Prescribing high profits

Connect the Dots

If marijuana is as dangerous as heroin — as the Drug Enforcement Agency classifies it to be — then Californians are living in the midst of a drug epidemic.

Most Californians, however, know better than to believe this hype, as joints are passed around in concerts like bread in church. Obtaining prescriptions for marijuana is hardly an issue when ads for medical cannabis dispensaries and evaluations fill the margins of most East Bay weeklies.

Though marijuana symbolizes the East Bay’s mellow counterculture, the federal government and its financial investors continue to perpetuate marijuana’s stigma to the point of dismissing its medical credibility.

A friend’s mother, who died two summers ago after a long battle with brain cancer, starved to death. While the cancer caused her unimaginable pain and mental complications, she refused marijuana therapy meant to increase her appetite and reduce chemotherapy-induced nausea.

In spite of numerous examples of scientific research that legitimizes marijuana’s medical benefits (and considering that Cheech and Chong are still alive and well), the DEA is more concerned with shutting down California’s “cannabusinesses” than regulating pharmaceutical drugs that thousands of patients abuse and die from every year.

According to the DEA website, a Schedule 1 drug has “a high potential for abuse, no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, and a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug or other substance under medical supervision.” Never mind that alcohol fits this description — market regulation seems to trump medical safety.

The likes of alcohol, pain relievers and pharmaceutical drugs are much easier to regulate in the market than marijuana yet more likely to be abused and cause death. Quite literally a “weed” that is easily grown in the right climate, it would be difficult for pharmaceutical corporations to profit more from marijuana than their formulated drugs.

Beyond the issue of marijuana legalization, the federal government’s actions clearly don’t reflect the people’s best interests. Though marijuana has a high potential for abuse, the same can be said for other substances approved by the DEA, such as amphetamines and antidepressants.

As financial incentives lure physicians away from their tumors of student debt into the glitz of commission-based salesmanship, pharmaceutical companies manipulate doctors to prescribe medication still wobbling between unproven hypotheses and one-time testimonies.

Though the passion of most doctors is doubtless, their vulnerability should not be dismissed. They may prescribe newly tested medicines with the best of intentions, but their self-interested profit is unforgivable when patients become victims of this supposed original sin.

People have become lab rats for new pharmaceutical drugs, as corporate efficacy carries more weight than the significant medical benefits of marijuana.

While independent marijuana dispensaries lack the collective financial support to lobby for coherent and fair marijuana reform at the national level, pharmaceutical companies like Pfizer and Merck have the fiscal power to test their latest drug innovations in the market, as their fines are inconsequential compared to their profits.

Because medicine has become a field of glamorous payoffs that justify the reality of daytime dramas, the doctor is admired more often for his well-deserved paycheck than his passion. As we forget our childhood dreams, we justify our sacrifices with exuberant purchases like island dream getaways.

Even if more people smoke marijuana recreationally than medicinally, its recreational use should be compared with that of overly prescribed pain relievers and ADD medication. (Kids had whiskey in the 1920s — why not amphetamines for the modern age?)

Heroin abuse is undeniably more destructive than marijuana, simply considering how shared needles can spread diseases like HIV while the most marijuana cigarettes can spread is mononucleosis. Besides that both have “high potential for abuse,” there is no reason for marijuana to be associated with heroin.

The prevalence of TV shows, movies and music that reflect marijuana’s abuse show that its destructive tendencies fit in nicely with the dysfunctional nature of American life. Unlike the tragedies heroin junkies are often found in (unless they’re Scottish), stoners are portrayed in a realm of self-destruction ranging from daze and confusion to escape and illusion.

Though marijuana is not as dangerous as heroin, we are in the midst of a drug epidemic. But since most of the abused drugs are justified with medical rhetoric and overworked bodies, all we need to ask for is a doctor and a prescription.