During my battle to bring medical cannabis to Pennsylvania, I was accused of promoting drug use. Even though I offered statistics, studies, and other information to refute these claims, the opposition continued.
At the same time the General Assembly was deliberating medical cannabis, it was also considering bills to expand access to liquor – most notably, beer sales in grocery stores. I continue to find the irony perplexing.
Cannabis is listed by the federal government as a Schedule I drug, which, according to the US Drug Enforcement Agency, have these characteristics: a high potential for abuse, no currently accepted medical use, and lacks accepted safety even under medical supervision.
No prescriptions can be written for Schedule I substances and they are not readily available for clinical use. Meanwhile, alcohol is legal, widely available and popular.
The National Institutes of Health, says alcohol can lead to:
- Injuries: alcohol is a factor in about 60% of fatal burns, drownings and homicides; 50% of severe trauma injuries and sexual assaults; and 40% of fatal motor vehicle crashes, suicides and fatal falls;
- Health problems: heavy drinkers have a greater risk of liver and heart disease, sleep disorders, depression, stroke, stomach bleeding, sexually transmitted infections and several types of cancer; they may also have problems with diabetes, high blood pressure and other conditions;
- Birth defects: drinking during pregnancy can cause brain damage and other serious problems for unborn babies, and;
- Alcohol use disorders: about 17 million Americans have such conditions.
The national Centers for Disease Control say, “Drinking too much can harm your health. Excessive alcohol use led to approximately 88,000 deaths and 2.5 million years of potential life lost each year in the United States from 2006 – 2010, shortening the lives of those who died by an average of 30 years. Excessive drinking was responsible for one in 10 deaths among working-age adults aged 20-64 years. The economic costs of excessive alcohol consumption in 2010 were estimated at $249 billion, or $2.05 a drink.”
Excessive drinking includes binge drinking, heavy drinking, and any drinking by pregnant women or those under 21.
Binge drinking is the most common form of excessive drinking and is defined as consuming four or more drinks during a single occasion for women and five or more drinks during a single occasion for men.
Heavy drinking is defined as consuming eight or more drinks per week for women and 15 or more drinks per week for men.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans defines moderate drinking as up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men.
A standard drink contains 0.6 ounces of pure alcohol. Generally, this amount is found in: 12-ounces of beer (5% alcohol content), 8-ounces of malt liquor (7% alcohol content), 5-ounces of wine (12% alcohol content), and 1.5-ounces of 80-proof (40% alcohol content) distilled spirits or liquor.
These are among the reasons for the 1920 passage of the 18th Amendment to the United States Constitution, which ushered in Prohibition. However, thirteen years later, the 20th Amendment was passed, ending “The Great Experiment”.
Cannabis sits with heroin, LSD, cocaine and “Ecstasy” as Schedule I drugs. Meanwhile, morphine, opium, and codeine are listed under Schedule II.
Hopefully, with continued clinical trials and studies of cannabis’ effects on chronic pain, addiction, neurological disorders, seizure disorders, cancer, and other medical conditions, medical science will prevail and medical cannabis will be reclassified. This is a goal of the so-called “Chapter 20” research provisions of my medical cannabis bill, now a three-year old law.