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Friday, October 7, 2011

Medical Marijuana - part 2

Dear Readers,

On I posted a letter I'd received (and my response) regarding the use of Marijuana for Medical Purposes. You can jump to the original letter, and the subsequent comments, HERE.

One of the comments struck me as particularly poignant, and so I've decided to publish it separately here, in hopes of giving it the attention it, and this topic, the deserved attention (not everyone reads the comments on the letters).

Here's the comment (I have edited it only for clarity):

Dear Bro Jo,

I was Anon #1 and did some research on medical marijuana after reading this post out of curiosity.

You seem to insist on it's addictive properties, but the evidence of physical withdrawal seems only present in heavy users, according to the research I've done.

Based on the research I've done, it's only physically addictive after prolonged, heavy use. A study done by a professor at Cambridge suggested that about 9% of users become addicted and another study suggest perhaps 4-8% become "addicted" in the physical sense of the word.

One could argue, as perhaps you are, that people get addicted to the "feeling" and that the "addiction" is psychological, which seems fair to me. I've also learned that most marijuana taken for legitimately medical reasons is not always smoked, but often taken via baked good or vaporizer, as those methods don't damage the lungs and decrease cognitive impairment.

It is often for reducing nausea in chemo patients, stimulating appetite in cancer and AIDs victims and for people with muscle spasticity problems. I did a casual poll on this on my blog and looked at Church sources from the Handbook and and 5 temple-attending LDS people seemed to agree that if it was legal and under the care of a doctor that it would be fine. I live in a state where it's legal.

- Lauren

Dear Lauren,

While a "casual poll" of one's friends on a personal blog is hardly scientific evidence, you do make some great points. Sadly, anyone could easily put together a sampling of "temple-attending LDS people" that have opinions contrary to the teachings of the Church and its Prophets. (One of the realities of a Church as large and diverse as ours.) I have piles of research showing the addictive properties of MJ, so that doesn't necessarily sway me, either, but I'll certainly concede that "addiction" is a very broad term and can certainly include psychological as well as the physiological.

And, let's be honest here: I'm a logical kind of guy, but certainly no scientist. Plus, I'm sensitive to the suffering of others, and in your initial anonymous comment you made a pretty good point about the other medicines we take that are certainly addictive.

After receiving your comment above I contacted a friend and mentor (who also happens to be in Church leadership).

I asked him first if the Church had an official position on Medical Marijuana.

He said "no, the Church doesn't have an official position", which surprised me a little. He said that its come up in meetings with area 70s and other GA meetings, but at this time the bottom line is (as was suggested in another comment) "it really becomes a decision between the individual and their physician, and that the member should counsel with their priesthood leadership and the Lord".

Cannabis, as has been stated, IS available in pill form, which I think all people agree would make the issue a little easier to resolve. The problem is that the pills are significantly more expensive than MJ cigarettes, and that then can cross a boundary; there's a difference between swallowing a pill and the other things, including the vapor that you suggested, that in addition to the physically damaging and addictive issues, carry with them "the appearance of evil". We make not like it when people judge, but it IS a fact of life, and more often than we like it, judging the BEHAVIOR of others (note the difference) IS something we're supposed to do.

If people see someone known to be LDS, particularly someone in Church Leadership, sitting out on the back porch smoking a J . . . see what I'm saying?

Then there's the further complication of the states (like yours and mine, Lauren) where its "legal". See, in my state, its pretty easy for non-physicians to get "licensed" as "caregivers" allowing them to manufacture and distribute pot to a much wider range of people than those suffering from the ailments you mentioned. It seems like anyone around here with claims of "pain" can become a "card-carrying" pot smoker, and many of those card-carriers around here share their "painkillers" with their friends and anyone else, age 12 and up, who would like to be . . . "pain free".

For those that don't know, among the other hats I wear, I'm a college teacher and a football coach at the local high school. I'm acutely aware of the fact that we now live in a time where many, many young people believe that we're supposed to go through life (as one commentator on the original post ignorantly said) "as pain-free as possible". (I had one player this season tell me he couldn't practice because he "slept funny and his back was sore" - which is utterly ridiculous.) Couple this attitude with what I see as the "over accessibility" of marijuana, which make-no-mistake IS an addictive gate-way drug, and I worry about the casual attitude we, as a people, Church and society are developing towards pot.

One sad benefit of being an Old Guy is that I've seen a lot of lives ruined when we develop attitudes that bad isn't bad, that the appearance of evil is irrelevant, and we excuse addictions and addictive behavior.

If a Real Doctor prescribes cannabis as a medicine to someone who truly can not bear life without it, who truly has no other options, who has counseled with the Lord and the appropriate leadership, who limits its use to private individual medicinal use, and is committed to avoiding the appearance of evil, then . . . well . . . I guess I'm saying I'm on board.

But I'm still concerned.

And, personally, I think I'd rather die from the pain than have anyone ever be able to say "but Bro Jo smoked pot".

And, while I feel pretty blessed with relatively decent health, I can't remember the last time I had a "pain-free" day.

I just don't think that's the way life works.

Thank you for your comments,

- Bro Jo


Memissmolly said...

Thank you for this post. I have wondered for a while now about other peoples views on "medical" marijuana use. It's nice to finally read about one.

Coming from my situation, I've witnessed a lot of different positions on marijuana use. Friends, strangers, acquaintances, and family. I've seen a lot, and I've had many conversations with certain individuals about why they justify their medical marijuana use.

I understand the physical pain that some people go through and the need to alter it with pot. I understand the mental and/or spiritual pain that others struggle with and the desire to mask it with pot.

I understand it, but let me say, my opposition of marijuana will forever stand, but it's not because I'm LDS.

I have seen too many lives destroyed by pot use. I have watched my own father destroy himself and throw away his family as he quickly disappeared under the use of marijuana. I've seen the difference in the lives of those around me who use it verses those who don't. I've seen the reasons behind all of it.

I understand. But there is nothing more painful- I say nothing- than to watch those you love be physically, and mentally ripped from your life time and again because of their use in Marijuana.

Nothing. All the pain in the world couldn't compare to the pain of something like that.

I know God would want us to stay clean and not drown our sorrows or misery from pain in a bong.

You might say you're justified, but I say, wait until you're on the other side. You'll change your mind.

There's a reason we're going through whatever we're going through in this life, and I don't think it's to stifle those feelings with a kind of stimulator.

No, that was never in Gods plan.

Laura said...

I remember the story of Joseph Smith as a young boy having surgery done to his leg and he refused to drink the alcohol to dull the pain.
The church hadn't been restored at this point yet, either.
Nobody would have frowned on him if he drank for that reason. But the fact that he didn't - and he had his leg cut open down to the bone - which is supposed to be the most painful thing one can experience - is a Christ-like example to look towards.

I am curious though, very very curious, as to why the original person would not take hydrocodene? It bewilders me. I too, have an autoimmune disease that has severe effects on my digestive system, and am in a LOT of pain most of the time. I have had to be on that. Not daily, but as needed, and only when things are unbearable. It works wonders without being as heavy as morphine or demoral or any of the other stuff you get through IV.
I don't know. Maybe I'm totally missing out on something.

Dave Johnston said...

@ Laura -

Thank you for mentioning the story of the Prophet Joseph.

Did you mean to write "hydrocodone"?

- Bro Jo