Monday, March 23, 2015

RI Marijuana policy: Not so fine, says Fine

ConvergenceRI offers a disproportionate number of engaging and thoughtful health care stories--disproportionate because of its small size as a media organization and the small size of its home market.  Here's the latest, an excellent interview with the outgoing head of the state's Department of Health, Michael Fine.  The headline:

Outgoing director of the R.I. Department of Health offers his candid views on the state’s need to own its addiction problem, to stand on science, to invest in research, and to admit that its social policy on marijuana has been a disaster. 

Here are some excerpts (and a link to the video):

We are living some big lies. To a certain extent, intelligent public discourse depends on us telling the truth. What the science does is, it gives us access to the truth.

It’s pretty clear to me that our social policy about marijuana has been a dismal failure. You can still buy, I’m told, marijuana in every boys room or girls room in every high school in the state. That’s a big issue. We have, according to the evidence, more marijuana use in Rhode Island than any other state in the country.

Marijuana isn’t a single substance, there are multiple substances contained in the smokes and the edibles. Clinical research is critical if we’re going to make marijuana a truly medical process, so that we can understand dose and frequency and duration.

What we do with medical marijuana and its authorization is not a medical process. It’s a substance whose strength we don’t know, whose impact on the individual we don’t understand. The good news is that we’re helping the suffering of people; the bad news is that it is not a medical process. It asks physicians to do something that they aren’t specifically trained to do.

There is a legitimate argument [that can be made] that [legalization, regulation and taxation] is a reasonable social policy. …There are things we need to be thinking about if we [are to] do it.
…How we can make sure that we use any tax money that’s being raised to really fund substance abuse treatment [and recovery programs].
The evidence suggests that there is going to be a side effect of increased use. We need to do our very best to make sure that adolescents don’t have access to this drug. Because, clearly, there is good evidence that shows the relationship between marijuana use among adolescents and a number of adverse outcomes.”

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