Every week articles appear in the Crescent-News about the current opioid crisis. Medical professionals, substance abuse counselors, law enforcement, local government officials, and former addicts routinely are asked for comments or input on how to deal with drug abuse. There is, however, one stakeholder who is never asked to participate in these discussions – the chronic pain sufferer who takes opioid-based medications. Instead, the aforementioned groups speak as if chronic pain sufferers don’t exist. How else to explain the comments by authority figures about medical marijuana? Here’s a drug that can help people with chronic pain, yet law enforcement and government officials in particular go out of their way to make it hard or impossible for chronic pain suffers to access medical marijuana. Republican state legislators, in particular, are doing their best to make it nigh impossible for chronic pain sufferers to access and affordably buy medical marijuana. Local communities, giving into irrational hysteria, have caused harm to suffering locals by banning medical marijuana sellers. Imagine the outrage there would be if local governments banned cancer treatment drugs. Why, they would be voted out of office. Yet, it seems okay to demean, diminish, and harm chronic pain sufferers. Why is this?
One reason for these actions is that chronic pain sufferers are not part of local discussions about opioid abuse and use. Chronic pain sufferers who use narcotics as part of their pain management regimen are now treated like drug addicts. Chronic pain sufferers must jump through numerous hoops put in place by doctors, pharmacies, and government to get their prescriptions filled. Not one time have chronic pain sufferers been asked to have a seat at the discussion table. Instead, they suffer indignity in silence, fearing they will be looked down on if they dare to complain about the increasingly complex process required to get prescriptions filled.
I have read comments by Defiance Mayor Mike “Medical Marijuana is Not Part of Our Brand” McCann that reveal he is clueless about what chronic pain sufferers (and the handicapped) go through every day. The only way to change such ignorant perceptions is to include chronic pain sufferers in discussions about opioid abuse, medical marijuana, and pain treatment in general. Excluding them paints an inaccurate picture, leading to uneducated, ignorant, and irrational conclusions. Thanks to the war on opioids, chronic pain suffers have been pushed into the shadows. We deserve better.
The criminal law is too harsh a tool to apply to personal possession even in the effort to discourage use. It implies an overwhelming indictment of the behavior which we believe is not appropriate. The actual and potential harm of use of the drug is not great enough to justify intrusion by the criminal law into private behavior, a step which our society takes only with the greatest reluctance. … Therefore, the Commission recommends … [that the] possession of marijuana for personal use no longer be an offense.
Forty-five years later, marijuana is still absurdly considered a Class 1 drug by the Federal government. If U.S. Justice Department head Jeff Sessions has it his way, people will be arrested and incarcerated for personal marijuana use. Sessions is an anti-science idiot who thinks the drug policies of Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon are good ideas.Sessions thinks the failed war on drugs should be ramped up, with drug users prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
I reject the idea that America will be a better place if marijuana is sold in every corner store. And I am astonished to hear people suggest that we can solve our heroin crisis by legalizing marijuana—so people can trade one life-wrecking dependency for another that’s only slightly less awful,” Sessions said while speaking with law enforcement officers Wednesday. “Our nation needs to say clearly once again that using drugs will destroy your life.
We need grown-ups in charge in Washington to say marijuana is not the kind of thing that ought to be legalized, it ought not to be minimized, that it’s in fact a very real danger.
I think one of [Obama’s] great failures, it’s obvious to me, is his lax treatment in comments on marijuana… It reverses 20 years almost of hostility to drugs that began really when Nancy Reagan started ‘Just Say No.
You can’t have the President of the United States of America talking about marijuana like it is no different than taking a drink… It is different… It is already causing a disturbance in the states that have made it legal.
Even when initially used with a medical prescription, marijuana is a gateway drug. As a pastor, I often counsel people who have had major life difficulties because of drug use that began with marijuana. Even recently, I have counseled someone who began using medical marijuana that was prescribed by a questionable doctor in Los Angeles. This man became deeply addicted and relationally incapacitated toward his family. For the past year, his life has been out of control. His story is one of many similar I could give.
The greatest concern for our city should be the effect that our making marijuana more accessible would have on the next generation. The damaging effects of marijuana are not theoretical only, nor are they simple “community percentages.” They are life altering to the young people who become addicted.
Adolescent user addiction rates are high—as high as 50 percent. (That exceeds the rate of cocaine addiction.) Additionally, the risk of psychotic episodes is 40 percent greater for marijuana users than for non users, and the risk of schizophrenia is higher among teens who smoke it than those who do not. One study reported that “adolescents who used marijuana regularly were significantly less likely than their non-using peers to finish high school or obtain a degree. They also had a much higher chance of later developing dependence, using other drugs, and attempting suicide.”
