Medical Marijuana: Benefit or Slippery Slope?

Author:  R. Alan Harrop, Ph.D

Well, here we go again. The N.C. General Assembly may be considering making marijuana legal for medical use, which they declined to approve in the last session. Apparently enough people in North Carolina (or at least in the General Assembly) are pushing this idea so that it keeps coming up. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of medical marijuana. It should be noted that medical marijuana is legal in 38 states and the District of Columbia.

There is surprisingly little valid scientific research on the health benefits of marijuana. Most of what is claimed is based on anecdotal reports or small studies on short term benefits. Some of the claims are that it relieves nausea caused by some cancer treatments, relief of chronic pain, although not severe pain such as from surgery or broken bones, epilepsy and seizures, Alzheimer disease symptoms, HIV/Aids, and Crohn’s disease. Marijuana has over 100 different chemicals, so it is difficult to isolate the beneficial elements for each disorder. CBD is alleged to have positive effects on health while THC produces the euphoria or high that people experience. It should also be noted that marijuana is used to treat the symptoms of a medical condition, not the cause of that condition. Another important issue is whether there already exist legal drugs or treatments that patients can readily access that address these symptoms.

There are also negative effects. Because marijuana is a mind altering substance, changed perception and reaction times can negatively affect things like driving, leading to more injuries and deaths. Children can be especially harmed if they access marijuana, particularly ingestible forms such as gummy bears, cookies, brownies, etc. Although the long term impacts are not clearly understood, cognitive thinking ability and memory declines are documented for all ages. Confusion, poor muscle coordination, and dizziness are common. Motivation to lead a rewarding traditional life of work, family, and associated rewards often deteriorates, leading to nonproductive citizens. No society can flourish with large numbers of citizens addicted to drugs. Of course, the euphoria induced by marijuana is strongly related to its addictive potential and especially to its role as a gateway drug that leads the user to more potent drugs such as meth or heroin. Having worked in the N.C. Department of Correction as the Mental Health Services Director, I can testify to the numerous cases of criminal behavior in pursuit of illegal drugs that started with smoking marijuana. Interestingly, the FDA has not approved marijuana for general medical use except lab produced Epidiolex, Marinol and Cesamet to treat nausea and vomiting from chemotherapy, and low appetite for HIV patients.

Recent reports of the dramatic increase of China’s role in the marijuana trade adds another risk that should concern us all. There is increasing evidence that Chinese invaders are controlling the production and distribution of marijuana from California to Maine. They grow it and distribute it throughout the country, relying on the increased flow of illegal Chinese over our southern border for laborers. The Chinese are also the originators of the fentanyl crisis that is killing somewhere near 100,000 Americans each year. Now what could possibly go wrong with our biggest adversary, China, controlling marijuana and fentanyl production which can produce a deadly combination? Are we on a path of self-destruction? It makes one wonder. Twenty four states that started with medical marijuana have now legalized its recreational use. Result: 20% of the US population now report using marijuana. So if you think using marijuana is a good thing, then support medical marijuana since that is what is most likely to occur. Personally, I do not.

More Questions Than Answers

On Saturday, Jeffrey Epstein, an inmate at Metropolitan Correction Center in lower Manhattan, was found unresponsive in his cell. He was taken to the hospital where he was declared dead. There are a lot of questions surrounding these events. There are very few answers available.

The New York Post reported yesterday:

The following account is from a former inmate of the Metropolitan Correction Center in lower Manhattan, where Jeffrey Epstein was found unresponsive Saturday, and declared dead at a hospital of an apparent suicide. The ex-convict, who spoke to The Post’s Brad Hamilton and Bruce Golding on the condition of anonymity, spent several months in the 9 South special housing unit for high-profile prisoners awaiting trial — like Epstein.

There’s no way that man could have killed himself. I’ve done too much time in those units. It’s an impossibility.

Between the floor and the ceiling is like eight or nine feet. There’s no way for you to connect to anything.

You have sheets, but they’re paper level, not strong enough. He was 200 pounds — it would never happen.

When you’re on suicide watch, they put you in this white smock, a straight jacket. They know a person cannot be injurious to themselves.

…But it’s my firm belief that Jeffrey Epstein did not commit suicide. It just didn’t happen.

Breitbart reported yesterday:

Rudy Giuliani reacted to Jeffrey Epstein’s alleged suicide Saturday morning, asking a series of questions about his death and stating, “Committing suicide on suicide watch doesn’t happen.”

Authorities found the convicted pedophile dead in his cell early Saturday morning, according to several reports.

Epstein committed suicide via hanging, according to reports from the New York Times and ABC News. The Associated Press reported that the “medical examiner’s office in Manhattan confirmed Epstein’s death.”

Many, including Giuliani, have questions.

“What does the word suicide mean in the phrase suicide WATCH? Who was watching? Did they fall asleep? Did the camera malfunction? Was there camera surveillance? Who was he about to implicate?” Giuliani tweeted Saturday.

Yesterday Bernie Kerik, former first deputy and commissioner of the New York City Department of Corrections and former commissioner of the New York (City) Police Department, posted an article at The Hill about the death of Jeffrey Epstein.

Commissioner Kerik notes:

The crime here — in my mind, with what is known at this point — is that Epstein was placed in solitary confinement at all. The government often uses every tool in its power to ensure you never have a fair day’s fight in court, including the use of psychological tools to force you to plead guilty or to force you to cooperate with the government.

Solitary confinement is one of those tools. It is a mechanism to demean, degrade and demoralize a prisoner. The mind-altering seclusion of “solitary” will force a prisoner into a deep depression from which, for some, there is no return.

