John R. Sharp: Issue is angering

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The discussion surrounding Referendums 1A, 2C, 2E and 2A has become the saddest of events I can remember in a public arena. In fact, just this week, I finally realized why I feel so strongly about this issue.

A group of residents are trying to shove an illegal substance into our neighborhood storefronts and in the classified sections of our advertising media as if it was a medicinal substance. Now I am getting angry.

What in the world does a statement like “Lemon Skunk or Tangerine Dreams” have to do with an unfortunate middle-aged woman who is suffering from metastatic ovarian cancer, a 55-year-old man in the final stages of chronic HIV or a disabled patient with multiple sclerosis?

The voters in 2000 had compassion on the very few chronically ill (and in most cases terminally ill) patients who thought cannabis could afford them some degree of relief during their journey to heaven. “Tangerine Dreams” is recreational, not medicinal. Really, if you think the storefront shops are giving care to sick people like I give care to sick people from my medical office, then I am really getting angry.

I am angry because the overall use of marijuana is twice as high in our state as in a state without medical marijuana laws. I am angry because more teenagers go to drug treatment for marijuana than alcohol in our state. I am angry because a perfectly healthy 16-year-old is more likely to use marijuana today than his peers of four years ago. “Why not,” he says, “it’s only a medicine.”

Shop owners tell us the shops are highly regulated and are providing a compassionate service. Mother Earth medical marijuana center in Carbondale was raided and closed last week when its owner sold cocaine as well as marijuana to an undercover policeman who didn’t have a medical marijuana card. The U.S. Attorney in some California jurisdictions is closing the worst of the offenders since Eric Holder (U.S. Attorney General) has reversed his instructions to avoid prosecution of small medical marijuana operations. Turns out these California medical marijuana growing operations are now supplying illegal drugs all across the country. 

Medical marijuana, as described recently by former Obama drug policy senior adviser Kevin Sabet, has turned into a “sad joke.” It is not a sad joke. I am simply angry that we are about to be duped by a “medicalization” of a terribly dangerous drug.

Steamboat Springs City Council candidate Scott Myller expressed it as well as anyone. “I don’t feel Colorado voted for recreational marijuana in 2000,” he wrote in the 2011 Election Guide. Then he goes on to say a profound statement: “I also don’t feel that being a recreational marijuana center for Northwest Colorado is the right image for our community.”

This community reputation really came home to me last week at a checkout line at a local convenience store when I overheard two very healthy-looking 25-year-olds saying, “Can you believe how cool it is here, dude, to get the hooch from a store?”

Now you can see my anger — the use of marijuana is an illegal substance. That is the federal law. End of discussion. I don’t want my beautiful Steamboat to be a haven for potheads. My prayer is that these referendums would end this charade. Please vote “yes” on each marijuana referendum. No legitimate patient who has a medical marijuana permit will be harmed by their closure. A much larger group of recreational users will have to barter in the illegal marketplace and accept all the risks that entails.

John R. Sharp, M.D.

Steamboat Springs

Comments

Jon Quinn 2 years, 11 months ago

It is simply time for our country to have an honest conversation about the effectiveness of Marijuana prohibition. On balance, has the war on drugs benefited our citizens more than harmed them? Is the ongoing cost worth the results? I answer "no" on both counts.

Our society makes light of Marijuana use. From late night talk show hosts, to movies and music, simply put, our culture has accepted that Marijuana is not a hard drug as the federal government still maintains. There appears to be evidence that Marijuana may cause some harm, and there appears to be evidence that Marijuana may have some benefits. Fine, let the debate rage on.

I personally am more concerned about precisely what Dr. Sharp referenced at the end of his diatribe. There are still ridiculous consequences in our country for the use of Marijuana. Bottom line is that if you are well off and just "experimenting" you will escape the legal system without too much trauma, but clearly some pay a heavy price for their daliances. What is the average cost per year to the taxpayer to incarcerate drug users? What is the cost to their families? And what extra burden is then passed back on our taxpayers as broken families become an extra burden on the system?

