Minnesota – Lobbyists’ claims about medical marijuana don’t hold up

May 12th, 2009 – The law enforcement lobby has been conducting a full-court press in editorial pages and in legislative committees against a medical marijuana bill that may end up on Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s desk. And it seems to be working. Pawlenty has cited the opposition of law enforcement to the bill as his motivation for making sure the bill never becomes law.

Pawlenty waded into the debate recently when he was filling in for a conservative Christian talk radio host on KKMS. “I don’t like it,” he said of medical marijuana. “Is it really the only thing that can give [patients] relief?”

He said it was law enforcement officials who informed his opinion of medical marijuana and inspired him to veto the bill if it passes. “Law enforcement, in the form of county attorneys and the sheriffs, have great concerns about it from a law enforcement standpoint,” Pawlenty said. “I have come down on the side of saying I stand with law enforcement on this issue.“

But the claims made by Minnesota law enforcement officials are at best half-truths and exaggerations, and in some cases directly contradict government data.

Claim: Medical associations don’t support it

Dakota County Attorney James Blackstrom, representing the County Attorneys Association, the Minnesota Police & Peace Officers Association, the Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association, the Minnesota Sheriffs Association and the Minnesota State Association of Narcotics Investigators, penned a recent editorial to virtually every newspaper in the state against the bill. Among the reasons he cited was that major medical associations don’t endorse medical marijuana.

“[I]t is important to keep in mind that the use of marijuana has not been endorsed by the major medical organizations representing the groups of patients proponents say need it the most, including the American Cancer Society, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society and the American Academy of Ophthalmology,” he wrote. “The Minnesota Department of Human Services and the Minnesota Society of Addiction Medicine also oppose the passage of this law.”

But the American Cancer Society does support medical marijuana research, even if it doesn’t recommend it as a treatment. “The ACS [American Cancer Society] is supportive of more research into the benefits of cannabinoids. Better and more effective treatments are needed to overcome the side effects of cancer and its treatment,” says the group’s position. “The ACS does not advocate the use of inhaled marijuana or the legalization of marijuana.”

The National Multiple Sclerosis Society (NMMS) similarly says it doesn’t advocate medical marijuana because there hasn’t been enough study, but it remains open to it. Full article here.

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