Should Pennsylvania really rush into legalizing marijuana?

May 3 — There has been talk over the last few years in the state of Pennsylvania about legalizing marijuana. 

The voices are strong on both sides, but recently we’ve seen quite a push in Harrisburg to consider making recreational marijuana legal. 

Michele Jansen of NewsTalk 103.7FM pointed out, “This really shouldn’t be something we’re rushing into. There’s still so much that’s not been studied or really understood about the impact of the new very strong THC that exists in modern day recreational marijuana.”

In addition, the federal government is looking at lowering the classification of marijuana in the country, from a Schedule I drug to a Schedule III drug. 

Pat Ryan of NewsTalk 103.7FM added, “If that is the case, it is stronger than grandma’s marijuana from the 60s. If that is the case, then why is there the appetite for even to lower, other than for votes, lower of the scheduling? So what was in the same camp as LSD and heroin is now being moved over to some sort of painkiller camp here. That’s the dream of the Biden administration and the minions here. So what, Pennsylvania and to a bigger point, what on earth are they thinking if it’s that much more potent?”

Jansen suggested, “It seems to me they’re just ignoring that.” 

PA Representative Paul Schemel said, “I might take a different track on this. I don’t know all the details on the proposed rescheduling. But Pennsylvania has a fairly robust medical program. There are people that say that they do find it beneficial for medical purposes, a lot of drugs are beneficial for medical purposes. But that has to be under the direction of a physician and used in certain dosages. So if the federal government decides to reschedule this in a way that it would schedule a painkiller that has to be used under doctor’s direction with a prescription, that actually matches what we did with the medical program. What it doesn’t match with is recreational marijuana, because you can’t go in and get recreational codeine or recreational oxycodone and other drugs like that. Those things are carefully used under the direction of a physician, and they have a beneficial purpose for that, under that particular realm. So actually I somewhat welcome the federal government’s rescheduling if that is the end, if that’s the result of it. That does not jive with making it a recreational product, which is what a number of people in Pennsylvania want to do and what’s happened in Maryland and some of the other surrounding states. That would be illegal by state and federal law. It really might bring into control the use of marijuana as a medical product, which is what the medical program in Pennsylvania was supposed to do, but instead our medical dispensaries are kind of like candy shops. I guess. I haven’t been in one. But that’s what I understand, at least some of them are and there might be good actors. But this would treat it more like a pharmaceutical that you get at a pharmacy. That is maybe where marijuana appropriately belongs and not in the sort of weird realm where all these people are using it for recreational purposes.”

Jansen noted, “The rescheduling bothers me as a clinical researcher because we haven’t studied it enough to know whether you should skip over schedule II, the addictive quality, the abuse potential quality, that I think we’re seeing the evidence that absolutely does have and with no clinical studies, very few to speak of. That’s always been my problem and my issue with it. We’re just going to go ahead and say, well, it’s no worse than alcohol. Well, you wouldn’t bring alcohol into the market today, without some study, and I think comparing them is somewhat foolish. I don’t think it justifies what we’re doing with this. I think the implication with the Biden administration was to placate, I think they’re thinking of voters. I have to be honest, I think they’re thinking of voters.” 

Schemel pointed out, “If that really was what they were playing, then they wouldn’t schedule it at all because alcohol is not scheduled. Alcohol is considered a food, not a drug. Instead, what they’re doing is they’re scheduling it as a medicine. Now whether it should be scheduled as a schedule II or III, that I don’t know, clinically, I just don’t know. But if they’re scheduling it basically as a prescription drug, which is what it would be as a II or III, then that puts it in the realm of where we in Pennsylvania said it should be. It’s a medicine. It’s not a recreational product, and that’s the divide I think that’s important. We have studied it a lot. Well, we’ve studied it enough to know that when you legalize it as a recreational product, harm goes up, cost goes up to society, so a lot of ills come from that. When you schedule it as a drug and it’s used like any other drug, then it can first off be studied, which it can’t be now as a schedule I drug. So that’s a good thing. And secondly, you’re treating it in the realm of a prescription. So instead of what you get from the doctor now to use a medical marijuana, which is just an ID card and so forth. You’d actually have a doctor able to write prescriptions for it. Then dosages also would be studied and dosages would be controlled. So I think that that is a good way to control it. I’m not at all for recreational marijuana, and actually that’s why I think rescheduling it as a painkiller, a drug actually can bring the control to the market that would be necessary.”

Jansen suggested, “But it’s the perception of what that means and they talk about it more from the judicial system and people being charged than they do from the idea of oh, let’s put a stop to further recreation-ising marijuana and let’s actually do clinical research studies on it. Obviously, we’re seeing the accumulation of data that’s showing harm, especially to people under 25, to possibly cognition. There’s this connection to possibly bipolar and schizophrenia, paranoia. There’s also now heart attacks, strokes being attributed to it in regular usage for adults, correcting for any other medical issues. That’s where I’m saying it hasn’t been really studied to say that we can say definitively and it’s like all these things are coming out as millions of people are using it. But unleashing it on the public isn’t the way to do it. I guess bottom line, I’m hoping we don’t do that in Pennsylvania.”

Schemel agreed, “I certainly hope that too. Now, the DEA has said before they couldn’t reschedule it because when they schedule anything under a schedule I, it’s always by a specific string of molecules. Since it’s a botanical, it’s a plant, there’s almost an infinite number of strings of molecules, so you can’t schedule for that purpose. So I don’t really know under what rationale they’re rescheduling it. I don’t know that that’s a bad thing, because this would allow them to study it. Right now as a schedule I drug, there are a lot of limitations of what you can do within a university clinical setting to study marijuana and its effects. If it is instead treated as a medicine that is used under a prescription, under specific dosages, under the direction of a physician, that’s the ideal situation under which you would study it and find out who it is appropriate for. Because there definitely are people that find relief from some chronic pain and so forth from it, and those for whom it is not. What we do know is under either circumstance, it’s not a recreational product.”