Letter to the editor: Some important questions about legalizing pot

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To the editor:

Marijuana continues to be a contentious issue in our society. As noted in Jill Long Thompson’s May 11  column ("How we should discuss marijuana," Page A4) people have a wide array of viewpoints about what we should be doing with this substance.

There are the people at one end of the spectrum who believe marijuana should be legal for recreational and medicinal purposes. There are those who believe it should be decriminalized and available for medicinal use. And there are those who believe it should remain a banned substance.

I fall somewhere between the last two categories. But I need to know there have been the kinds of studies that have been done with other medicines that show there is a definitive medicinal use for this substance to help manage symptoms. And what are the proper doses? And can the beneficial effects be achieved through variations that do not produce a high?

As a former addictions therapist, I have seen the kinds of negative effects chronic, especially heavy, use of marijuana can have on individuals. As noted in Ms. Long Thompson’s column, studies have shown what effects chronic use of the substance can have on things like academic performance. I have observed, admittedly anecdotally, the effects of recreational use of this substance can have on family relationships and job performance.

And finally, what are the financial effects of marijuana use on individuals, families, community and the larger society of the varying kinds of use? If it is proven that marijuana has some beneficial effects for treating the side effects of various medical treatments, shouldn’t Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance pay for the cost of this just as it would other forms of treatment?

There is much to be learned. Starting with governmental study commissions and moving on to academic and pharmaceutical company studies, we need to define the risks and benefits of marijuana use. We need to move beyond conjecture to scientific understanding of this substance.

And thank you, Jill Long Thompson, for your illuminating column. It is past time for this to be addressed. Now it is up to our leaders to step up to address this issue.

Jim Matthews