An Open letter to the Governor, the Legislature, the Judiciary and the People of the Virgin Islands: The recent declaration by the Governor of Puerto Rico legalizing medical marijuana has brought much conversation on the airwaves here in the Virgin Islands. I would like the Governor and the Senators along with the Judiciary to understand what it is exactly that they will be writing, executing and judging the People of the Virgin Islands when they address the subject of Medical Marijuana. I’d like the people to think about the patients that need and use marijuana when they eventually go and vote for this law.
Disclosure: I am one of the persons who accompanied Senator Nelson on his Cannabis Tour to Washington and Colorado. My trip was privately funded and did not cost the taxpayer anything. My background is in health care. I have been a chiropractor since 1981. My interest was and is from the point of view of the patient. I wanted to speak to those involved in all aspects of the Cannabis industry but the emphasis for me was how the cannabis was grown for medicine and how the doctors and patients recommended (they do not prescribe cannabis) and used the medicine. I learned a lot and made many important contacts that can help the Virgin Islands craft our new law.
When I arrived home and was listening to the public conversation, I was surprised to see the amount of misinformation being propagated and spread about cannabis, in the name of keeping our children safe. I would like to address some of the issues I have heard the public bring up and some of the concerns legislators and even judges have expressed. I need to add, Medical Cannabis is not a cash cow like full legalization could be. Legalizing medical marijuana will have a profound effect on the health and welfare of Virgin Islanders. It will have a positive effect on the economy and will create jobs in agriculture and commerce, but the emphasis here is on the patient. Medical cannabis should be made legal because it works.
There are many myths about marijuana. It is important to understand a little history, what cannabis is and how cannabis works.
Cannabis has been used as many as 12,000 years ago. Cannabis had been found in burial tombs, was first recorded in history about 2500 BC in China and again later in India circa 2000 BC. It was introduced to Europe in the 1800s and was used by Queen Victoria for her menstrual pains. It was brought to America in the mid-1800s and was manufactured by major drug companies (like Eli Lily) and was prescribed and used as medicine as recently as the 1930s.
Prohibition took effect and with the advent of the Marijuana Tax Act, the medical community stopped prescribing cannabis.
For the sake of brevity, I have not mentioned Hemp at all but it is important to note that hemp is the reason that the all cannabis was banned. It was a political and economic tactic taken on by the Timber and paper industry along with the pharmaceutical industry and later by the tobacco and alcohol industry. By banning and demonizing marijuana, then known almost exclusively as cannabis, this Reefer madness helped shape and mold all future conversation on Cannabis This experiment on Marijuana Prohibition and the War on Drugs had begun.
Fact: Cannabis is the safest medicine known to mankind. There have never been any deaths recorded because someone overdosed on Cannabis. Some people may feel a little anxious or light headed but that can be controlled with the type of cannabis consumed. Compare this to forty thousand deaths per year being caused by aspirin and pain killers
Fact: Cannabis is not a gateway drug. This has been shown in study after study. There may be a correlation where people who use other drugs have also tried marijuana but marijuana use does not cause you to use other drugs.
Fact: Humans are uniquely wired with its own cannabiniod receptors to receive cannabiniods made by the body (endogeneous cannabiniods or endocannabinoids) and by plants (phytocannabiniods). Our Endo Cannabiniod System (ECS) is responsible for maintaining homeostasis in the body. Homeostasis can be defined as a property of an organism or system that helps it maintain its parameters within a normal range of values. It is key to life, and failures in homeostasis can lead to diseases like hypertension, diabetes and cancer. An example of homeostasis is the regulation of body temperature. In very cold or very hot climates, the body temperature is maintained at 98.6 F
Fact: Smoking marijuana does not cause lung cancer. This was demonstrated in 2 large studies showing no causal relationship between long term smokers of marijuana and lung cancer. In one of the studies there was evidence that the cannabis decreased the chance of smokers of getting lung cancer.