Only time will tell if that’s what happened with Epstein or if something more sinister occurred.

But one thing already is crystal clear: There are flaws and failures in the U.S. criminal justice system that should disturb all of us. And in Jeffrey Epstein’s case, none of it makes any sense.

Right now we have questions, not answers. Hopefully in the future we will get some answers.

A Rare Moment Of Truth In The Democrat Debates

The Daily Caller posted an article today about remarks made by Democratic Hawaii Representative Tulsi Gabbard regarding Senator Kamala Harris of California during the Democrat debate on Wednesday.

The article notes:

Democratic Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard was among the first to land a solid blow on presidential primary rival Sen. Kamala Harris (CA), but she may not have taken her attack far enough.

“She put over 1500 people in jail for marijuana violations and then laughed about it when she was asked if she ever smoked marijuana,” Gabbard said of Harris’s time as a prosecutor and District Attorney of San Francisco.

But as Joe Garofoli of the San Francisco Chronicle discovered as he fact-checked Gabbard’s claim, the number of people Harris sent to jail for marijuana violations was actually closer to 2000.

Garofoli noted that an initial report published by the Washington Free Beacon had put the number at 1560, but that a spokesman for California’s Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation had told him the actual number was 1974.

It’s an interesting attack. First of all, Kamala Harris was doing her job as District Attorney of San Francisco. Admittedly, her priorities might have been a little off, but she was essentially doing her job. The really sad part of the story is that she is so arrogant that she laughed about putting people in jail for something she herself had done. Some of our politicians have made a career out of ‘one rule for me and another rule for thee.’ That is the sad part of the story.

A Rather Interesting Definition Of Equality

Lately there has been much discussion about what health insurance should cover and what it should not cover. Obamacare has added to that discussion by requiring that approved insurance policies cover pediatric dental care for single people or that single men have coverage for birth control. Yet many cancer patients and people with serious diseases have found that they are not fully covered. We have heard their stories.

I have previously posted stories about Robert, now Michelle, Kosilek ( and, a convicted murderer currently serving prison time in Massachusetts. These stories have focused on Mr. Kosilek’s battle to force the Massachusetts taxpayers to pay for his sex-change operation so that he can spend his time in prison as Michelle Kosilek. The latest decision to come down from the Massachusetts court was that the taxpayers should also pay for Mr. Kosilek’s legal expenses in this case.

Now a taxpayer has gone to the courts claiming discrimination in this case. Today’s Boston Herald is reporting that Anita T. Phoenix, 59, a Cambridge transgender woman, has filed a federal lawsuit earlier this month claiming that Medicare and MassHealth discriminated against her because they would not pay for her transgender treatments.

The article reports:

State Sen. Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester), who has supported the Department of Correction in the Kosilek fight, said the lawsuit shows the dangers of the controversial case.

“It will open the door not only to other law-abiding people to make that claim, but people who are incarcerated to seek other forms of surgery that they wouldn’t otherwise obtain,” said Tarr. “What we’re talking about here are extraordinary measures that most citizens can’t afford and wouldn’t undertake. If we set a precedent in allowing Kosilek to obtain this kind of surgery, what we’d essentially be doing is opening the door for all different types of surgeries that are extraordinary to become the subject of entitlement.”

In 2012, federal Judge Mark Wolf ruled the state must pay for Kosilek’s surgery. DOC is making preparations for the operation should a pending appeal fail.

It seems to me that Mr. Kosilek’s and Ms. Phoenix’s is, to some degree, elective surgery. Health insurance does not pay for face lifts or Lasik eye surgery because they are considered optional. When I had cataract surgery, the toric lens they implanted was not covered by my insurance–I had to pay for it–the insurance company would have paid for a lens that had no prescription, but that would have left me still paying for eyeglasses. Frankly, I am much more sympathetic to Ms. Phoenix’s cause than I am for Mr. Kosilek’s cause. It would be a travesty of justice if Mr. Kosilek, a convicted murderer, has access to free health care that Ms. Phoenix, an average taxpayer, is not able to access freely under her health insurance.

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You Can Qualify For Free Optional Surgery By Murdering Your Wife

In May of 1990 Robert Kosilek murdered his wife. He left her body in her car parked at Emerald Square Mall in North Attleboro, Massachusetts. He was convicted of the murder and sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole (Massachusetts does not allow the death penalty).

Since his incarceration, Mr. Kosilek has been claiming that it is his Constitutional right to have the Massachusetts taxpayers pay for the cost of his sex-change operation. While I sympathize with Mr. Kosilek’s desire to have the surgery, I question the fact that the Massachusetts taxpayer should pay the bill. Unfortunately, a federal judge has taken the opposite view.

The Blaze reported today:

A federal appeals court on Friday upheld a ruling that said the state must provide a taxpayer-funded sex change for a convicted Massachusetts murderer as part of the individual’s constitutional rights.

In a 2-1 ruling, the court noted that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled courts “must not shrink from their obligation to enforce the constitutional rights of all persons, including prisoners,” according to the Boston Globe.

The article further reports:

Kosilek was named “Robert” when convicted of murdering his wife, Cheryl McCaul, in 1990, the Associated Press reported. After prison officials declined to provide a sex reassignment surgery, Kosilek sued the Department of Correction and a federal judge later ruled in 2012 the surgery was the “only adequate treatment” for the gender identity disorder Kosilek purportedly suffered from.

This man is a convicted murderer. Wouldn’t it make more sense to put him in a facility for dangerous criminals and forget about paying for the surgery?

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