John R. Sharp: Issue is angering
October 17, 2011
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.