Editorial: Shapiro, Buchanan diverge on medical marijuana

Editorial: Shapiro, Buchanan diverge on medical marijuana

Election campaigns, particularly those for federal offices, are increasingly unproductive and uninformative, based on tired ideology and poll-driven flash points.

Yet sometimes stiff competition for an office results in productive thought and enlightenment — that is, when reporting at its best reveals differences between candidates on issues not included in the standard political playbooks followed by candidates and their handlers.

For instance, Billy Cox of the Herald-Tribune reported last week that David Shapiro, a Democrat challenging U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan (a Republican) in Congressional District 16, supports declassifying marijuana as a dangerous drug.

The classification of cannabis as a Schedule I drug senselessly suggests it’s just as powerful and dangerous as heroin and LSD, and has no possible medical value. (There are five schedules; even Schedule II includes high-powered and addictive cocaine, meth and fentanyl.)

The scheduling makes research into marijuana’s medicinal value unnecessarily difficult and effectively prevents its use by military personnel as an alternative to powerful painkillers and anti-anxiety prescriptions for the treatment of chronic injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder.

There is an emerging movement to grant stressed and injured active-duty personnel and veterans legal access to marijuana in light of strong evidence that conventional pharmaceuticals have, at the least, failed to prevent a suicide epidemic — and, at worst, directly contributed to at least 20 active-duty and veteran suicides each day.

Buchanan opposes removing marijuana from Schedule I. He cites the need for more research, which would be welcome but is hard to conduct, given its status on the schedule, and unilateral efforts by Attorney General Jeff Sessions to prevent the u.S. Drug Enforcement Agency from expanding the scope of studies.

The incumbent’s office points to his co-sponsorship of legislation that would require U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to review the deaths of veterans — treated by the VA — who died of suicide and drug overdoses in the past five years. That assessment is warranted; it would be enhanced by analysis of whether medical marijuana could have prevented those suicides and overdoses.

Shapiro said his view was influenced by attending a recent Herald-Tribune forum that featured compelling testimony from Janine Lutz of Florida, whose son committed suicide by overdose in 2013 following his military service.

Janine Lutz is convinced that her son would be alive today if he had been prescribed marijuana for his anxiety and pain. She said so during the forum, which can be seen at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U_G12TLpEYE.

The video should be required viewing for members of Congress who believe in the status quo.


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