Letter: Marijuana legalization is 'legislative malpractice'

Posted 3/31/21

To the editor:

Legalizing recreational marijuana (RM) is now on the plate of our governor and legislature. The projection is that in as little as a year RM will be in our state, and in a …

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Letter: Marijuana legalization is 'legislative malpractice'


To the editor:

Legalizing recreational marijuana (RM) is now on the plate of our governor and legislature. The projection is that in as little as a year RM will be in our state, and in a neighborhood near you. As a physician I care deeply about the health of people. The governor and legislature have a responsibility to enact laws that improve public health, and certainly to not adversely affect public health. There is precedent for this in laws that protect the public from lead, asbestos, pesticides, and work place hazards for example. the National Institutes of Health has documented the adverse effects of marijuana which include lassitude, reduced reaction time and reflexes, reduced coordination, dulled intellect, reduced productivity, impaired decision making and judgment, difficulty performing tasks, and impaired school and work performance.

Driving is impaired and is associated with increased accidents. Heart rate increases 20 to 50 beats per minute after inhalation and lasts for hours. The effects of a single use can last for days. The smoke has carcinogens and harms lung tissues like cigarette smoke does. When RM is used for effect, by definition the user is impaired.

If a patient comes to me and says, 'Doc, I want to use RM with your approval. Can I?', there can be only one response from me: 'I don't recommend use, it's bad for your health, and here's why.' It would be at least irresponsible for a physician to say yes, and at most malpractice. Is it not legislative malpractice to say 'Yes?'

Why should our governor and legislature ignore their public health responsibility and pass legislation that will harm us? There are two camps in the RM issue — the revenue camp and the public health camp. You can't be in both. Clearly the pols have abandoned concerns about public health and are intoxicated by the lure of revenue. More revenue is the unending opiate of government, and the Rhode Island government wants to extract more dollars from the public by creating RM businesses that will harm us. Particularly vulnerable will be hose under 25 as research has shown that RM can cause permanent brain damage. Where RM has been legalized teen use has increased, and will occur in our state.

Legislation is already in place in Rhode Island to legalize RM. If you belong in the revenue camp, you are ignoring the public health harm to come. If you are in the public health camp, let your legislators know that, as I have. The time is now and will soon be gone.

James Leffers MD

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