Politics are almost always affiliated with controversy. Topics such as abortion, stem cell research, gun control, and a slew of other subjects are bound to infuriate groups in government as well as in the general public.
Currently, one hot-button issue that is causing controversy is the potential legalization of marijuana.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, marijuana is the nation's most commonly used illicit drug. It is the second most abused substance behind alcohol and is used for medical or recreational purposes.
Many people think marijuana has little to no health ramifications. When asked if marijuana use was of a moderate or great risk to their health, 57 percent of students in Chautauqua County from grades seven to 12 do not believe that the drug is harmful, according to the 2011 CASAC administered state Pride Youth Development Survey. In fact, marijuana is the second most widely used drug by Chautauqua County youth, behind alcohol.
Chautauqua Alcoholism & Substance Abuse Council (CASAC) is a non-profit agency whose mission is to build a safer, healthier community by effectively addressing alcohol, other drugs and related high-risk behaviors through advocacy, hope and awareness. Due to the increasing popularity of marijuana usage with medicinal and recreational intentions, the CASAC Board issued a statement on their stance on marijuana.
The following is taken from CASAC's newly-issued policy statement:
Marijuana in smoked form is unsuitable as a medicine. No medication should be utilized without the formal approval of the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, regardless of the action of state legislatures.
Marijuana grown and provided for legal medicinal use should be scheduled and monitored under FDA oversight. It should be held to the same FDA standards imposed on other prescription drugs including warnings, labeling, and the ordering and filling of prescriptions.
CASAC is opposed to the use of marijuana as a recreational drug. Research on the health and safety effects of marijuana strongly correlates with many mental, emotional, psychological, physical, and spiritual problems.
While not everyone who uses marijuana becomes dependent, the reality is that as with alcohol and other drugs, marijuana use can lead to profound, chronic and progressive chemical dependency. Its use can be very serious, dangerous, and have a profound impact on the quality of life for hundreds of thousands of Americans and their families.
Arnold Zdrojewski, president of the CASAC board of directors, provided an explanation for the statement: "It's not a harmless party drug, there can be real problems associated with its use by adults and youth."
Zdrojewski, who has been on CASAC's board for 14 years and has been president for three years, said that regarding legalization, "States should not legalize (marijuana) for medical use for political reasons. It should be a medical, not a political, decision."
He also added that the statement, which had to be approved by the CASAC board, was not just a spur of the moment decision; it required a lot of thought, effort and research on behalf of the board and staff.
When asked about the ongoing battle over legalization, Zdrojewski said, "There's a discrepancy between the governing body and the scientific community (over marijuana for medical use)," and he added that, "We need to increase public awareness and inform people about the dangers and harm associated with use and repeated use (of the drug.)"
In addition to issuing the statement, CASAC is implementing a campaign to educate about the dangers of marijuana. Called "Keep Off the Grass," the strategy is aimed at the citizens, especially the youth, of Chautauqua County.
To view the full CASAC policy statement and more information on marijuana in general, go to CASAC's website, www.casacweb.org.
Since 1974, CASAC, a United Way supported agency, has provided prevention education and community awareness regarding alcohol and other drugs. CASAC is the only New York State Office of Alcoholism & Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) approved and supported alcohol and other drug prevention agency in Chautauqua County.
For further information about CASAC programs and services, call the Jamestown office at 664-3608, or the Dunkirk office at 366-4623, or go to CASAC's website, www.casacweb.org.
Patricia Z. Munson is the CASAC executive director.