At Large: Willing suspension of disbelief

At Large: Willing suspension of disbelief

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Updated at 6:30 pm, February 6, 2014

Perhaps the window has closed for so-called medicinal marijuana for Martha’s Vineyard. News this week that pot shops, fronted as medical dispensaries, have been approved for many counties in Massachusetts, but not for Dukes County, spares Islanders the need to participate in the hoax — for now, although perhaps not forever.

That there is a powerful interest in easier and legal access to marijuana on Martha’s Vineyard is unarguable, which is not the same as saying that Islanders favor the unrestricted use of pot and its derivatives, no matter how the license is disguised.

Statewide, voters, including Islanders in especially enthusiastic numbers, have agreed to allow medicinal marijuana sales from as many as 35 outlets statewide. Voters nationally have moved toward broadly legalizing marijuana use. The trend is clear, but the implications are not. Three generally accepted views are that marijuana can ease suffering in some gravely ill persons; that the licensing of medical marijuana dispensaries and the creeping relaxation of pot laws across the country will lead to wider use of the drugs; and that this wider use will include increasing use by young people and especially teenagers. The latter effect is already making itself felt. The Martha’s Vineyard Youth Task Force reported, in its 2012 survey of risky behaviors among teenagers, that as alcohol consumption among teens has declined steadily since 2007, marijuana use has increased. Thirty-nine percent of the Task Force’s survey respondents in 2012, 10 percent higher than in the 2007 survey, have used marijuana. Marijuana use by Vineyard young people is markedly higher than is the case statewide or nationally. And, now that President Barack Obama has spoken encouragingly of the innocent effects of marijuana use, we may expect a further increase in teenage pot use ahead.

Islanders will have to consider what to think about the future of life on Martha’s Vineyard as the coincidence of this data and these trends is realized.

Nevertheless, if parents and the Vineyard community at large are doubtful about the wisdom of young people drinking alcohol, using prescription drugs, and smoking marijuana, the Youth Task Force numbers, even when they reveal declines in these practices, as is the case with alcohol use, they cannot be genuinely comforted by the news. Combined with a state and national relaxation in attitudes toward marijuana use, the trend lines point to trouble ahead.

If often helps, when one is determined to make a bad decision, to gild the pig. Thus, the government’s eagerness to embrace the income potential of legal gambling veils the harm done by gambling to the less well off and the elderly. And, the avidity with which lawmakers move to align themselves with powerful trends and with the potential for tax and fee income boosts to government coffers leads them to mask pot use by calling it medicinal.

As Dr. Henry Nieder wrote in an essay [ Essay: Medicinal marijuana, mostly a fiction, November 14, 2013], “Prescribing medications is complicated. To do it as safely as possible, doctors must know effective doses and duration of effect so that they can determine the correct initial dose and frequency of use with the original prescription and then can adjust in a logical fashion if the dose requires adjustment. Prescribed marijuana has no reliable dosage. In states with legal medical marijuana, patients are generally advised to adjust the amount of marijuana they purchase to obtain the desired result and to repeat the dose as needed. That is no different than buying marijuana on the street and being told to stop smoking when you feel the way that you want to feel.”

None of these protocols holds for medicinal marijuana dispensing, and thus, so-called medicinal marijuana applies lipstick to the porker. The trend rolls along. We shall see what the result will be, whether the pot culture will produce in the young a determined and disciplined population of young learners, eager to work hard, ambitious to succeed, trained to think critically, sensitive in human interaction, and ever mindful of what is important and watchful for what is fruitlessly diverting.

The word guild, referring to gussied up pigs, was misused in this column. The commenter who styles himself “oligarch” brought the error to my attention. The word I intended was gild. I have corrected the error, and I thank oligarch for his careful attention. D.A.C.


  1. Well Im hopeful that law enforcement turns a blind eye if you grow some because you never get off the rock. The state didnt handle this very well.

  2. If medical marijuana dispensaries are pot shops then I guess you consider pharmacies to be opium dens?
    Oh, and many of those highly addictive opiate and synthetic opiate pill prescriptions read “Take 1 or 2 tablets as needed for pain”. Well, until the patient is receiving prescriptions for 360 of them a month…

    1. Considering some of the recent arrests reported in this newspaper and others across our commonwealth, yes, the pharmacies could be considered opium dens.

  3. “If often helps, when one is determined to make a bad decision, to guild the pig.” Sounds like how Obama voters made their decisions.

  4. That Marijuana was ever made illegal was a decision that was based on “hocu pocus” reasoning. Both tobacco and alcohol far more destructive than marijuana. Not one reported case of a death caused by “overdosing” on pot.
    Rarely, will you ever see stoned people engaging in violence.
    The issue as whether pot is a gateway drug has been debunked.
    Anything in in excess is bad, we all know that so is the case with marijuana.
    I find it encouraging that kids are drinking less but I don’t see how Doug can automatically draw the conclusion that because kids are drinking less, they will automatically increase pot usage if the laws are relaxed.
    Here’s one for you, maybe more people are turning to pot usage because of the increased diligence of drunk driving laws? I feel that the main reason that pot was made illegal was because of “yellow Journalism” by Randolph Hearst who was afraid that the increased usage of hemp in paper making was a threat to the value of his lumber investments. Another thing, if pot became legal it would be hard to keep people from growing their own thus difficult to gain tax revenue. Easy to tax tobacco and booze so they are legal.

    campaign that was started by

  5. The people have spoken. The chicken littles need to accept it. The world didn’t disintegrate when VH got beer & wine, and it won’t now. Island kids and Islanders in general have always smoked a lot of pot. Nothing will change except for the fact that now people who have a legitimate need for the substance will be able to get it in a safe and legal way. It must be hard to constantly live in fear.

  6. To make sure we don’t miss his central thesis, Mr. Cabral hammers it in his first two paragraphs,suggesting no fewer than four times that medicinal marijuana is a fraud, a thinly-veiled step toward legalization.

    For a balancing point of view I would refer you to the excellent, heavily-footnoted piece in the Feb. 20 edition of The New York Review of Books by Jerome Groopman, who holds the Dina and Raphael Recanati Chair of Medicine at Harvard University Medical School. Here’s the link, if moderators of this comment section will allow it:

    (If you’d like to read the hard copy, most of our Island public libraries carry the New York Review and have this edition on their shelves.)

    Professor Groopman quotes from a recent book by the medical journalist, Judy Foreman, entitled “A Nation in Pain: Healing Our Biggest Health Problem.” Ms. Foreman writes:

    “To put it bluntly, marijuana works. Not dazzlingly, but about as well as opioids. That is, it can reduce chronic pain by more than 30 percent. And with fewer serious side effects. To be sure, some researchers think it’s too soon to declare marijuana and synthetic cannabinoids a first-line treatment for pain, arguing that other drugs should be tried first. But that may be too cautious a view.”

    Considering the epidemic of addiction that is swirling around the use of opioid painkillers nowadays (any police chief on the Island will tell you that the abuse of prescription drugs is one of the most pressing crime problems we face), and considering the real medicinal promise here, I’d say it’s counterproductive to dismiss the state’s progress toward allowing “so-called medicinal marijuana” as a “hoax.”

    Right now our first-line treatment for human pain is the morphine family. As Doctor Phil would say, how’s that working for us?

  7. Happy to see the homophone boo-boo is an interesting one and not the usual there/their/they’re or your/you’re. As to the content, I don’t buy that medical pot isn’t a ploy for blanket legalization. There seems to be a disproportionate amount of Islanders in a lot of pain these days.