The Journal Gazette
Tuesday, July 31, 2018 1:00 am

Refer madness

Physician's anti-marijuana arguments weigh heavily on emotion, but little on reason

Nicholas Police

In his July 25, op-ed, Dr. Rudy Kachmann asserts that the legalization of CBD oils in Indiana will inevitably lead to the legalization of marijuana and that said legalization will inherently lead to massive negative impact on the state. Throughout the piece, the good doctor makes multiple unsourced, vague or outright inaccurate claims.

Kachmann initially raises some valid concerns regarding CBD oil and the oversight of manufacturers and distributors of the product. Rather than sticking with his eminently reasonable argument regarding the fact that any merits of CBD oil are as of now unproven, Kachmann unfortunately veers wildly off course.

He correctly notes that the benefits of CBD oil are speculative and that there is insufficient oversight by the government of manufacturers and distributors. Instead of continuing with his credible argument, Kachmann instead digresses into a discussion against marijuana that is at best poorly reasoned and evidenced.

Kachmann claims:

1. “In Colorado, for instance, 20 percent of recreational marijuana users are repeat customers, because they're addicted.” He provides no standard for what constitutes a “repeat” customer, nor does he offer any evidence that anyone who uses marijuana more than one time is properly classified as “addicted” by any credible medical standard.

2. Kachmann claims the Colorado marijuana legalization has “not been great.” His basis for this assertion is one unnamed “Colorado senator.” Kachmann does not specify whether this mysterious senator is a U.S. senator or Colorado state senator, nor does he provide any source or even a date for the quote. Nor does he explain why the opinion of this one unnamed politician should outweigh the opinion of the citizens of Colorado as the majority of Colorado residents believe legalization has been a positive for the state. 

3. Kachmann next asserts “addiction rates are up” and “side effects are common.” Again, no study or evidence is provided to support his bald assertion, leaving aside for the moment the utterly meaningless value of a phrase such as “addiction rates are up.” Side effects are quite common for nearly any legal prescription or over-the-counter drug, yet Kachmann somehow implies that marijuana's having side effects is an automatic disqualifier against its being legalized.

4. “Children are getting into the many products of CBD and marijuana.” Kachmann provides no supporting evidence that this is a widespread problem. Admittedly, there has been some anecdotal evidence of adults failing to adequately safeguard their children from unknowingly consuming marijuana kept in the home. This is something that any legal user of marijuana should be concerned about, but it is no different than any other consumer product stored in a household. A bottle of bleach should be kept away from children who might not understand the consequences of consuming it; this does not, however, mean bleach should be criminalized.

5. “...(A)nd there has been an invasion of out-of-state people coming to find the products. As a matter of fact, 44 percent of the sales are to those from out of state.” Kachmann ignores a variety of factors here (for instance, that Colorado is a major tourist destination so a significant stream of out-of-state customers would not be particularly unusual with respect to any business in the state) but most importantly fails to provide any credible explanation as to why Colorado drawing out of state customers is a negative. Is he suggesting Colorado is unduly burdened by this additional source of revenue? That anyone not from Colorado who abides by Colorado law while in Colorado is some sort of criminal mastermind? What is his point?

6. “The tax revenue from marijuana sales have been very disappointing. ...” Yet another unsourced claim combined with vague, meaningless language. Disappointing by what standard? Disappointing to whom? As of the most recent annual figures available from the legal sale of medical and recreational marijuana, Colorado in 2017 saw $247 million in combined tax revenue.

7. “...Mainly because of the cost of law enforcement. ...” Kachmann again provides no source to show that law enforcement is incurring increased costs due to marijuana legalization, nor does he provide any standard for measuring what the supposed added costs to law enforcement are. It is unclear why he thinks freeing police from spending time on minor possession and distribution charges and reducing the inmate population in correctional facilities would increase law enforcement costs.

8. “...Medical complications...” Again, Kachmann provides no clarification on what this is meant to measure or what evidence he relies upon to determine that marijuana legalization leads to “medical complications.”

9. “...And the reduced reputation of the state.” Kachmann himself alleges that a significant portion of Colorado's revenue from the sale of legal marijuana comes from people out of state, then asserts that the state's reputation has been harmed despite his own evidence. Once more, Kachmann attempts to shroud his own opinion of Colorado's marijuana laws in the veil of some ephemeral, unknown authority and measure known only to him.

I note that Kachmann is a well-respected neurosurgeon, and his expertise as to neuro-psychological development and children is undoubtedly well beyond my own. No reasonable person is arguing that children should be allowed to obtain marijuana (whether it is legal or illegal in a given state). However, Kachmann's assertions that marijuana is more harmful than alcohol to a developing brain is at best unsettled based on the latest research. I would direct those who are interested in a measured, even-handed review of the issue to a recent study by the University of Colorado-Boulder. 

With that said, Kachmann seems to have no concern as to the deleterious effects of criminalization and the burdens it places on society. The majority of research on the effects of legalization and crime within the states that legalize marijuana show that there is no credible evidence that legalization leads to increased crime.

Lastly, Kachmann suggests the legalization of CBD oils and the inevitable legalization of marijuana that follows is due to a secret cabal of lobbyists. He ignores the fact that legalization is overwhelmingly supported by voters. He also (quite tellingly) does not mention the well-documented crisis with prescription opioid addiction and overdose deaths in this country. It seems to me if he would like to address the ills of lobbyists pushing the availability of dangerous drugs, he might better concern himself with his fellow physicians who willingly accepted bribes from pharmaceutical giants for a promise to prescribe verifiably deadly prescription drugs.


Nicholas Police, a New Haven resident, is an attorney.

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