Wausau Herald supports statewide pot decrim, rejects medical use and legalization

Kudos to the folks at Gannett Central Wisconsin Media for their expansive report in the Stevens Point Journal,Marijuana decriminalization spreads across WI.” We have followed the series here on Cannabadger and it was the inspiration for a number of posts.

The Gannett Central Wisconsin Media Editorial Board has followed up with an editorial in favor of statewide decriminalization in the Wausau Herald, “Our View: Decriminalize marijuana in state.” Unfortunately their opinion came with a lot of baggage, with the editorial stating:

We do not support full legalization. Although there have been strong cases made for marijuana’s legalization for medical purposes, more research is needed.

June Dahl, professor emerita of neuroscience at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health, says many of the studies on medical marijuana are not strong and fail to meet U.S. Food and Drug Administration standards.

“There is so much push for legalization without much known about the safety and efficacy,” Dahl said. “There is a lack of good, solid data.”

Two oral medications, dronabinol and nabilone, which contain cannabinoids, already are available to help patients going through chemotherapy and other illnesses deal with nausea, loss of appetite and anxiety and anxiety..

At this point, we endorse the statewide decriminalization of possessing small amounts of marijuana. That is not the same as legalization, as possession would remain a municipal ordinance violation subject to penalties. But it is a step toward a saner, cheaper, more consistent response in Wisconsin.

It’s actually a no-brainer to support cannabis decriminalization in the year 2015, which is an idea that first became popular in the 1970s. But to reject legalizing medical use in 2015, and then citing  the retired, now 85-year old June Dahl as some kind of expert on the current state of cannabis legalization is very disappointing.

Dahl is a longtime ardent prohibitionist who has been saying the same bad things about cannabis for decades as the studies proving her wrong piled up. Not only that but her work in pain management has been cited as playing a role in the over-prescription of opioids and contributing to today’s heroin epidemic.  Ironically, one of those saying this is another ardent cannabis prohibitionist and like Dahl, a former member of the Wisconsin Controlled Substances Board, Dr. Michael M. Miller M.D. F.A.S.A.M, a longtime opponent of state cannabis law reform on behalf of the Wisconsin Medical Society.

Here are some examples of Dahl’s past pronouncements on medical cannabis:

Dahl was quoted in an Oct. 3, 2005 article in the UW-Madison Badger Herald, “Medical marijuana to be proposed in assembly,regarding the introduction of medical cannabis legislation by the then-chairman of the Assembly Health Committee, Rep. Gregg Underheim, a Republican who represented Oshkosh:

June Dahl, a professor of pharmacology for the University of Wisconsin Medical School said there is little evidence marijuana has any “special benefits” over other drugs used to treat the same symptoms.

“The major concern I have is that many of the uses to which [marijuana] is purportedly going to be approved really don’t have any basis in science,” Dahl said.

In addition, Dahl said there are medicines containing THC – the drug causing the relief of the symptoms in question – that can already be obtained legally through a prescription.

Underheim responded by saying patients who have used both marijuana and legal drugs supposed to have the same effect told him the conventional drugs are not as effective as cannabis.

In Oct. 2007, Dahl’s comments regarding the introduction of another medical cannabis bill were included in an article by David Wahlberg in the Wisconsin State Journal, “Medical Marijuana Gets Heavy Support.

 June Dahl, a UW-Madison professor of pharmacy, said “there really isn’t any strong evidence” that marijuana relieves pain.

“But people who have pain have a lot of anxiety, and marijuana can have a calming effect,” she said.

Dahl said she opposes the legalization of medical marijuana because of the drug’s mood-altering effects and its lung-disease risks when smoked.  Also, the pill Marinol, which contains the active pot ingredient THC, is available.  And new pain medications are hitting the market, offering more alternatives, she said.

“There are huge implications to legalizing marijuana for patients,” she said.  “For one, are you going to let them drive?”

Also, since THC is stored in the brain, Dahl asked, “Are you going to have mass spectrometers in police stations to measure it like Breathalyzers for alcohol?

Dahl’s out of touch statements in 2015 reveal she has not even bothered to keep up on the amazing developments of just the last few years, all built on a mountain of evidence that she blatantly ignores. For example, despite her dire claims above, research has determined that “[H]abitual use of marijuana alone does not appear to lead to significant abnormalities in lung function,” according to Dr. Donald Tashkin, a longtime UCLA researcher who in attempting to prove a pot smoking/lung cancer connection instead found it gas a protective effect for people smoking both cannabis and tobacco.

In 2006, Tashkin explained his findings to WebMd: “We know that there are as many or more carcinogens and co-carcinogens in marijuana smoke as in cigarettes. But we did not find any evidence for an increase in cancer risk for even heavy marijuana smoking.”

And to state that dronabinol (MARINOL®) and nabilone as acceptable alternatives to whole plant cannabis, while erroneously stating they contain cannabinoids plural whether all they contain is a single cannabinoid, synthetic THC, ignores both fact and science.

The press has a responsibility to provide accurate information. Gannett Central Wisconsin Media did so in reporting on the current status of decriminalization in Wisconsin. But their opinions regarding medical use and legalizing adult use are not supported by fact.

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