The White House has established the We the People website, where folks can post petitions on the topics of their choice -- and if they garner enough support (currently 25,000 signatures in thirty days), an administration will review it and offer a response.
Currently, many of the most popular offerings focus on marijuana reform. But none are quite like the offering from Fort Collins' Dean and Karen Beers, who want medical marijuana limited to DEA-approved pharmacies. They explain why in the Q&A below.
In "Marijuana Legalization Tops White House Petition List," on our Toke of the Town sister blog, Steve Elliott notes the success of marijuana-related petitions such as this one arguing that marijuana should be regulated in a manner similar to alcohol -- a proposal that mirrors the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act of 2012, which is aiming for the November 2012 ballot in Colorado. Its goal was 5,000 signatures by October 22; at this writing, it's got 61,882.
As for the Beers' petition, it's got a long way to go. Thus far, it's garnered just five signatures. Still, the pair, who operate Associates in Forensic Investigations, bring plenty of experience to their proposal. They're both veteran death investigators, with Dean having served as deputy coroner with the Larimer County Medical Examiner's Office. (Update: Dean adds that Karen has worked as a deputy coroner, too.)
The pair don't dispute that marijuana has some medical properties. But they believe the manner in which it's regulated in Colorado has been a disaster, and they're troubled by the conflict between state and federal law. With that in mind, they contend that marijuana, "a mind-altering narcotic," should be "controlled and dispensed through approved Drug Enforcement Administration registered pharmacies" rather than a retail dispensary system.
Below, Dean and Karen argue passionately and at length about the flaws in the present system, and why their idea would be a vast improvement, in a Q&A conducted via e-mail.
Westword: What motivated you to put together this petition?
Dean and Karen Beers: We have lived in Colorado, specifically Fort Collins, for greater than 25 years (Dean was born in Fort Collins and is a 7th generation to the area). This is a beautiful state and city -- now known as the marijuana mecca. First, it was wrong to use the state Constitution for such a measure. Second, it was wrong to use 'medical' as the foot-in-the-door method towards legalization (or 'decriminalization').
Every day the print and television media has another issue about medical marijuana. This issue has impacted, negatively, our community and state. The growth -- in one year (2009-2010) from 5,000 to 53,000 is alarming and indicative not of need -- but of abuse. It is a sad state of affairs when you see medical marijuana dispensaries everywhere and the state registry continues to grow. Quite a huge amount of people -- over 100,000 people are now registered as of January, 2011 as having debilitating illnesses. Either there are a bunch of doctors making money on signing off on medical marijuana slips (we personally know of a retired doctor who was living in another state who did this), or Colorado must have a sick environment to have this many people fall ill in two years' time. We have personally witnessed the effects of friends and family members, who were and are long time marijuana users, end up homeless, jobless or in prison - even domestic violence perpetrated by users; this does not show a pattern of "harmlessness." Marijuana is a mind altering, depressive drug; it is not harmless. People like to argue that you can drink alcohol and it is mind altering, etc., yes it is, but it is not touted as a "medicine" although people did use it historically for pain management and hygiene. Part of the motivation was some of the petitions posted on the White House site were demanding not to prosecute marijuana offenders and to legalize marijuana.
Historically there have been supportive studies of the medicinal properties of marijuana. If this is truly the case, seek the road for which the people of Colorado thought they were voting when supporting the Constitutional Amendment. This was intended to treat persons with chronic debilitating illnesses, as determined by a patient's bonafide relationship with a physician and medical history. This has been abused.
There is no regulation -- in fact no medical certainty -- of how medical marijuana should be meted by dosage. Medicines, even over-the-counter, have recommended dosages. Narcotics regulated by the DEA and approved for medical use require a prescription with dosage. Medical marijuana seems to be the only exception. It is really pseudo-medicine to have 'strains' of marijuana -- as determined by the dispensary and not a scientific working group -- for specific illnesses. And these are called such attractive names as 'purple haze', 'mountain majesty', etc.; not medicinal. Finally, there is no criminal history background requirement of persons operating clinics -- but that is another petition.
In addition, we have personally and professionally seen the impact the abuse of marijuana has caused. Although not exclusively, it cannot be ignored. If medical marijuana is to be construed as a bonafide treatment, it should be regulated as such. It is being treated similar to a liquor store, which is now the mantra of pro-legalization (original pro-medicinal use). There is no bonafide recreational use. WW: Was it dissatisfaction with the way current law handles medical marijuana?
DKB: The voters were duped into voting for something to be used for legit debilitating health issues, but that is not where this agenda has gone. This should never have been an Amendment to the Colorado Constitution. Putting items like this in the Constitution is like frivolous law suits and should not be allowed.
It was clear from the failure of legalization and introduction of Amendment 20 what the intent and likely outcome would be -- but this is much better than proponents had planned and hoped for. It was unpleasant but tolerable after the initial implementation. It has become disgusting since the boom after the US Justice Department announced they would not actively pursue criminal sanctions in Colorado. It is also a pyramid scheme. Marijuana, including medicinal, is expensive and not covered by insurance (that is coming). There is no program for low-income patients (except registration, but that will be another entitlement push). So, if a person of little to no income wants medical marijuana they have to grow it and sell it to buy it. How is that productive, legal -- or any different than common drug dealing?
WW: Has medical marijuana as it's currently regulated been good or bad for Colorado?
DKB: Horrible and embarrassing. The challenge is -- show something good. Don't use the old 'it raises thousands in tax revenue'. The cost of related criminal activity -- such as home invasions -- and law enforcement is not covered by these costs. We believe in capitalism and free market place, that what makes common drug dealing successful -- supply and demand. Is that really what we want in Colorado -- to have storefront drug dealers? If it has medicinal value -- take it down that road.
