Tuesday, November 02, 2010

For decency's sake, vote "yes" on Prop. 203

I've been more often than not surprised by just who I meet who would benefit from legalization of use and distribution of marijuana (cannabis, pot) for medicinal purposes. None have been hippies, slackers, or never-do-wells. I will not say that all patients everywhere are categorically model citizens, but the patients or would-be patients that I have met are moral and productive members of society.

The most recent: a coworker, an elderly office clerk with a very conservative manner and the work habits to match, very cautiously sought my opinion on Proposition 203 and on learning that I have long been a supporter of legalization (for any use) shared that (from her experience) medical marijuana would be the best medicine for her PTSD, that she would take would even a petty conviction not imperil her husband's business. Legal marijuana would enable a good night's sleep without the side-effects of prescription pills.

I didn't even know at the time that marijuana was therapeutic in PTSD. Surely enough, there is plenty of research to corroborate one patient's anecdotal evidence.

I find that many of the opponents of legalization of medical marijuana are simply ignorant and arrogant. A case that will forever stand out in my mind is that of an MD I knew as a teenager who called cancer patients' claims that medical marijuana would benefit them "nonsense". It turns out that this MD didn't bother to learn why the claims were being made and merely assumed that it was being argued that marijuana cures cancer. I do not know how I knew that marijuana was a potent anti-emetic, allowing chemotherapy patients to eat healthily instead of vomit uncontrollably, and an MD did not. But yes, a little hit of cheap, common marijuana smoke goes far in easing cancer patients' suffering and contributing to their health and recovery--and to suggest a THC pill would be stupid. Not only is THC not the only active constituent of marijuana, but people who are puking nonstop cannot take a pill!

Add PTSD to the list of conditions for which marijuana is therapeutic, which isn't limited to uncontrolled emesis due to cancer therapy. Marijuana reduces retinal blood pressure in glaucoma patients (helping to save their sight), controls spasticity caused by primary progressive or late-stage relapsing-remitting MS (there's one that hits close to home for this 'blogger...) and many other conditions, and reduces tremors caused by Parkinson's and other neurogenic movement disorders. And we can laugh all we want at the "munchies" in healthy people, but in patients with HIV-related wasting disease and other wasting conditions it is a lifesaver.

Opponents of medical marijuana legalization think it will send the wrong message to youths. What message is that? That our forbears who banned the stuff in a moral panic having something to do with miscegenation, Reefer Madness, and the Hearst family's interest in the pulp paper business made a mistake? That their DARE-participating schoolteachers and policemen lied to them? That for generations we've not only incarcerated people for eating or smoking something more mild than beer but locked up the ill for treating themselves? To not send this message is arrogance. We owe the young this message and a sincere apology.

They gripe that teenagers smoke more marijuana in states where medical marijuana is legal and that marijuana will be more widely available? So what! If keeping kids and adults from getting a mild buzz that generations of experience has shown us is at its worst a very mild social problem--more mild than alcohol overindulgence or tobacco smoking--really outweighs treating (and not arresting, fining, or incarcerating) the ill, perhaps one has had too many bong hits lately. They need to get out of the house more and go to places where medical marijuana is legal (e.g. New Mexico). Far from being populated with stoners and slackers, I'd call e.g. similarly-sized Albuquerque classier than Tucson. The bill is full of safeguards against recreational use--for example, plants must be grown in locked areas--to an extent that looks ridiculous to a legalization proponent, meaning that concern over recreational use is unjustified on yet another level.

And they ask if we want people "just running around smoking marijuana" as though "running around" is what marijuana smokers do--and as though the ill, who are in question here, do much running around. MS patients don't run. Huntington's and Parkinson's patients don't run. Cancer patients puking their guts out thanks to chemo don't run. We'd love for them to run.

If you would like the ill to suffer needlessly, either to oppress them or to facilitate the oppression of nearly 100% harmless others, and to continue to arrest, try, and fine or incarcerate them when they do get effective treatment, then vote "no" on Proposition 203. If on the other hand you support inexpensive and relatively safe treatment of a number of conditions, if you believe that the ill should not be punished for seeking treatment and that marginal increase in recreational use is far outweighed by this, then vote "yes".

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