After years of debating the dos and don’ts and the positives and pitfalls of medical marijuana, Pennsylvania is now full-steam ahead on making it available to anyone who needs it for medicinal purposes.
There are still questions to be raised about medical marijuana — and reasons to be vigilant about how it is prescribed and how it is regulated.
This is not a decision or a practice that should be taken lightly. We have seen what happens with a Schedule 1 narcotic when no one is watching.
Mishandling of opioids, irresponsible prescribing and a general lack of insight into the potential risks — that is how we ended up in the opioid crisis.
And we deal with those consequences in every community in Pennsylvania every day.
So now, Gov. Tom Wolf and Lt. Gov. John Fetterman have voiced their support for legalizing recreational marijuana, based in part on the results of the lieutenant governor’s listening tour earlier this year on the issue.
We say, no way.
There are reasons to consider legalization — not the least of which is the money that can be raised in taxes and fees paid on the sale and production. The commonwealth stands to make a nice bit of change if Pennsylvania says “yes” to recreational marijuana.
But there are times when the money just is not worth the potential consequences, and yes, the risks.
Law enforcement officials are still on the fence about medical marijuana — and many of them are absolutely certain that they do not want recreational marijuana in the commonwealth.
They are the ones on the front lines of the drug war — and they have seen what prescription drugs, prescribed irresponsibly and wantonly, have done to families and individuals across this county.
They are the ones administering Narcan to overdose victims, only to have to do it again a few days later. And they are the ones who tell families about the children and others they have lost at the end of a needle.
They also know that gateway drugs can lead the user along a path of addiction to much worse. And they know that children and young adults are especially vulnerable because they think they are invincible.
All those are reasons to tread carefully in the pursuit of legalization of recreational marijuana, and a reminder how important it is that we do medical marijuana right.
The other argument involves prison overcrowding and how many low-level drug dealers and users end up there from marijuana charges.
That argument is specious as well — although sentencing reform, alternative punishments and more spending on rehabilitation for marijuana charges are possibilities, too.
The good news is that some patients whose illnesses can be treated with medical marijuana are finding relief. The problem is that it is still expensive and is not covered by most insurance plans. So along with keeping a sharp eye on who is prescribing and how much, we also have to look at making sure this treatment, when called for, is affordable so that anyone who needs it can get it.
The problem with marijuana is that it doesn’t have the best reputation. For decades, it has been connected to a vision of a “stoned” user who is not able to function or to think responsibly.
Changing that perception requires doing the due diligence that makes it not just a way to get high, but a legitimate medical tool to help patients who have nowhere else to turn.
Some say that marijuana is no worse than alcohol. And, in some sense, they are right.
Alcohol in the hands of addicts or inexperienced youths can end in the same tragedies that destroy lives and claim innocent victims.
That is no recommendation to add another means to the list. And yes, we have to think about those people who will misuse recreational marijuana and the damage they can do to themselves and others.
Make sure your voice is heard. Contact your state legislators.
We think there are better ways to get money for schools, housing grants and infrastructure improvements.