The way medical marijuana is currently regulated is only benefiting drug dealers and drug users. The drug dealers have become "business entrepreneurs" by default and the drug users can obtain marijuana easier. Colorado is attracting people to move into this state that want to get on the medical marijuana registry. There is nothing attractive about seeing big marijuana plants plastered all over buildings. Colorado has received millions in fees from dispensaries and users, but this is short-term due to one-time fees, and local governments banning dispensaries. The economic benefit to Colorado has likely reached the apex. In the future the benefits will be less, another reason both politicians and proponents are past medicinal and returning to legalization. WW: How would you describe the benefits of your approach?
DKB: We are not against Medical Marijuana and do not dispute that it can help some ailments. However, to use the pretense of calling it "medical" and then not be willing to research, regulate and dispense it as a medicine is wrong. The approach to having the drug mandated like other prescription medication will benefit the states and the communities. A pharmacy would distribute the medication, just like other drugs are distributed. The states could grow the crop, and there could be a manufacturing operation like other drugs, and then the state would benefit from the sales instead of the dealers. There would be no more of allowing just anyone to grow the crop. There needs to be a different approach to allowing doctors from out of state without ever seeing a patient to be allowed to grant them a prescription for medical marijuana. This would eliminate the eye sores to people who do not use marijuana, and make the conflict behind closed doors instead of in your face on a daily basis. That is what goes on with all other legal drugs and alcohol, people abuse them behind closed doors, so let it be the same for medical marijuana. We do not know who is using alcohol or prescription medication unless they use and abuse the law by operating a vehicle or committing some other crime.
-- First, either it is proven or disproven to have medicinal value.
-- Second, it takes the course of approval by the FDA and regulation by the DEA. This develops true 'strains' and dosages, as well as prescription protocols. It provides for an informed medical community, bonafide relationships and oversight.
-- Third, it will actually drive down the costs of medicinal marijuana in the same way that prescription drug costs are controlled by the free marketplace. On that note, some will say that this will increase costs -- but regulated drugs are only initially expensive and after research, patents and development costs are recovered, costs are dramatically decreased. If the supporters of medical marijuana truly believe in the concept -- they will be able to fund the necessary process.
-- Fourth, unions are now involved to protect the interests of the dispensaries.
Understand, unions represent employees -- not owners and managers. This is a false protection and will serve only to increase costs of doing business and being a consumer.
WW: Is the conflict between federal and state approaches to marijuana problematic in your view?
DKB: The Federal law states that marijuana is a controlled substance and illegal in all forms -- use, possession, distribution, manufacture and by products -- with no exception for medicinal use. Then Colorado introduces and implements as a Constitutional Amendment with no regulation. Those are distinct conflicts. It has been predictably problematic and will continue to be. One solution, as presented in our petition, is to demonstrate a legitimate use, relationship, and product.
WW: Do you see your suggested approach as a way to eliminate this contradiction?
DKB: Yes, if marijuana was regulated like other drugs, then the drugs would be obtained in the same manner as other prescriptions. A person does not have an issue obtaining their prescription medications for fear the federal government will shut down the pharmacy or take their medication away from them. This would eliminate all of the discrepancies between states and the federal government, as well as the communities.
In addition, this would give both constructive oversight and a legal remedy for abuse. Presently the medical marijuana rules do not allow for public use, intoxication or sharing of medical marijuana. It is not safe to use while working or operating machinery, etc. There is no consumer protection in this area. It is illegal to operate a vehicle (including a bicycle) while under the influence of drugs -- including marijuana. This avenue needs more exploration and enforcement and has been ignored for 10 years. WW: There are a number of other marijuana-related petitions as part of the White House initiative. Have you read any of the others? And do you have an opinion about any of them in particular?
DKB: Although we did not search through all of the lists, the ones that were front and center were for marijuana use, and we are against it being legalized or unregulated as it stands now in Colorado.
Of the other petitions we did see opposed to legalization and/or medical use, we did not immediately see any specifically addressing the issue as we have. However, thousands of petitions are submitted and there is a likelihood that others have and/or do exist. We are opposed to petitions and movements to legalize marijuana and treat it the same as alcohol and liquor stores. Marijuana is not harmless; we have personally and professionally seen that. We are not saying that alcohol is harmless, but this is about the misdirection -- the illusion -- of the current state of medical marijuana in Colorado.
WW: Are there any other questions I might not have asked that you'd like to address?
DKB: Like the use of any drugs, including alcohol, not everyone can tolerate the affects, and marijuana is no different. We have personally witnessed people who have committed suicide, driven vehicles and were killed or killed someone else all with only marijuana in their system. People like to claim there are no instances of harm being done by marijuana users and this is a flat lie. The statistics have not been separated as done with alcohol. They quantitate alcohol in the system upon death, and unless it is specifically asked for, marijuana is not quantitated due to the expense. It is usually stated simply that there was a presence of THC. It seems the people who tout how harmless it is to use marijuana are either users themselves or uneducated about the harms of this drug.
Thank you for the opportunity. We are simply asking that if there is a legitimate purpose of a drug (i.e morphine), that it be regulated and dispensed appropriately. If marijuana has medicinal properties and is going to be used in that manner, it should be fully explored and regulated in a similar manner.
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More from our Marijuana archive: "Medical marijuana: Petition asks CO Supreme Court to rule state's MMJ laws unconstitutional."
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