Barry Hirsch, MD: Why I will vote to legalize marijuana

  • A jar containing a strain of marijuana nicknamed “Killer D” is seen at a medical marijuana facility in Unity, Maine. AP PHOTO

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

In November I will be voting for the legalization of marijuana, but not because I think it is safe or has clear medical benefits as outlined by the Drug Enforcement Agency’s denied petition to reschedule marijuana.

Our entire approach to this issue has sent a very dangerous message to the public and to teenagers in particular.

By starting this process with the legalization of medical marijuana we have sent a message to people that marijuana is not only safe, but full of health benefits. I have no doubt that marijuana can reduce chronic pain as well as have an effect on a variety of other symptoms.

However, alcohol can have similar benefits but there is no “medical alcohol.” And now the latest term is “recreational marijuana,” which seems to equate it with a soccer game.

There is a lot we don’t know about marijuana but some of the data is very concerning with regard to the impact it can have on teenage brains, fetal brain development and people with mental health issues.

So why am I voting for legalization? I don’t think anyone should go to jail for using marijuana and to decriminalize without legalizing simply funds a criminal underworld.

The state should reap the benefits as they have done in Colorado. A percentage of the revenues should fund a public service campaign providing accurate information about the potential dangers.

Warning labels should be required as they are on cigarettes, alcohol and all medications. It needs to made quite clear that legalization is not an endorsement but a practical approach to the demands of large number of people in a democratic society.

Barry Hirsch, MD