Fact: Legalizing medical marijuana will not cause an increase in teen use. The greatest teen use was in 1979, when 31 percent of high school seniors had tried marijuana, which was illegal in all 50 states and territories. Today, with 23 medical marijuana states and three legal states and Washington, D.C., Guam and now Puerto Rico, only 17 percent of 12th graders have tried pot, a drop of almost 50%.
Fact: The fastest growing demographic of marijuana smokers in the 21st century is people over the age of 50. Barely one percent of the AARP-eligible smoked pot monthly at the start of the 2000s. That figure is over three percent today and in raw numbers, monthly senior smokers have tripled since 2000.
Fact: Marijuana will not cause a decrease of IQ in children. A new study from the University College of London draws on a large sample of adolescents – 2,612 children born in the Bristol area of the U.K. in 1991 and 1992. Researchers examined children’s IQ scores at age 8 and again at age 15, and found "no relationship between cannabis use and lower IQ at age 15," when confounding factors – alcohol use, cigarette use, maternal education, and others – were taken into account. Even heavy marijuana use wasn’t associated with IQ.
"In particular alcohol use was found to be strongly associated with IQ decline," the authors write. "No other factors were found to be predictive of IQ change.
Fact: The average cannabis user is not lazy and non-productive. Fifty-five percent of people who have never smoked marijuana work full or part time. But 70.6 percent of people who have smoked pot are working. Even monthly pot smokers are more likely to be employed (64.4 percent) than people who didn’t smoke pot this month (61.7 percent).
The United States Government holds patents on marijuana as a medicine as well as private drug companies yet the Government continues to leave cannabis as a schedule I drug, a drug that is highly addicting with no medicinal value.
These are all facts, based on peer reviewed, published studies (references on request). These aren’t opinions.
On my trip to Washington and Colorado, I had the opportunity to talk to patients and doctors. I spoke with parents who had children on Cannabis oil to control their seizures when regular medication failed. I spoke to persons who were previously living in constant pain, able to maintain jobs and live without having to take their prescription pain medication. Conditions including all forms of cancer, MS, Crohn’s disease and even diabetes are being affected. Doctors tell me of specific strains grown for specific conditions. But best of all, the patients aren’t made to feel like criminals when they try to buy their medicine. If medical cannabis were legal, there would be a safe place to buy your medication. It would be tested and certified. The concentrations of Cannabinoids would be known and listed. The patient would know exactly what they are buying and putting in their bodies. How can this be a bad thing??
When discussing Cannabis as medicine, please remember, cannabis should not be treated any less seriously than your prescription or non-prescription medications. You don’t leave your Oxycontin on the kitchen table where children have access to it. Neither should you leave your cannabis where it is accessible to your children. No one wants children to smoke pot. That includes parents who smoke pot. Those that are going to smoke it are going to smoke it whether Medical Marijuana is legal or not. When legalized, it will be regulated and made safe to use and obtain for the patient.
Look at the evidence and all the latest research available. Do not rely on what someone told you because “their neighbors’ son is a pot head and drug addict and because of that he is violent and beats on women.” These were the stories I grew up with. These were all created to give cannabis an image of an evil weed with no redeeming qualities, all done for political and economic gain. Whether you personally approve or disapprove of the use of marijuana as medicine, it should be available for those that use cannabis to treat their pains or conditions. These patients are often faced with these options as a last resort. I may not agree with the use of some medications, but that disagreement shouldn’t preclude that person for getting that medication if it helps his or her condition.
To the Governor, the Senators and the Judiciary, please remember that these laws you write and enforce affect sick people. Stop criminalizing their medication, make it be safe to obtain and use. To the people of the Virgin Islands, this is not a moral issue. If it were legal, it wouldn’t be immoral. Let people have an option in how they want to treat their illness. If you don’t agree with the way something is used, don’t use it. Don’t keep that same choice away from others who choose to treat in a more natural way instead of just using pharmaceuticals.
Dr. Manuel A. da Motta, St. Croix