John Colson: Hit and Run | AspenTimes.com

John Colson: Hit and Run

John Colson
Aspen Times Weekly

It’s not often that a state agency can be accused of acting rationally in the face of irrational but dogged influence from established lobbying industries. So when it happens, it ought to be loudly recognized and applauded.

The Colorado Board of Health decisively rejected a proposal from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment this week, which would have illogically restricted the number of patients that an individual “caregiver” could work with in the business of medical marijuana.

The CDPHE, or more specifically the state’s chief medical officer, Ned Calonge, has claimed that the Colorado law allowing access to pot for medical reasons is “out of control” and must be more restrictive.

The published accounts of the hearing that killed the CDPHE’s effort have not said much about the rationale for the attempt to limit access to pot, as established in a statewide vote on an amendment to the state constitution a couple of years ago.

But we can imagine what was going on, can’t we?

Many and probably most doctors have long resisted the use of marijuana by their patients, even when patients tell them that pot relieves the symptoms of certain pains, discomforts or outright deadly illness, and that pot is the only medication that does so without debilitating side effects.

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Why should doctors resist such a benign treatment for people’s discomfort?

Selfishness, that’s why. Doctors realize that if patients are allowed to turn to pot for certain kinds of relief, rather than being forced to rely on the doctors’ own ideas, prejudices and fiscal priorities, the medical profession is in trouble.

It’s not that doctors will suddenly find themselves without patients, since there are many ailments that pot will not help. But they may find themselves with fewer patients, which translates to a diminished flow of cash into their pockets, and that simply is not acceptable.

Of course, there are arguments that pot is, itself, a harmful drug, and doctors frequently fall back on that thesis to explain their resistance. But there also are many drugs out there that have conclusively been demonstrated to be harmful, even fatal in some dosages and cases. Doctors readily prescribe these drugs for their patients and drug companies regularly toss them onto the market, sometimes with disastrous results. Don’t forget the recent Vioxx case, where the drug proved so problematic its manufacturer was forced to withdraw it from the market.

So, argue the proponents of medical marijuana, why not leave it up to the patients to choose their poison, so to speak?

Because that’s what doctors do, dummy. Doctors and their pharmacological partners are the experts who get to decide which drugs are best for you, and the fact that they all get fabulously rich in the process isn’t something we peons should worry our little heads about.

Thankfully, the state’s medical board saw through all the hype about the need for stricter rules in the medial marijuana field, and voted by a 2-1 margin to dump the idea.

Score one for rationality.

And now for something completely different, I have a suggestion for President Barack Obama that might shore up the sagging popularity of his health-care reform proposals.

How about including a provision that sets up a nationwide medical marijuana registry and dispensary program?

According to the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, there are now 14 states that have active medical marijuana programs. That’s approaching a third of the nation in which the citizens have decided that it is insane to withhold this option from those it could help. So why not make it universal?

Such a move would not lack in controversy, to be sure, but so what? The health-care reform issue already is locked up in a struggle to the death, with all sides caterwauling about this, that or the other thing. Perhaps this is just the proposal to break the logjam and get things smoking right along, eh?

jcolson@aspentimes.com

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