The Case Against Medical Marijuana

March 31, 2010

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English: Medical marijuana neon sign at a disp...

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This is not going to discuss energy savings, shutting down oil refineries or offshore drilling.  In this case, Going Green is referring to Cannabis Sativa, Mary Jane, Blunts, Roaches, Joints, Spliffs, Bongs, THC, Bob Marley, yes….marijuana.

California has captivated headlines by saying that they’re going to place an initiative on their ballot to legalize marijuana.  This is happening even as numerous states are running into numerous problems with their Medical Marijuana laws.

Some of you know that I live in Colorado.  Colorado has a Medical Marijuana law and it has exploded in use over the last couple of years.  There are currently more marijuana dispensaries in Denver than there are Starbucks and they continue to pop up.  Each night on the news I hear stories about another robbery or burglary happening at another marijuana dispensary.  Cities across the state are now scrambling for ways to better regulate these facilities.

A very basic question that I have is this.  THC, the ingredient in marijuana that people are smoking it for, is available in pill form already.  Why then do we need to have smoked marijuana available with all the problems that it brings?  Marinol is a prescription medicine that can be prescribed by a doctor and dispensed from a controlled pharmacy.

I live in a suburban neighborhood in Fort Collins, CO that is filled with middle to upper middle income families.  Crime is essentially non-existent and the homes are all single family dwellings filled with families that have roughly 2.54 kids each.  The only crime other than an occasional vehicle break-in was an armed Home Invasion Robbery.  What prompted this to happen?  The two residents of the home are medical marijuana patients.  When the masked gunmen forced their way into the home they asked for one thing:  marijuana.  They didn’t want money or electronics…just the drugs.

Denver (in 2010) passed a new ordinance that requires all dispensaries to have a special license.  It requires applicants to complete a background check, submit dispensary diagrams, security plans and pass zoning/fire inspections.  This is significant because dispensaries have been popping up next to schools and in residential areas where other businesses could not be located.  Can you imagine a marijuana dispensary opening in the home next to yours?

On January 31, 2010 Christian Thurston published an article in the Denver Post entitled Smoke and Mirrors.  Christian is the Medical Director of a substance abuse treatment program in Denver.  Christian provided an example of a 19 year old being treated for “Severe Addiction”.  This 19 year old walked in to dispensary, gave them $300 and discussed his depression with a “doctor”.  He was then given a medical marijuana card.  One pregnant woman was given a marijuana card to smoke because of her nausea.  Yes, she was told to smoke marijuana during the pregnancy.

We have people showing up to work stoned and claiming no foul because the marijuana was “prescribed” for them.  We have 18 year olds obtaining a license to smoke joints daily for an ear ache, depression, etc.

When the people of Colorado passed this law, the thought was that this would be an alternative to people with debilitating illnesses another option for treatment.  We did not think that this was going to be an epidemic of hippies and teens look for a legal way to get their fix.

There are other states in the same situation and others contemplating placing similar marijuana laws on the ballots.  Hopefully, they will plan ahead better than the State of Colorado has and only put the law on the books when they’re prepared to handle all the problems that come with the law.What needs to change?

  1. More stringent guidelines to obtain a medical marijuana card.
    • Conditions like ear aches should not be included
    • If they aren’t going to be more specific, then legalize marijuana so we can hopefully get past the crime that has come with the law
  2. Better zoning regulations so we don’t have dispensaries set up next to each other, located in residential areas or near schools.
  3. Mandatory security in these dispensaries to reduce violent robberies and burglaries.
  4. Better definitions of a caregiver and restrictions on growing quantities.  This too is turning residential neighborhoods into marijuana farms.
  5. Dispensing marijuana should be done through a controlled environment like a pharmacy, not the corner house where Guido is set up.
  6. Better education of patients
    • This does not give them the right to smoke and drive
    • This does not give them the right to smoke then go to work and operate a forklift
  7. The granting of a medical marijuana card should require the prescribing doctor to visit with the patient’s Primary Care Physician and thoroughly review the patient’s medical history.  Is there a history of drug abuse?  Is this appropriate therapy for the combination of their conditions?

Following the passing of the new healthcare system, it will be interesting to see if we will now begin covering the cost of medical marijuana.  Will Little Johnny down the street be able to walk into the local dispensary, choose from Raspberry flavored marijuana and have us pick up the tab?


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Dealing With Age – Physical Therapy

March 22, 2010

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I have been travelling a lot recently.  Four hour plane rides every other week for five months, spending two week out of every three on the road for a 45 year old man is stressful.  This has caused several problems, not just the emotional strain of separation form my wife and children.  First there is the weight gain from eating at restaurants.  In my case, I gained almost 10% (more than 20 lbs).  Second there is the discomfort of actual plane travel in smaller planes (MD-80 aircraft are a bit short for my six foot stature).   Third there are the long hours in front of a computer at the remote site, I have nothing else to do but go to the hotel and watch TV (I’m not much of a club hopper).  The combined result is exceptional back pain.

I have taken the opportunity provided by my employer to receive physical therapy.  I cannot compliment the physical therapists enough.  This is not a therapeutic massage, nor is it chiropractic therapy.  The physical therapist determines the cause of the pain, this includes pressure and some massage.  The main effort of the physical therapist is train the patient in stretches and exercise, including just learning how to stand up from a reclined or seated position.  It is two stages; avoid the pain in the first place, then train not to create the painful situation again.

In my case, I apparently have overstressed one side of one vertebra.  The result is the need to stretch in a specific direction.  I also have a ‘closed chest’, meaning that I slouch with my shoulders forward and down due to my poor posture in front of the computer.  The result of this is a need to ‘open’ with both stretched and poster improvement.  The final straw, and what has caused the most pain, is a straightened upper back from the extra weight that I am carrying.  The result of this is the obvious need to loose the weight. 

