Pubdate: Mon, 12 Aug 2002
Source: Capital Times, The  (WI)
Copyright: 2002 The Capital Times
Author: Bill Dunn
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)


Gary Storck of Madison uses marijuana to relieve the chronic pain of Noonan 
syndrome, which he was born with 47 years ago.

He's had heart surgery three times, has never driven a car due to extremely 
limited vision and is on medical disability. He's a member of several 
groups that advocate for reform of drug laws.

"I've come to the conclusion, like a lot of other people, that the drug war 
is causing way more harm than it's preventing," Storck says. "It's unjust. 
It targets minorities, it targets a lot of good people."

Asked why even liberal lawmakers won't support reform, Storck says:

"Politicians are putting their own careers ahead of quality of life for 
people who need medical marijuana. Regarding the drug war, I think most of 
them understand it's wrong but they want to get re-elected more than they 
want to do the right thing. Because of that, good people are being thrown 
in jail with hardened criminals, and that changes somebody forever."

Storck responded to other questions on the issue:

Q. Excluding medical reasons, why do people smoke marijuana?

A. People use marijuana for a variety of reasons. They may use it to 
enhance experiences like going to a concert, watching a movie, going for a 
walk, having sex, eating food, etc. Some find it enhances creativity - 
helping people write and create art, for example.

Still others may use it for spiritual purposes. It has been used for 
religious purposes for thousands of years. Some may just use it to unwind 
after work or socially at parties, like other people might have a beer or a 
cocktail. Others do it for no other reason than it's fun.

Q. What are its effects?

A. Effects vary with the strength, the dosage and the frequency of use. 
People using it medicinally or otherwise regularly usually develop a 
tolerance to the more psychoactive effects.

Some patients may only need a few puffs to attain the desired effect, less 
than what would get a recreational user high. Also, a medical user's 
desired effect might be a recreational user's side effect, i.e., getting 
the munchies.

Here's what the Erowid Vault on the Web says: The primary effects sought 
recreationally are euphoria, relaxation and changes in perception.

Q. How addictive, physically or psychologically, is it?

A. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, it's less addictive 
than caffeine. While it may be psychologically addictive to some, there's 
no evidence it causes physical dependence. People who quit usually don't 
experience anything more than they would if they quit coffee.

Certainly, it is nothing like the effects experienced by people trying to 
quit cigarettes, or heroin, cocaine or many common prescription medications 
like Valium, Paxil, Prozac, Oxycontin, Vicodin and Xanax. Sleep problems 
for a few days and perhaps some irritability is about all I have ever heard 
anyone report.

Q. One argument against legalization says even if it's not so bad, it's a 
gateway drug that leads to stronger stuff. True? Why?

A. The gateway theory has been thoroughly debunked. Former drug czar Barry 
McCaffrey commissioned a $1 million study by the Institute of Medicine, 
released in 1999. The report found, "There is no conclusive evidence that 
the drug effects of marijuana are causally linked to the subsequent abuse 
of other illicit drugs."

It's also been mistaken for a gateway drug because it's the most widely 
used illicit drug and the first one most people encounter. In fact, drug 
users begin with alcohol and nicotine before marijuana.

In the early 1970s it often cost $10 to $15 an ounce. Today it can cost 
that much or more a gram (28 grams in 1 ounce). The price of hard drugs 
like heroin and cocaine continues to fall and the purity rises.

You do the math. Prohibition, by making marijuana more costly and hard 
drugs cheaper, is actually driving users into the arms of hard-drug 
dealers. It seems to me prohibition is the gateway drug.

Q. Why is it illegal?

A. A great writer and former NORML director, Richard Cowan, says the best 
two-word explanation of continued prohibition is "bad journalism."

The media still ignore major reforms occurring all over the world, like in 
Europe, where many nations no longer arrest drug users.

Q. Should it be regulated like alcohol for adult use?

A. Most definitely, and like alcohol, in terms of age limits, driving and 
other common sense concerns. Since 1976 the Netherlands has regulated 
possession and sale of small amounts, and the experience shows it works.

Regulation means that society has control rather than abdicating it to an 
illegal market. It means you have to be an adult to possess it legally and 
that no more children will die in robberies of young dealers that have 
sadly become a nearly annual event here.

It means no more citizens or law officers will be killed or hurt in botched 
drug raids.

An initiative on the ballot in Nevada this November would legalize 
possession of up to three ounces of cannabis. It's gotten broad support 
from law enforcement, so it's not just reform advocates who support 

Q. Might the country be better off if, say, Attorney General John Ashcroft 
would light up occasionally?

A. It would be better if people like Ashcroft showed some tolerance and 
compassion rather than relying on their own rigid beliefs as a guide on how 
they set public policy.

Q. What do you say to teens about marijuana?

A. Don't use marijuana, alcohol, cigarettes or any drugs. But if you choose 
to experiment, the most dangerous thing about marijuana is that it is illegal.

Other substances commonly used by teens like alcohol, tobacco and inhalants 
all have potentially fatal consequences. We need to provide teens with the 
facts about the relative harms of all substances they might experiment with 
and trust them to take responsibility for their actions, while discouraging 
any substance use or abuse through education.

Lying to kids or making it sound more sinister than it is does not work.

Q. What would be the advantages of legalization?

A. If society adopted a regulated market, which treated substance use and 
abuse as a public health problem, society would be more peaceful and safer.

Medical users would have safe and legal access to their medicine. Right now 
it's easier for kids to get pot than patients who need it as medicine. 
Children would have less access, like they do now to alcohol and tobacco.

Without the more than 700,000 marijuana arrests a year, police would be 
seen as friends, serving and protecting.

Q. Any disadvantages?

A. A lot of people in the prison-industrial complex might lose their jobs. 
Agencies that rely on the proceeds from seizing people's personal property 
would have to rely on other funding.

Politicians who demonize pot smokers for political gain would have to find 
new targets. But society as a whole would be better off.
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