Objective Clinical Studies Should Compare Marijuana Against Alcohol

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This letter was originally published in the WestField Leader on Thursday, January 30, 2014.

To Governor Christie: Persian and Medical Approaches to Marijuana Legalization,

What’s behind this steamrolling momentum to dramatically increase the availability of marijuana? In large part, it’s because we have entered the era of post-modernism which is, when exposed, simply a form of nihilism that was prevalent during late 19th century Russia. And you know what happened there. Bottom line, it’s an ‘anything goes’ philosophy. It’s promulgated in universities, effectively supported by media and now accepted as apolitically popular tool. It’s interesting to note that the leaders in this marijuana crusade are two strange bed fellows – liberals and libertarians – both syllogisms abusers. Most conservatives are still trying to hold the line. There was one outstanding exception – the late William F. Buckley, Jr.

Way back, when many had not yet seen the light of life, I dined with Mr. Buckley in Manhattan over happy Italian food and stimulating spirits. Our conversation was lively, to put it mildly. Suddenly, out of the blue, he asked me what I thought about the legalization of marijuana. I replied that I could only make that judgment after clinical studies objectively evaluated its impact on both mind and body. He remained silent. About 20 years later, he surprisingly supported its broad legalization. His is a social argument, which demands respect.

Now to the great Persian Empire: Before making any final decision on matters of importance, the Persian legislators first considered them while being alcohol-stoned. After their hangovers faded away, they then considered their alcohol-stoned decisions soberly and factored them in their final ones. I would recommend that if the New Jersey legislators want to legalize freely available marijuana, Washington-Colorado style as proposed by Senator Scutari, it should be mandatory that each one should have a bong before them at the plenary first day of deliberations and required to puff away until they are marijuana-stoned. (Perhaps the pro-marijuana legislators should have bigger bongs)! It should be an open session and also mandatory that their families be silently present in the gallery. After the legislators are post-bonged sober they, having considered their bongs deliberations, will be more experienced about the subject matter and, like the Persians, better able to legislate. Governor, what better way is there to confront reality?

Now to the obligatory medical approach: Though it’s of critical importance to standardize the chemical composition of marijuana, there are insufficient clinical data that accurately predict what it does to our minds and bodies. What is sorely needed is at least one solid objective clinical standard, which most New Jersey citizens could understand. And that standard is alcohol. There are reams of clinical data on the scientific, medical and social impact of alcohol both on individuals and society.

It makes compelling sense to conduct a series of objective clinical studies at New Jersey medical institutions comparing marijuana against alcohol on the mental and physical impact on individuals including their lives. For example, what are their effects on driving performance and cognitive function, among others? What should we do if, for example, the studies show that marijuana intake results in significantly inferior driving and brain performance compared to alcohol? And how about the impact on family stability? The results of these studies would be truly objective – not just guesses – and a rational approach and not an emotional liberal-libertarian one to establish not only New Jersey but national standards, not just for marijuana but certain other drugs.

Think about it.

Stephen L. DeFelice, M.D., Westfield

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