"Reason is always a kind of brute force; those who appeal to the head rather than the heart, however pallid and polite, are necessarily men of violence. We speak of 'touching' a man's heart, but we can do nothing to his head but hit it." --G.K. Chesterton

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

My problem with the City's marijuana letter

UPDATE: Mayor Stewart has now commented, on his Facebook page, about this item. While my specific concern still stands, I'd like to thank him for taking the time to present such a comprehensive explanation.

Today's news, that marijuana smoking is linked to testicular cancer, follows by only a few weeks a report that teenaged pot smokers can expect to see a permanent decline in their IQ. The two troubling reports add to my longstanding concerns about any move to legalize marijuana usage.

Photo from marijuana-addict.com

I raise this matter now because of Coquitlam Council's recent engagement with the marijuana issue, during which we unanimously banned already-patently illegal retail outlets and also the commercial growing of "medical marijuana" in residential areas.
We also voted to send a letter to the federal government "requesting that [it] establish as soon as possible a regulatory framework regarding the production and dispensing of medical marijuana."
I supported the latter motion because, at a time when the federal government has made the medical use of marijuana legal, it only makes sense to have a better regulatory framework than the highly inadequate one that currently exists.
My support of the motion did not mean that I also supported the medical use of marijuana in the first place; it only meant that I recognized that the medical use of marijuana has been established and, this being the case, that better regulation is necessary.
The aforementioned letter was sent to federal Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq and Health Canada on August 23 under the signature of Mayor Richard Stewart. But, rather than simply conveying council's concern for a better regulatory framework, it ended with a paragraph declaring far more. I quote:
"Either this drug is a legitimate therapy for some patients (based upon a favourable risk/benefit profile) or it is not. If it is not, then the MMAR [Medical Marihuana Access Regulations]  should be repealed. But if--as our Council has generally concluded--there is a legitimate medical and society benefit to be derived from controlled access to medical marihuana, [my emphasis] then the MMAR must be revised as soon as practical to allow the safe, timely, and properly regulated filling of prescriptions for this therapy. As already noted above, the current approach is, in Council's opinion, untenable."
I think you can see the problem. It may be true that the majority of council does support controlled marijuana usage and, therefore, that the Mayor is correct in saying that "Council has generally concluded" there is a benefit from it. Nevertheless, our motion did not instruct the letter to say this. Furthermore, we never actually debated either the "medical" or the "societal" benefits derived from controlled access.
Yes, we heard testimony from marijuana proponents about the alleged benefits, but that was never the issue; the issue was the regulatory framework. If the issue had been the "medical" and "societal" benefits of controlled usagage, then we certainly would have had to extend the public hearing by several more hours, if not days. And, of course, we would have also been intruding into federal jurisdiction.
I talked with Mayor Stewart on Monday afternoon about my concerns with the letter, and told him that I was thinking about raising the issue either in-camera or at a public session. In the end, I decided that, because of time constraints during what was a very busy day, I would make the matter public through this medium.
I recognize that it is not the most pressing issue facing us today. However, I believe it is important enough to bring to the public's attention.

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