It’s telling that state Sen. Perry Clark, D-Louisville, expects his crusade to legalize medicinal marijuana will become a two-time loser in the next General Assembly. A previous bill failed in this year’s session.
Clark’s latest attempt is called the Gatewood Galbraith Memorial Medicinal Marijuana Act, and would allow patients suffering from various afflictions to get prescriptions for the now-prohibited drug, said to relieve myriad ills. Galbraith, who died last year from chronic emphysema, had lots of worthy thoughts on many topics not even remotely connected to the cannabis plant but never came close to winning one of his perennial gubernatorial races. His early fixation on legalizing pot forever typecast him as a fringe contender, drawing little support except from a minority of voters who shared his core beliefs. Clark acknowledged in a discussion of his proposed legislation earlier this month that it will be “very, very difficult” to get the necessary votes to pass it. That’s undoubtedly an understatement.
The senator revealed he sometimes smokes marijuana for relief from chronic back pain and said he’ll apply for a legal permit if his measure passes.
One problem with the medicinal marijuana is that Kentuckians, already ambivalent about some of the commonwealth’s legendary consumables, probably aren’t prepared to put the seal of approval on something you can be arrested for possessing or using, medicinally or otherwise. Marijuana, subject of the cult film “Reefer Madness” in the 1950s, came into more general use during the social revolution of the following decade. To believers, it’s a relatively benign substance that makes users mellow, unlike violence-inducing alcohol.
However, perceptions of harmlessness can be misleading. When the so-called “Miami Cannibal” allegedly attacked a man and literally chewed off his face in May, some suspected the assailant was under the influence of “bath salts,” a synthetic drug, or some hard narcotic. But the Huffington Post reported tests found no such substance in his system. Instead they detected traces of marijuana. The suspect had previously been diagnosed with schizophrenia, believed to be aggravated by pot use.
If medicinal marijuana is ever approved in Kentucky, there will need to be tight restrictions to ensure users don’t exploit the law for recreational purposes, as drinkers did during the Prohibition era with prescriptions written to purchase booze from drug stores.
Smoking, the delivery method by which the typical marijuana user absorbs the leaf’s purported benefits, is problematic. Frankfort, Franklin County and many other communities in this tobacco-growing state decided after long deliberation that smoking should be prohibited in public buildings. Marijuana smoke contains some of the same compounds as tobacco smoke.
Any pharmaceutical marijuana ought to be processed into a form that’s taken by a means other than inhalation. And it should be administered under a physician’s supervision – no self-medicating.
New medicines have to pass rigorous safety testing prior to going on the market. Legalized marijuana should be subject to no less scrutiny – a long time before the first prescriptions get written.