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Guest column: State needs to regulate medical marijuana better



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July 21, 2010 - From a practical standpoint, the North Oakland Community Coalition supports a drug-free America. The illegal use of tobacco, alcohol and other substances is a concern in every community and we strive to educate all individuals, community groups and families about the harmful and tragic effects of misuse.

The issue for the Coalition, and the communities of Orion and Oxford that it supports, is that prescribing and dispensing of marijuana as a prescription is not being properly regulated, thus creating a tremendous weakness and window for misuse. There is an inherent danger for our youth as marijuana is considered a gateway drug to misuse of more addictive illegal substances such as heroin and cocaine. Marijuana affects alertness, concentration, perception, coordination and reaction time, many of the skills required for safe driving and other tasks. These effects can last up to 24 hours after smoking marijuana. Marijuana use can also make it difficult to judge distances and react to signals and sounds on the road creating dangerous driving conditions. Additionally, smoking marijuana leads to changes in the brain that are similar to those caused by cocaine, heroin, or alcohol. As stated by the Office of National Drug Control Policy, more teens are in treatment with a primary diagnosis of marijuana dependence than for all other illegal drugs combined.

It is a fact that over 60 percent of Michigan voters approved Marijuana possession and use for the chronically ill. The dilemma facing Michigan cities, villages and townships is the failure of the Michigan legislature to provide reasonable, and adequate manufacturing and dispensing control over the now prescription drug - marijuana.

The state of Michigan does not have any other drugs on their schedule lists that are managed by private growers or private laboratories and we ask that our legislature take immediate action to ensure that it be regulated and dispensed in a controlled manner thus reducing the potential for illegal possession, illegal distribution and illegal use.

Similar to the fight against misuse of prescription drugs such as Oxycodone, Morphine, Darvocet, the use of any controlled substance, including marijuana, that is not prescribed to you is illegal. If the State would take control of this issue and regulate it like alcohol or other prescription drugs the Michigan voters would be certain that those with debilitating diseases, as outlined in the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act, would be helped.

The legal and regulated dispensary of this controlled substance needs to be the focus and Michigan legislature needs to address this quickly. If not, then it will fall into the hands of those who will misuse.

To place any other prescription drug in the hands of non-medically trained persons would account to criminal action - why the difference with marijuana? The coalition would expect immediate action from our government if morphine, or valium were to be sold at gas stations and party stores, we believe that the error in the controlled manufacturing and dispensing of marijuana was an oversight in the law and not the intention of the voters.

Supporting the communities of Lake Orion and Oxford since 1997, the coalition is dedicated to promoting a sense of belonging in a healthy environment free of alcohol abuse and substance abuse by uniting community members and developing community strengths for all.

Visit www.northoaklandcoalition.org or contact Julie Brenner at 248-520-3786 for more information.

-Julie Brenner, NOCC Director

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