Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Legalizing Medical Marijuana

A recent Letter to the Editor to The Berkshire Eagle

Your recent article about “Pot on Statewide Ballot” states; “the Massachusetts Medical Society (MMS), representing 24,000 doctors, also opposes legalizing medicinal marijuana without scientific proof that if would be safe and effective on patients.”

Really? Perhaps they never heard of Google. Or, they have some other motives

According to the government: the FDA’s Adverse Event Reporting System (2009) Annual Causes of Death in the US: Cannabis/Marijuana ranks dead last, at ZERO deaths.

“Indeed, epidemiological data indicate that in the general population marijuana use is not associated with increased mortality.” Source:  Janet E. Joy: “Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base,” Division of Neuroscience and Behavioral Research, Institute of Medicine (Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 1999), p. 109.

On the other hand:
1.      According to the CDC: “in the United States, tobacco use is responsible for about one in five deaths annually, about 443,000 deaths per year.
2.      Lack of health insurance and access to basic care kills 44,789/year.
3.      Preventable medical errors in hospitals kill 12,000/week = 624,000/year, a conservative estimate, responsible for 26% of deaths, making it the 3rd leading cause of death.
4.      An article by Dr. Barbara Starfield, MD, MPH, in JAMA: Vol.284, No.4, 07/26/2000: revealed that prescription drugs kill around 106,000 people in the US every year making it the fourth leading cause of death. “The data did not include fatal reactions caused by accidental overdoses or errors in administration of the drugs. If these had been included, it is estimated that another 100,000 deaths would be added to the total every year.” Furthermore, every year there are 2,216,000 serious adverse drug reactions (ADR’S). HMO’s spend more money treating ADR’s than they do on drugs.

When you understand that the MMS, like the AMA, are trade associations whose primary purpose is to protect doctors’ incomes, and have virtually nothing to do with improving patient safety and care outcomes, then the above starts to make some sense.

Why would they deny suffering and dying patients access to a benign, very helpful, inexpensive medicinal herb? As always, follow the money.

Clearly, the MMS and the AMA should be more concerned about the scientific proof, safety and efficacy of their doctors’ routine medical practices and prescribing habits.

The functioning of our democracy depends on an informed public given, as best possible, verifiable facts, not self-serving myths.

Peter May
North Adams, MA 01247