effects that include a list longer than marijuana and more dangerous potential hazards.

The right to try a medicine is just that. Mr. Auerbach’s claims simply aren’t sufficient enough to justify taking effective medicine from, pain, AIDS and cancer patients. Unfortunately, his consistent attacks against “proponents,” and the generalities he attributes to those proponents seems to stifle any nuanced look at the positives and negatives of this potentially more effective alternative.

His claims are based on flimsy and cherry-picked evidence, the solutions he proposes are worse than the very plant he argues against.

In his most irresponsible claim, Mr. Auerbach cites Mark Wallace, MD, professor of anesthesiology at the University of San Diego, and a 2007 study a sampling of 15 volunteers. He might be surprised to find out with a quick Google search that the same Dr. Wallace was recently featured in a KPBS article, where he said, his studies “reveal cannabis is a safer and more effective treatment for pain.”

Dr. Wallace is still at UC San Diego, where “doctors say they are finding cannabis useful in treating chronic pain and weaning people off of opioids.”

Mr. Auerbach argues that the science is clear, that marijuana is simply bad and that there are no useful medicinal properties. However, impediments to research mean that marijuana has not been researched enough. While opioids and new medicines continue to gain approvals — some with minimal research or evidence to support their claims, see Theranos — people who would scare you into believing that marijuana has no medicinal value have been fighting to prevent even the legalization necessary to research its benefits.

Many academics, including Dr. Wallace, complain about the restrictions on research due to arcane laws surrounding Marijuana.

As far as the other concepts Mr. Auerbach described, I won’t discuss increased revenue through taxation. It’s simple, this conversation should start with freedom. It should be enough that medicinal marijuana can and does help people more than other addictive drugs.

It should be enough that patients deserve the right to try. Tax dollars would clearly be welcomed by our state, but that is only a minute part of a larger analysis of the current restrictions on freedom.

Mr. Auerbach’s opinion begins and ends with the assumption that our government, and not the people, holds sole responsibility for granting freedoms. He claims the public in this instance have merely been duped by bad actors, instead of legitimately seeking acknowledgment of a freedom we should have had all along.

He believes we should not acknowledge freedom where there are questions as to whether the positives are outweighed by the negatives. Luckily for Arizona, the reality is that the people collectively decided to recognize a freedom and legalize medicinal marijuana, despite a well-funded opposition and dire warnings from monetarily motivated opponents.

Editor’s note: Mr. Jackson is a Scottsdale resident and founder of the Steven M. Jackson Law Group

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