Why is medical marijuana so scary? Can you tell me?
I am emotionally vested in this issue, I will admit. My mother died after a harrowing, painful, years-long battle with cancer. If I’d had access to marijuana, I promise you I would have kept a supply for her right near the only thing she was usually able to eat: Jello.
In many states, including my own, that would have made me a criminal. That would have made my mom a criminal, too. And because she was a God-fearing, law-abiding woman, I’m not sure she would have accepted it if I had been able to offer it to her.
And there’s my argument FOR legalizing medical marijuana: many of the people who need it most are the ones who will never use it as long as it’s illegal. They’re our parents. They’re elderly, they’re sick and they’re convinced that marijuana is bad.
They’d drink a shot of whisky in a heartbeat if it would help. They’d drink two if that would be even better. But alcohol won’t help. Cigarettes won’t help. Prescription alternatives don’t work as well. And marijuana is not their generation’s drug . They grew up surrounded by propaganda.
There are scholars who will tell you that marijuana was criminalized through the efforts of William Randolph Hearst, whose newspapers spread horror stories of licentiousness, crime and madness all due to the “demon weed”. Hemp, in fact, was an inexpensive and effective substitute for wood in the making of paper and Hearst had heavily invested in timber. He was simply wiping out the competition.
But it is also true that marijuana and hashish were problems in America’s cities, with smoking parlors and opium dens catering to urban socialites across the country. Liquid medicines containing marijuana were often combinations of a number of narcotics and sometimes medicine and poison were indistinguishable. Migrant workers from Mexico smoked weed after a long day working in the fields. Criminalizing their smokes criminalized them.
The solution, rather than regulating its use, was to outlaw cannabis altogether. We threw out the baby with the bathwater.
Slowly, very slowly, we’re rethinking that.
New Jersey recently approved a highly restricted medical marijuana program. Seattle, Washington is creating a model program for medical marijuana distribution that officials say will prove that this issue can be regulated safely and humanely.
The Obama Administration has made it clear it will not prosecute patients who use medical marijuana – though federal agents are still vigorously enforcing federal laws against the dispenser s, even in the 16 states where it’s legal.
Marijuana has never gone away – it went underground. Bringing it back into the daylight, regulating it, taxing it (hey, Congress, can you say balanced budget?!?) and continuing to study it so physicians can knowledgably prescribe it to the appropriate patients doesn’t just make sense; it’s humane.
If you can ease the suffering of someone you love and do no harm, why is that wrong?
To hear more on this story, listen to 51% show #1151.
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Barnett is the producer and host of 51%
The Women’s Perspective,
a weekly women’s issues radio show carried nationally on NPR,
ABC and Armed Forces Radio stations. 51% The Women’s Perspective
is part of WAMC
- Northeast Public Radio's national productions. "The View From Outside," Susan Barnett's new collection of short fiction, is available in eBook format at Amazon and Barnes and Noble through Hen House Press. You can connect with her on Facebook.
Photo by DB Leonard.