Although I am aware that the current topic of discussion for our city relates to cultivating medical marijuana, I believe it is naïve to suggest that even if the conversation regarding marijuana licenses were to stop here, there would be no immediate effect on the young people of our community. Again, in my recent conversation with Sheriff McDonnell, he told me how medical marijuana wrappings have been found in middle schools. People are absolutely buying medical marijuana and reselling for profit—including to teens. I prefer that our city have nothing to do with underage people gaining access to marijuana, even if it’s by our second-hand association through this industry.
While I commend the city for proposing distance requirements prohibiting cultivation facilities within one thousand feet of schools, it is unrealistic to think that this alone will keep marijuana out of the hands of minors. The reality is that licensing cultivation will make marijuana more accessible to young people. And it makes me question, beyond the financial concerns to our city, what moral liability comes to us by entering into this trade?
I am, of course, a pastor, and so I am taking the liberty to share biblical principles related to this issue as well.
The Bible references the use of drugs in Revelation 9:21 as it speaks of people involved in “sorceries.” Interestingly the word translated from Greek (the original language of the New Testament) is pharmakeia and relates to “the use or administering of drugs.” In our biblical opinion, people who take recreational drugs are opening their minds to wickedness and the occult. (And I think police reports could substantiate that concern, by volume if not by verbiage.)
Another Scripture verse passes judgment on those who aid in the dissemination of intoxicating substance: “Woe unto him that giveth his neighbour drink, that puttest thy bottle to him, and makest him drunken also…” (Habakkuk 2:15). Basically, the Bible is saying that when we encourage someone to partake in a substance that brings them under intoxicating influence, we become responsible for what happens in that person’s life as a result of the substance they consume. I believe Governor Jerry Brown and the liberal leadership of our state will be held accountable for their decisions on matters ranging from abortion to releasing violent criminals to legalizing marijuana. I prefer that our city not posture itself similarly by joining in these decisions.
Our city has been willing in the past to take a stand against prevalent culture where it was harmful to our residents. I am deeply grateful for the way, in the 2000s, our city stood against gangs and gang-related drug dealing. I remember in the 1990s when our city council passed ordinances against “sex shops.” More recently, our city stood to protect the right to open city council meetings in prayer, including praying in Jesus’ name. God has blessed us since we have taken these stands, and I believe He will bless again for choosing to stand against opening our community to marijuana cultivation.
Over the years, there have been other government-passed decisions that our ministry has opposed when these related to moral issues and opposed biblical principles. Should the city pass this ordinance and enter the marijuana trade, our church will continue to teach against using mind-altering substances and will stand against the distribution of such substance outside of a legitimate prescription and medicinal use of truly needed pain medicine. (While there may be a legitimate medical use, I have no assurance that there is a safe and proven process for legal distribution to and through legitimate medical outlets at this time. I think we should also remember that medical marijuana is still not approved by the FDA. Insufficient research and inability for quality control are among their reasons.)
Rarely a week goes by when there is not a letter to the Editor from a fundamentalist Christian demanding their moral code and peculiar interpretation of the Bible be accepted by all. Even when they aren’t quoting the Bible or reminding local unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines of their impending doom, their letters reflect an addled worldview, one shaped by an ancient book they think offers them unchanging truth. If their beliefs were kept in the church house, non-Christians would care little and hope that one day they would see the light. However, their beliefs are not kept in the church house, and because of this people of science, reason, and common sense must continue to push back as Christian fundamentalists try by legal and political means to force people to live by a worldview that is better suited for the dustbin of human history.
Take a recent letter writer who vehemently opposes legalizing the use of medical marijuana in Ohio. Even though they didn’t mention one Bible verse, their letter dripped with the fundamentalist presupposition that suffering and pain are in some way noble and good for us. Numerous Bible verses would certainly lead one to conclude that suffering and pain have probative value and makes us closer to God and keeps us from clinging too closely to this life. If we buy into this kind of thinking and accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior, a life after death that is free of suffering and pain awaits us.
Sounds sublime, right? But, what if there is no life after death, no divine payoff for trudging through life suffering for Jesus and enduring pain because it will make us stronger? What if the only life we have is this one? Well, that changes everything. If this life is it, and I think it is, then we should try to relieve not only our own pain and suffering, but that of others. As a committed humanist, I would never want to withhold from anyone that which would relieve or end their suffering and pain. Whether it is narcotic pain medications, medical marijuana, or physician assisted suicide, I want every human to have at their disposal the means to lessen their suffering and pain.
Any religion that values suffering and pain is one that should be roundly criticized and rejected. And if Jesus were alive today, I suspect he’d agree with me.