Jul 25, 2014

Letter to Editor: ‘Marijuana is Not Medicine’

In this Letter to the Editor, Wellesley’s Chief of Police Terrence Cunningham writes to vote no on Question No. 3, which would make it legal for medical marijuana dispensaries to open in Wellesley.

Letter to Editor: ‘Marijuana is Not Medicine’

The following is a Letter to the Editor submitted on Oct. 22 by Wellesley Chief of Police Terrence Cunningham:

On November 6, Massachusetts voters will be asked to decide whether or not to permit the growing, sale and possession of “medical marijuana” (Question 3).  If the initiative passes, 35 marijuana dispensaries will open across the commonwealth and people who claim financial and transportation challenges will be permitted to grow their own marijuana.   

The Town of Wellesley, through the Board of Selectmen and the voters, has moved methodically and strategically regarding alcohol licensing regulations, the current regulations don’t allow liquor stores or bars to operate.  Ironically, should this ballot initiative pass a marijuana dispensary would have the right to open in any business district in the Town of Wellesley without the approval of the Board of Selectmen or the voters. 

I sympathize with people who suffer from a chronic or terminal disease, but Question 3 is not about that.  Most professional medical associations maintain that marijuana is not a medicine at all and that it should not be administered to patients.  Among groups that have taken formal stances against “medical marijuana” are the American Medical Association, the British Medical Association, the American Glaucoma Society, the American Society of Addiction Medicine, the American Academy of Ophthalmology, the International Federation of Multiple Sclerosis Societies and the American Cancer Society.

The active ingredient in marijuana is delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol, commonly known as THC.  For decades, it has been on the market as a prescription drug in capsule form and available to doctors who believe it would help their patients.  The proponents of Question 3 support the smoking of marijuana, a carcinogen, over the administration of THC by prescription.

According to the Massachusetts Office of Campaign and Political Finance, the committee supporting Question 3 has raised nearly 1.1 million dollars already.  Of that amount, 96% came from outside Massachusetts.  This is nothing new.  Prior to the 2008 election, the committee supporting marijuana decriminalization raised 1.2 million, 83% of which came from outside Massachusetts. 

Marijuana is a Schedule I drug, meaning that it has no accepted medical use.  Doctors cannot prescribe it.  So if a doctor signs off on a marijuana card, he or she is not held to the same standard as if he had issued a prescription.  The growing and distribution of marijuana that would be allowed under Question 3 are violations of federal law and subject to enforcement action by federal law enforcement agencies.  A state cannot legalize something that is prohibited under federal law.  In late September, US law enforcement agents raided a number of dispensaries in California.  While the Obama administration initially announced that it would not take enforcement action against dispensaries in states with “medical marijuana” laws, they have reversed that position and US attorneys are taking enforcement action in many states.

Law enforcement agencies in other states have reported young, healthy looking people carrying marijuana and marijuana cards signed by doctors who have become an easy mark.  One of the factors that drive drug use among teens is perception of risk.  If you let kids think that marijuana has value as a medicine, more will be willing to smoke it.  While not all kids who smoke marijuana will move on to other drugs, the vast majority of people who become addicted drank alcohol at an early age and smoked marijuana. 

The text of Question 3 is available online, but the salient parts of the initiative are:

  • People would be permitted to possess and carry marijuana if they obtain a marijuana card authorized by a physician.  The cards never expire, allowing cardholders to use marijuana indefinitely.
  • The standard for issuance of a card includes several maladies, but the paragraph ends with the words, “and other conditions as determined in writing by a qualified patient’s physician.”  In other words, a physician may authorize a person to obtain marijuana for a wide variety of reasons.
  • People with marijuana cards would be permitted to carry up to a sixty day supply of marijuana.  The law would direct the Department of Public Health to determine what a sixty day supply is.  (It just may be that DPH should be attending to more important matters than this.)
  • In the first year, there may be 35 marijuana dispensaries around the state, but DPH would have the authority to raise that number after the first year.
  • DPH “shall” issue authorization to a person to grow his own marijuana if he has a financial hardship, a physical incapacity to access transportation or a lack of a dispensary within a reasonable distance.  Those terms are not further defined.

Colorado currently has over 100,000 medical marijuana cardholders – the majority of these “patients” are young males with a history of substance abuse.  Additionally, in Colorado, a recent survey of teenagers in rehab uncovered that 74% of these kids admitted they originally acquired their marijuana from someone who was getting it for “Medical Marijuana” purposes.

Marijuana is a street drug; it is not medicine.  Growing it or dispensing it violates federal law, regardless of what Massachusetts voters may approve.  As has been the case in other states that have passed similar measures, the passage of Question 3 would lead to an increase in crime, particularly near dispensaries, an increase in the availability of the drug on the street, even more of an increase in impeded motor vehicle operation than we have seen since decriminalization and the diversion of marijuana to adolescents. 

I hope the voters of Wellesley see through this medical marijuana hoax.

Terrence M. Cunningham

Chief of Police


Don’t miss updates from Patch!