Who Is Ed Shemelya?
The National Marijuana Initiative, a branch of the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Program run by the United States Office of National Drug Control Policy, is an anti-marijuana program headed by former Kentucky State Police officer Ed Shemelya.
Both the program and Shemelya take a hardline prohibitionist stance on marijuana in all forms. Shemelya has stated that “…it should not be up to patients or state legislators to determine how much medicine to use or when to ingest it”. Instead, Ed Shemelya believes marijuana should undergo FDA approval like all pharmaceuticals. This process, which can take up to 5 and a half years, is used in order to determine the efficacy and safety of new pharmaceutical drugs. Five and a half years that terminal cancer patients do not have. Five and a half years of suffering that patients who have Multiple Sclerosis, (a debilitating nerve condition that can cause fire like pain in nerve centers from the head all the way to the toes) do not have.
Of course the FDA approval process is necessary to weed through unknown and untested drugs to determine which are unsafe and unfit for human use.
Why Marijuana is Unlike Other Pharmaceuticals
The reason that marijuana does not deserve to be lumped into the same category as these untested pharmaceuticals is crystal clear. Marijuana is proven to be helpful for people with grave medical conditions, evident by the fact that it has already been legalized in 29 states. Most importantly, marijuana has caused a grand total of zero overdose deaths.
Yes, it is true that marijuana use in children can lead to stunted brain development, and is a dangerous issue that needs to be confronted. But, in Colorado, a state where both recreational and medical marijuana use are legal for adults, teen marijuana use has decreased from 22% in 2011, (the year before recreational use was legalized) to 21.2% in 2015, or 0.5% lower than the national average teen use of 21.7%. This is according to a study conducted by the State of Colorado in conjunction with the University of Colorado.
Following Canada’s Lead
In Canada, where medical marijuana has been legal for 16 years, teen use is over 22%. To combat this, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has proposed a bill that would legalize marijuana for recreational use, while providing the Canadian government the ability to regulate and tax marijuana. When releasing details about the bill, Trudeau stated, “It is to easy for our kids to get marijuana, this will change that.”
See, Canada is beginning to realize that the criminalization of marijuana does not in fact prevent childhood and teen use. It is clear to sensible Canadian legislators that regulating marijuana and establishing clear laws against underage use is the best way to keep children from using marijuana.
Take note Mr. Shemelya.
Lane is based in Southern California and is a content curator for Medical Marijuana 411. He focuses his research into finding informative stories that can help medical marijuana patients better understand their diverse medicine.