Conservatively Speaking

State Senator Mary Lazich (R-New Berlin) represents parts of four counties: Milwaukee, Waukesha, Racine, and Walworth. Her Senate District 28 includes New Berlin, Franklin, Greendale, Hales Corners, Muskego, Waterford, Big Bend, the town of Vernon and parts of Greenfield, East Troy, and Mukwonago. Senator Lazich has been in the Legislature for more than a decade. She considers herself a tireless crusader for lower taxes, reduced spending and smaller government.

Far too many concerns about medical marijuana


“This is not good public policy. This is not good medical policy. Marijuana is not safe. It is not effective.”

Dr. Michael Miller of Meriter Health Services and a member of the state Medical Society made those comments today to a joint hearing of the state Senate and Assembly Health Committees about medical marijuana legislation.

Dr. Miller hates the term, 'medical marijuana,’ saying it is “too appealing.”  Miller prefers, “the legalization of marijuana for medical purposes.”

As a member of the Senate Health Committee, I prepared for today’s hearing by speaking to the Waukesha County Drug Unit Commander, doctors, pharmacists,  staff at the Medical College of Wisconsin  and the University of Wisconsin, and End of Life Palliative Medicine professionals.  Wisconsin physicians can currently prescribe a drug that contains the active ingredient THC that according to the US Drug Enforcement Agency “has been found to relieve the nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy for cancer patients and to assist with loss of appetite with AIDS patients.” The drug is
marinol (Dronabinol).

Is medical marijuana necessary? Not if better medications are available that provide relief without giving a high. As I questioned at the hearing, why not provide medical marijuana through pharmacies rather than via compassion centers referred to as pot houses.

Testifying before a committee room packed with bill supporters, Dr. Miller reminded the audience that the American Medical Association (AMA) does encourage more research on this topic. However, the AMA does not support current state initiatives. Miller cautioned not to mix the idea of compassion with science.

The issue of whether marijuana works, said Dr.Miller, is extremely important.

“Smoking is not a safe delivery method for any product. The harms of marijuana are well-documented,” said Dr. Miller.

Proponents cited polls showing acceptance of medical marijuana that Dr. Miller conceded. Why is the concept so popular?  Dr. Miller testified, “Everyone assumes it’s effective because it’s medical.” However, Dr. Miller said medical marijuana is not safe.

Dr. Miller emphasized this is an issue about a drug approval process and that the legislation is not the correct method to approve a new drug. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and its system of enacting new drugs is the appropriate mechanism.  Dr. Miller believes the bill is an effort to legalize marijuana for certain patients.

Doctors will be put in an untenable position of having the authority to give the green light, so Dr. Miller says they will be deluged and heartstrings will be tugged. 

Dr. Miller testified that doctors will be asked, “How can you not be compassionate to me?  Physicians are really bad at saying no.”  Dr. Miller added that anecdotal reports should not drive public policy making.

Recent trends show an increase in opiate and marijuana use among children.  Dr. Miller said kids are getting the sense that marijuana is safe because they perceive it is medical.

“The medical marijuana bandwagon is giving kids a (bad) message that it (marijuana) is a medicine,” said  Dr. Miller.

Assistant Attorney General (AAG) Kevin St. John told the committees, “Compassion centers (medical marijuana dispensaries) become targets for criminal activity.” AAG St. John noted crimes including homicides have been associated with dispensaries. Drug dealers are known to congregate outside the facilities, offering marijuana for lower prices.

Under the legislation, an individual would be allowed access to 12 marijuana plants.  AAG St. John testified a plant can yield one pound of marijuana. The street value of marijuana is about $4,000/pound meaning patients would have access to about $50,000 worth of pot.

AAG St. John described the legislation as unnecessary because it problematically limits the arrest and prosecutorial powers of law enforcement if patients get a doctor’s note.

Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen sent this letter to members of the Senate and Assembly Health Committees in opposition to the legislation.

Other concerns raised at the hearing include:

 -   A previous fiscal note prepared for medical marijuana legislation that if approved could result in 2.6 million individuals included in a medical marijuana registry, about half the state’s population . 

 -   The inconsistency of proponents of smoking marijuana that lobbied heavily in the past for a statewide smoking ban . 

 -   A slippery slope leading to all-out legalization of marijuana is the actual motivation behind the legislation . 

 -  Other states that enacted compassion centers found them to be problematic, refer to them as pot houses, and are working to pass laws to regulate them similar to strip clubs and adult book stores.

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