One day there I was, a self-employed security consultant sitting in his basement office working on who knows what when the phone rang. A potential client asked me if I wanted to discuss working with him developing the security program for a new medical marijuana production facility in my state. I didn’t even know my state had passed a law legalizing medical marijuana. After verifying this was the case and debating whether or not this was the kind of client I wanted, I found myself imbedded in the medical marijuana industry. This was not something I ever aspired to and I had no idea what it would lead into.
After a short time while I was developing an appropriate security program for the facility, I began to realize that the medical marijuana debate was a more controversial one that I had previously known. Perhaps I just didn’t pay attention before then, but I began to read and see more about the issue and the debate than before. I certainly was in the middle of a timely subject matter. Separately, many people over the years have told me that they found my work as a security consultant fascinating. It occurred to me that the combination of the two would make an interesting story. That began the adventure of my writing the fiction based on fact novel The Marijuana Project. My goal became to write a novel entailing a fun suspense story that included security elements and the ethical dilemma surrounding the medical marijuana debate.
When I started I knew I had the security knowledge I needed and also believed that I understood enough about the medical marijuana debate to make it work. After all, how complicated could it be? I was wrong. Most of the book was written while the medical marijuana production facility was my client, and my experiences there more and more over time made it clear to me that I knew very little. My education about the positives and negatives about the industry from those hands on experiences as well as the detailed independent research I conducted as a result of that realization that I knew little resulted in me developing a detailed opinion about the debate. My guess is both sides will both like and dislike that opinion. The conclusions I came to are surprising to say the least.
The unfortunate thing about this debate is that it’s a debate of complete opposites; very few advocates of either side seem to want to find a middle ground. In addition, the two sides really don’t seem to like each other. It’s somewhat understandable if you as objectively as possible look at the positives and negatives of these extreme views. First the positives. For the pro medical marijuana position, it’s easy. Based on the overwhelming anecdotal evidence and testimonials, there can be absolutely no doubt that medical marijuana can be of great help as a medicine to counteract the effects of certain diseases if not the diseases themselves. Not uncommon diseases either but diseases such as cancer, epilepsy, and PTSD. To deny that treatment option in some cases, especially when dealing with children, is easily seen as cruel at best.
However, when looking at the positives of the other side of the argument, the issue becomes less clear. Because marijuana is still a federal Schedule 1 drug, there has been no legitimate medical research performed using proper double blind studies to show what strains of marijuana with what relative percentages of CBD and THC and in what doses is effective for the treatment of what diseases at what stages. None, no matter what the pro advocates say. How can the medical establishment as a whole be compelled to prescribe and support such medication, especially when doctors are being sued every day for bogus malpractice. It’s also hard to blame the federal legislature for not changing the law when law enforcement is telling them what the consequences are for another addictive drug hitting the street in force, especially with it’s debatable potential as a gateway drug.
The reality is that the advocates of both sides of this debate are their own worst enemy leading to undeniable negatives about both opposing views. Virtually no pro medical marijuana advocates are not also pro recreational marijuana advocates. This does not help their position. In most cases they come across as stoners who just want to do what they want and are using a medical reason to support their position. Just take ten minutes and look through social media to see the facebook pages, twitter tweets, and websites from these advocates and see what they’re saying and how they’re acting. The legitimate medical marijuana industry doesn’t help either, in my experience within the industry it is clear that a large percentage of certified ‘patients’ are in fact recreational users who have found a like-minded doctor. They don’t even try to hide it. In addition, the industry itself does not help the medical establishment by publishing what strains and what cannabinoid percentages are working to help what diseases, perhaps for proprietary reasons. How can they expect the medical establishment to prescribe something when they won’t even share with each other on what works?
The other side is no prize either. Parts of the medical establishment look down on the effectiveness of medical marijuana but have no problem treating patients with debilitating opioids that suck the life out of people. That hardly seems like doing what is in the best interest of the patient. It should be no surprise that a large lobby group against its use is the pharmaceutical companies. Money always talks. Some politicians are concerned about the addictive qualities of medical marijuana but say nothing about the recreational use of alcohol or cigarettes, where the negative effects are well documented. Quite hypocritical.
The sad thing about it all is that I believe most Americans, and by a huge percentage, do not fall on one extreme side or the other but smack in the middle. I believe most people are in favor of legalization of medical marijuana but not legalized recreational marijuana. They may not want people to go to jail for simple possession, but they don’t want someone toking next to their child in the park either. This is certainly not an unreasonable position. Unfortunately, because of the chaos described here, what should be an industry producing a legitimate medicine is being handled in a broken and largely unsuccessful manner. Meanwhile, real patients are suffering that could be helped. What I would like to do is put both sides in a room and lock the door until a solution is found, but that is not reality.
So, is this what I expected to find when I decided to embark on my book adventure? Lot by a long shot. The debate doesn’t have the same moral feel as something like the abortion debate; it certainly doesn’t have the same religious overtones. It has more of a turf war feeling; however to my great surprise it has a similar degree of passion, distrust, and darn right hatred. Over a plant. Amazing. In the end, if for any controversial subject you think you know all there is to know like I did, think again. Do some research. Talk to people who have lived it. Everyone will be better off. At least my book is actually based on facts.
Brian Laslow is the author of The Marijuana Project: a novel about medicine and morality. He has over 25 years of experience in the security field and holds multiple certifications. Since 2001, he has been an independent security consultant providing risk assessment, system design, project management, and ongoing security management services for a wide range of commercial, industrial, and government clients. The Marijuana Project is his debut novel.