I am lucky, in that most of my long term travel is over.  So, I have a chance of recovering if I follow the rules that the therapists have established.  Regardless of my travel plans, I intend to follow these rules, if nothing else, to avoid the pain.  I found that I had immediate relief at the therapist, but needed additional sessions to improve my technique for relief at home.  I have also found that most of the exercises are things I can do at work, on the road or at home.

I know that many of you have experienced back pain, from injury, bad habits, or just overwork.  You know how bad it is to not be able to get out of a chair or get out of bed.  I know many swear by chiropractors, but I have a sister in law who is a doctor and who would have a fit if I were to visit one.  Others trust in message therapy.  I am uncomfortable being massaged by any woman other than my wife.  This may be petty, but it is fact.  I you have need, or your other options are not working, I would recommend seeing a physical therapist.  Seeing them is important, but what is more important is following their instructions.

H1N1 – The Pandemic

November 25, 2009

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What do you call H1N1 in your house? H1N1? Pig Flu? Swine Flu? Hini Flu (Doesn’t H1N1 look like HINI?) After the last couple of months, we’re referring to it as Hell.

Those of you that read my last article know that I have a family of four. I’m blessed to have Kimberly (my wife), two beautiful daughters and me. My daughters are six (Kiley) and four (Kayla). Kiley is a first grader and Kayla is in her 2nd year of preschool at our church.

Kiley was the first person in our home to experience the early signs of H1N1. She came home from school with the trademark H1N1 cough and then diarrhea. A day later, Kayla shared in the misery. After the first day, H1N1 really turns on its charm. The high fever started with numbers reaching up to 103.7 and body aches unrivaled by any flu before. I remember hearing Kiley crying so I went to see what was wrong with her only to find that she was crying in her sleep. This continued for nearly a week. Both girls suffered extreme exhaustion, headache, body aches, coughing, fever, diarrhea and extreme irritability. My wife picked up a very low grade fever (around 100-101) and a resilient cough.

The girls slowly improved and at around the 10 day mark they were good enough to go back to school. At this point we learned that Kiley’s class of 23 kids had only 8 children in class during part of her absence. I wondered why no classes were cancelled and the school continued as planned.

During this fiasco I remained symptom free and was starting to feel invincible to this “Pig Flu”. Could I possibly avoid this? I had watched my entire live in family suffer through it and I was feeling a little guilty. I wasn’t taking any chances though. I doubled my multivitamin intake and started taking Emergen-C three times each day. I was also very nervous because I had tickets for the Nebraska vs. Texas Tech football game which was in Lincoln. I had non-refundable hotel reservations and plans with some of my college buddies that (I thought) I couldn’t miss. My plans were to leave on Friday morning about 6:00 am.

Wednesday night I began to feel extremely fatigued, soon I had a headache and body aches started. I went to bed hoping I would continue to fight it. I woke up Thursday morning about 3:00 am freezing and burning up at the same time, my back felt like my wife had been punching me in the back all night and I couldn’t get comfortable in bed no matter how I laid. I spent all day Thursday sleeping and wrapped in blankets. My fever was above 103, I had chills, horrible body aches and I noticed that I felt short of breath just going up one flight of stairs.

I was taking Ibuprofen every four hours and Acetaminophen two hours after the Ibuprofen. Friday morning I woke up and my fever had broke. This is where I got stupid … very stupid. I called my buddy to see if he still wanted to drive to Lincoln. I told him my fever broke but that I had H1N1. We talked about the “24 hour fever free” rule, but being a sports fanatic, he was in anyway.

We drove to Lincoln, drank, ate and had as much fun as possible. Saturday my buddy came began to get symptoms of H1N1 and we both struggled through the football game. Sunday we drove home to our families as sick as ever. My fever came back and continued until Tuesday. I started feeling better then but stayed out of work that week so I didn’t give it to anyone else. The shortness of breath continued and 6 weeks later is still haunting me.

After being H1N1 free except for the shortness of breath for a few weeks, I came down with a terrible sinus infection and possibly bronchitis. I worked from home so I didn’t make anyone else sick. Then I went to see my doc a few days later. He didn’t think it was bronchitis but plenty of sinus infection to go around. My cough was horrible and shortness of breath was worse. I learned that after H1N1 hits you with the flu, it leaves your upper respiratory system in a weakened state. You’re very susceptible to colds, infections and pneumonia.

I’m now 5 days through a 10 day course of antibiotics and can’t wait to feel better. My cough is much better but I have a lot of improving to do. Kiley, my six year old went back to the pediatrician with a horrible cough and stuffy nose. She was diagnosed with Pneumonitis; I’ve been told that is essentially the beginning stages of pneumonia. 

I asked Kosmo if I could share my experience so that people would realize how rough this illness is. It isn’t a 24 hour flu and it isn’t necessarily over when the flu leaves. This is a horrible flu, especially for the kids. The body aches scare them to death and they are severe. The high fever wreaks havoc on their little bodies. For the parents, if you’re lucky enough to avoid it you’ll be saying, “I’m so sick of sick people.” (Quote taken from my wife Kimberly)

Please follow the CDC guidelines on prevention, be courteous and cough into a tissue or your elbow. Stay home if you’re sick or keep your kids home if they’re sick. This pandemic has forced me to change the way I think about illness. I don’t wish this on anyone and I feel bad that I didn’t adhere to the 24 hour fever free rule. This has changed my view on flu forever.

I don’t ask much, but if you haven’t already been sickened by H1N1 and you haven’t been vaccinated, just do it. You’ll thank yourself later.