Twenty years ago when badly injured, my doctor prescribed Vioxx. You’ve likely never heard of this pain-relieving drug. Although the FDA had approved this medication, the agency removed the “world’s best-selling painkiller” from the market in 2004 after research showed Vioxx caused an increased risk of serious cardiovascular events, such as stroke and heart attack.
Lucky for me, I didn’t take Vioxx long. After a couple weeks, I began having headaches, feeling dizzy and felt weirdly lethargic. I’m an athlete and know my body. Vioxx was bad medicine. Studies revealed Vioxx roughly doubled a patient’s risk of heart attack and stroke, leading to an estimated 60,000 deaths.
Due to COVID19, we’ve all learned more about the FDA approval process. Americans are lined up to receive a Pfizer, Moderna, or possibly Johnson & Johnson vaccination. The FDA does not claim these are safe. The agency approved these vaccines for “emergency use.” They were only tested about 3-4 months.
Companies are rushing potentially life-saving drugs to market due to the pandemic crisis. All who receive a vaccine are human guinea pigs. Their hair may fall out in a year or those inoculated might suffer heart or lung issues. Nobody knows. On the other hand, we may learn there are no serious side effects. Let’s hope and pray!
After Vioxx was recalled, my medical team recommended opioids. The FDA had approved use for chronic pain. By this time I knew a bit more about pain analgesics. Opioids are highly addictive and present a dangerous risk of overdose death. Had learned my lesson with Vioxx. The FDA is not reliable. Today, opioids have led to overdose death of some 500,000 Americans. I tried an alternative medication: cannabis.
Medical Cannabis (Marijuana)
A study published in Vegetation History and Archaeobotany summarizes the work of researchers from the University of Vermont who concluded the cannabis plant “evolved 28 million years ago at a specific area on the Tibetan plateau.” Today, we know cannabis is highly effective and more efficient than opioids for treating nerve pain.
Nerve pain, also known as neuropathic pain, is different than other pain. Most normal pain involves stress to a tissue or organ. Stubbing a toe, stomach aches, picking up a hot plate are examples of normal (nociceptive) pain.
Nerve pain involves damage directly to the nervous system. It’s caused by nerves sending mixed-up signals through the brain, signals that cause the body to produce deep and shooting sensations. Examples include pain from cancer, phantom limbs, multiple sclerosis, and chemotherapy. Opioids simply don’t work very well. Cannabis does.
However, using cannabis can lead to time in prison or loss of employment, which happened to me. I now ask readers to join me ending this unscientific discrimination. Let me be the LAST PERSON punished for making an educated medical decision.
Whether you live in Hawai’i or simply would like to help end this War on American Patients, please speak out by submitting testimony to the legislature by today’s deadline in advance of tomorrow’s session:
HEARING LCA-HTH 02-17-21, Room: CR 225 & Videoconference 1:00 PM, regarding SB 64
COMMITTEE ON LABOR, CULTURE AND THE ARTS
Senator Brian T. Taniguchi, Chair
Senator Les Ihara, Jr., Vice Chair
COMMITTEE ON HEALTH
Senator Jarrett Keohokalole, Chair
Senator Rosalyn H. Baker, Vice Chair
Aloha Honorable Chairs Taniguchi and Keohokalole:
While medical cannabis patients appreciate the efforts and intent of Senator Roz Baker (below), this legislation codifies discrimination against many patients. Senator Baker urges people to Practice Aloha. We agree with her.
For example, stated protections would not apply to:
(9) Employees who operate or are in physical control of any of the following:
(D) Public utilities, such as the electrical power grid or water source;
In practice, this legislation would prohibit Hawaiian Electric Industries CEO & President Connie Lau from using medical cannabis if she contracts cancer. Hawaiian Electric Company CEO & President Scott Seu would be denied medical cannabis authorization for severe pain caused by arthritis.
Neither these individuals are considered “safety-sensitive employees.” They and thousands like them should not be denied access to a scientifically-established safe and effective pain analgesic by the legislature simply for working in a particular industry. This is too broad of an “exemption brush.”
For many, there only remaining option would be an opioid-based medication. Some 500,000 Americans have died from OD or other complications related to opioids. It is not disputed patients who use cannabis are highly unlikely to die this way.
In 2015, the legislature amended “329” statutes after being the first state body to legalize medical cannabis in 2000.
HI Rev Stat § 329-125.5, (b) For the purposes of medical care, including organ transplants, a registered qualifying patient’s use of marijuana in compliance with this part shall be considered the
equivalent of the use of any other medication under the direction of a physician and shall not constitute the use of an illicit substance or otherwise disqualify a registered qualifying patient from medical care.
Consider this: when dealing with scientists, medical experts and healthcare professionals, cannabis is EQUIVALENT to any other prescribed medication.
When interacting with NON-scientists, NON-medical experts, or NON-healthcare professionals, medical cannabis patients are considered second-class citizens or lepers or those “with a vice” and disparaged, shamed, disrespected, belittled and punished.
This is inhumane discrimination based on ignorance, bigotry, irrational fears and years of Institutional Racism.
The intent of “drug-free” workplace policies and related Hawai’i statute is to nurture an employment setting where all employees adhere to a program of protocols and activities designed to provide a safe workplace, discourage alcohol and drug abuse, and encourage treatment, recovery and the return to work of those employees with such abuse problems.
SB 64 does not accomplish these goals.
Another solution would be to divide employees into non-safety sensitive and safety sensitive classifications within industry or companies. A third solution would be to remove (d) (20) Marijuana and (g) (1) Tetrahydrocannabinols; meaning tetrahydrocannabinols naturally contained in a plant of the genus Cannabis (cannabis plant) from §329-14 Schedule I, and reclassify as §329-18 Schedule III.
Although the federal government maintains medical cannabis to be illegal due to DEA Schedule I designation, the United States and member European nations participating in the Commission for Narcotic Drugs recently voted in favor (December 2020) of removing medical cannabis from the category of world’s most dangerous drugs, i.e., DEA Schedule I type designations, based on recommendation of the World Health Organization.
Please review the comprehensive appendix (p12-p32) from recently-released study by the Cato Institute, “The Effect of State Marijuana Legalizations: 2021 Update.” Their simple conclusion is:
“New research finds that the strong claims made by both advocates and critics of state-level marijuana legalization are substantially overstated and in some cases entirely without real-world support.”
The history of cannabis in the U.S. since the early 1900s has been defined by extremism, alarmists and racially-motivated actors. Isn’t it time for us to return to a scientifically-driven, evidenced-based and rational policy making.
Thank you for your kako’o.
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Ko’olau of Kaua’i. I am the Defiant One
“I Believe We Can”