CONTACT Response to 'A Judge's Plea for Pot' - Dr. Christian Thurstone

The New York Times on May 16, 2012 ran a guest column written by Gustin L. Reichbach, a justice of the New York State Supreme Court in Brooklyn.

Let’s just say this is the second pro-marijuana-legalization piece spun out of the NYT to catch my eye in recent weeks — and that I am increasingly disappointed in the news organization’s lopsided coverage and opinion-spouting on this issue.

The paper’s online edition didn’t allow for comments to be posted — but if it had, here’s what I would have slapped on its site (this is what I did post hurriedly on my Facebook Wall, which you’re welcome to subscribe to:

When determining in 1999 that smoked marijuana offers very little, if any, medicinal value, even the Institute of Medicine allowed for “compassionate use” of the drug. A board composed of some of the world’s most respected physicians defined “compassionate use” for people who, like this New York judge, have a terminal illness and likely only months to live. The doctors agreed that marijuana offers little more than pain relief — just as smoking cocaine, drinking alcohol and popping pain meds like candy offer pain relief. (Medicine and pain relief are not synonymous — as Justice Reichbach gets away with writing in one of the world’s most widely circulated newspapers.)

Here’s the real problem: in the world of so-called “medical marijuana,” Justice Reichbach is part of a vast exception. For example, in Colorado, of the roughly 100,000 people (that’s about 3 percent of the state’s adult population), who have their pot licenses, less than 3 percent also have cancer, much less a diagnosis of terminal cancer.

So, while my heart breaks for Justice Reichbach, my heart also breaks for the many more parents and children whose lives are ruined by this drug. Their stories are far and away more common, but we aren’t seeing them on the Opinion pages of The New York Times — or pretty much on the pages of anywhere else.

It is way past time for our nation to balance its perspective of the needs of the dying with the needs of the living. We sink entirely too many of our limited resources into end-of-life care, when we should be far more supportive of prevention and early intervention.

P.S. Sativex is an oral THC spray that has been approved for use in many parts of the world and is in final clinical trials in the United States. The drug, which includes two active ingredients of marijuana, is expected to receive FDA approval. So, science IS catching up. Let’s not create public policies in the absence of reputable, credible science.

And let’s demand that our nation’s news organizations present a more balanced view of this issue.

About Christine Tatum

Christine Tatum is a veteran journalist whose communications and market intel firm, Media Salad, Inc., helps companies and nonprofit organizations win business and stay ahead of their competitors. Her professional stops include the Chicago Tribune, The Denver Post, the (Arlington Heights, Ill.) Daily Herald and the (Greensboro, N.C.) News & Record. Her work also has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, and New York Times.

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