An editorial by Skip Shuda
We’re all familiar with citizens who believe that cannabis is and should remain a schedule 1 drug. These people’s story is grounded in fear that cannabis is personally dangerous, highly addictive, has no known medical use and is a strong gateway to hard drugs. Additionally, they believe that any claims of medical usefulness are really just ploys by addicts to get high. So, in order to combat the rise of marijuana, they feel proposed laws must be tightly restricted and limited in size and scope.
If you’re reading this article, you probably subscribe to a different story. Your story might see cannabis as a safe, effective and helpful plant which can provide numerous benefits to our society. The level of danger and addictiveness is comparable to a cup of espresso. With the help of cannabis, many people can now sleep, face the world, overcome pain and even arrest the advance of some cancers. Additionally, jobs are created in a vibrant economy which emerges around hemp and cannabis. Social injustices around cannabis and incarcerations form deep wounds and expenses that can be greatly decreased.
Both of these stories are powerful motivators to their supporters. However, our society finds itself in what philosopher Charles Eistenstein calls “the space between stories”. As Pennsylvanians wake up to realize that the old stories about cannabis don’t hold up to the facts, they find themselves in an uncomfortable place. We are in a void… an abyss of who we are as a people. The next step we Pennsylvanians take will set the table for the next story.
This is why it’s so important to get the PA medical cannabis laws right. If we get these right, then we can have another conversation about adult use. However, if the medical cannabis laws we pass are more like a clenched fist around the throat of how we use cannabis, then any future conversations are going to be twisted by the side effects of poorly built laws.
Dear community, I propose we don’t get distracted by how much we love our own story. We now need to refocus our attention to make sure that patients, through their doctors, have full access to medical cannabis, without interference from the state. Contrary to the fear that medical cannabis will become black market contraband, there are ways that medical cannabis can be safely kept inside legitimate medical marijuana channels. The resulting laws need not be a back door to recreational use. For example, growers, processors and dispensaries can agree to surprise inspections. Physicians can have a limit on the percentage of their patients who receive recommendations. Medical ethics boards can oversee reports of physician recommendation abuse. I believe we should support efforts like these by lawmakers to prevent diversion of cannabis from legitimate channels into illegitimate ones.
If we acknowledge people’s fear of cannabis getting into the wrong hands, then perhaps those fearing cannabis will loosen their grip on the throat of medical cannabis. Only then can we pass a bill that honors the healing aspect of cannabis. Only then will Pennsylvania be ready to begin a new, healthy conversation about adult use in Pennsylvania.
I hope people will contact their senator before May 4th and support SB 3 with the amendments for both full vaporization and replace a list of approved conditions in favor of doctor-patient privilege. And please stay open to provisions that prevent mis-application (diversion) of medical cannabis into recreational use.
That’s my story. You may see it differently. Please share your story below in the comments.
Skip Shuda is a guest contributor to the PhillyNORML Website. He runs a digital marketing agency as well as a cannabis education and advocacy startup called Green Rush Advisors. Please join Skip, PhillyNORML’s Derek Rosenzweig, Austin Grey of Cannabis Considered and Steve Auerbach of Cannabis Growers Association of Pennsylvnia on 4/29/15 for a webinar to discuss the efforts around medical marijuana in PA.