Monday, March 8, 2010

Consider Me 'Especially Unchastened'

I don't know who Charles Lane is or how he landed a job at the Post--and regardless of your personal thoughts on medical marijuana--this is just insipid nonsense:
The death of John Patrick Bedell, the 36-year-old man shot and killed by Pentagon police officers after he opened fire on them March 4, is a tragedy. It might have been avoided if Bedell had received timely and effective treatment for his obviously serious mental illness. The fact that he did not is a cause for soul-searching by all of us. Advocates of “medical marijuana” should be especially chastened.
I, for one, am not one bit chastened by my open advocacy for the legalization of drugs, especially medical cannabis. That Bedell's alleged bi-polar disorder went un- or mistreated has absolutely no bearing whatever that he self-medicated with marijuana. His family was apparently well aware of his mental health issues and he did not receive adequate treatment for it hardly makes medical cannabis blameworthy in this.

I have neither the time nor the inclination to delve into Bedell's medical and personal history, but even if we take Mr. Lane's story at face value--that Bedell sought treatment for insomnia in 2006 where his doctor may or may not have properly searched for the underlying cause for that insomnia--blaming a medicine is intellectually derelict.

If some doctor treated a broken leg with Vicodin and no other remedy--such as to properly set the broken bone--the fault lies not with the Vicodin, but with the inadequate treatment on behalf of the physician. Likewise, if a doctor doesn't properly diagnose a severe mental disorder that would be evident through routine examination, the doctor--and not the prescribed inadequate remedy--is to blame.

But Lane continues on this irresponsible crusade against medical cannabis:
Let’s debate legalizing marijuana as a recreational drug. If smoking pot makes terminally ill AIDS and cancer patients feel better, give it to them.
But, for the most part, “medical marijuana” is a pseudo-scientific myth, and a dangerous one at that.
Parsing this a bit: "if it makes terminally ill AIDS and cancer patients feel better" belies the reason many of those patience actually use cannabis: It isn't to escape the pain or feel kinda groovy--which, admittedly, is a side-effect--it allows many of them to eat without vomiting from the chemotherapy and other chemical cocktails they are taking. There are plenty of pain medicines that get you high--"opiates" or "opioids" are among the strongest and derived from the same plant you get opium and heroin. No one doubts their efficacy or propriety just because they--and alternate forms of the drug--are often used recreationally or abused.

Mr. Lane appears to be operating on a fallacious assumption: that because a medicine doesn't come with a stamp from Eli Lilly or Merck that it has no legitimate medicinal purpose. But medicines are just chemicals that interact with the body for an intended effect. If cannabis alleviates nausea and increases appetite in sick people--which it most certainly does--it has a legitimate medicinal effect and should therefore be considered a legitimate treatment. That some doctors may neglect their patients' underlying problems should not be put at the feet of medical cannabis availability--that is medical malpractice.

I mean to make no insinuations about Bedell's prescribing physician, particularly. I don't know what happened and I don't pretend to--although Mr. Lane seems perfectly fine with insinuating malpractice, but that's between him and his editors. Nevertheless, it is blatantly irresponsible of Mr. Lane to assign blame to the medical cannabis activist community because one man with severe mental issues smoked marijuana under medical pretenses for one month during an unknown period of time of already "excessive" marijuana use.

Bedell was a troubled man and it's a shame that whatever help he sought/was given was insufficient. It is certainly plausible that other people culpable in all of this, (i.e., how did a mentally disturbed man acquire two handguns?), but people who want to improve the life of very sick people are not among them.

You don't have to believe that medical cannabis is legitimate treatment to realize that this piece was half-assed scapegoating. Charles Lane and the Washington Post should be ashamed of themselves.

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