We cannot secure our borders. This country will never have the resources to quell the demand for Marijuana. Regulation and taxation are a much better way to handle the demand for this substance than prohibition and incarceration.

I will vote NO on the ban. Not because I believe the dispensary system is perfect, or that Marijuana use is all about medicine, but because this is how citizens push the conversation forward. Some have argued that those who voted for Amendment 20 did not vote for the current state of affairs, but I can assure you that everyone who voted for it, and that was a sizeable percentage in our neck of the woods, did say that the federal government is simply wrong in its current approach. A vote which upholds the basic premise that Marijuana may have some medicinal value (or at least little risk) simply contradicts standing US policy.

The vote you cast now is bigger than Steamboat. If you want to send a message that prohibition and criminalization are good policy, then vote yes. If you prefer a culture of freedom from unreasonable intrusion by government, vote no. The burden of prohibition is bourne by taxpayers who pay to fight a "war" which cannot be won, incarcerate neighbors who would benefit more from education and rehabilitation, and support the broken familes our misguided policy has created.

And with all due respect Dr. Sharp, I happen to believe that I live in one of the safest, most family friendly, genuine communities on the face of the planet. In my mind, this is evidence that I live amongst good people. I do not know if they smoke pot or drink martinis, and as long as they continue to be the good neighbors I know them all to be, I don't care. Anger is never the answer.

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Scott Wedel 2 years, 11 months ago

Dr John R Sharp, Well if you are that angry about medical marijuana then where is the outrage over prescription narcotics that now kill more people than traffic accidents?

Prescription narcotics are now showing up in surveys of high school drug use.

Sure medical marijuana is more heavily used than medical efficacy can easily justify. And the consequences of this presumed abuse? The abuser gets stoned on a drug that is not physically addictive.

What happens when prescription narcotics are abused. Person becomes addicted to a highly addictive narcotic when combined with alcohol use is frequently FATAL.

And the pharmacy or the mmj dispensary has nothing to do with doctors freely writing prescriptions or recommendations.

Should we ban local pharmacies because some doctors freely prescribe narcotics? Well, that is the question being asked in the ballot measures. If all of the local mmj businesses are banned then still every single current patient retains their right to use mmj.

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beverly lemons 2 years, 11 months ago

And, Dr. Sharp is a tool of big pharma.

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hereandthere 2 years, 11 months ago

Excellent letter John, wish you were still going to be a part of CC. Just finished filling out my ballot. My council decisions based solely upon the candidates stance on this issue. Myller did not get my vote . "Potheads"? Thats great Doc. Tells me exactly where your coming from.

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rhys jones 2 years, 11 months ago

"Angry"? Because others are expressing their rights to do with their body as they see fit? At threat of harm to nobody? You included? You must be another AMA pawn, and

GET OVER IT.

We're here to stay, and we have little room for angry people. Take off.

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Kristopher Hammond 2 years, 11 months ago

We can tell that you are getting really angry, Dr Sharp. Maybe a lot of voters will vote to ban just to keep you from getting angrier.

You are using you MD to lend extra credibility to your opinion on public policy, yet your arguments are not based on medicine at all. Your opinions on regulation of mmj are of no more value than your opinions on the airline tax. How should we vote on that one, Doctor?

Your medical opinion lost at the polls 11 years ago. You and the police need to realize that mmj is here to stay. You can't turn back the clock. The issue now is should we regulate it or not?

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rhys jones 2 years, 11 months ago

The Pilot should circulate a nightly print version, including these comments, so our brothers and sisters who only see the hard copy can see what the citizens really think of the propaganda espoused herein.

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rhys jones 2 years, 11 months ago

I've got it at 10-1, pending some peeps from a couple of chicks.

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Scott Wedel 2 years, 11 months ago

Well, my guess is that the ban will fail in SB with 60+% voting no ban. My guess is that it will fail in county with about 55% saying no ban.

I would not be surprised if Yampa votes in a ban because they currently don't have any mmj businesses and don't want to invite a bunch in.

Oak Creek will probably pick the most self destructive option and so will ban so that local businesses have to leave.

So, the reality is not 10-1, but closer to 3-2

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