Pubdate: Wed, 24 Sep 2003
Source: Fort Worth Weekly (TX)
Copyright: 2003 New Times, Inc.
Author: Jeff Prince
Referenced: Reefer Sadness
Bookmark: (George McMahon)


Two Local Authors Converge on One Book That Makes the Case for Medical

A Zen Approach to Fighting the Good Fight: 'Prescription Pot' Lands A

Prescription Pot: A Leading Advocate's Heroic Battle to Legalize Medical

By Christopher Largen and George McMahon, New Horizon Press, 224 pp,

For a guy who smokes 10 joints a day, George McMahon is surprisingly
lucid, energetic, and productive. Hell, he's even written a book,
something I've tried to do for years without success -- and I only
smoke nine joints a day. Plus, I don't have an incurable disease,
unless you count terminal laziness.

McMahon, a crusty coot with a leathery face, oozes sincerity about his
favorite cause, legalizing medical marijuana. He is one of seven
people in the country who can legally smoke marijuana, and he has
experienced the marijuana debate from the inside out and the topside
down. Since 1990, the government-funded Compassionate Investigational
New Drug Program has supplied him with 300 pre-rolled marijuana
cigarettes a month. To keep you math-deficient folks from passing a
brain stone, this means he has inhaled more than 43,000 joints since
1990. I spent an entire day with McMahon last November in East Texas
and found him to be engaging and well spoken, if a bit scattered in
his thoughts. Our meeting led to a Fort Worth Weekly cover story
("Reefer Sadness," Dec. 12, 2002).

Despite his impressive ability to hold an interesting conversation
while smoking marijuana all day, he didn't strike me as somebody who
could organize his thoughts enough to write a book. At the time our
cover story appeared, he had been collaborating for more than a year
with an unpublished writer named Christopher Largen, who has Fort
Worth roots but was living in a small and sparsely decorated Dallas
apartment, trying to contour McMahon's thoughts into a readable story,
scraping by on little money, and relying on a bust of Elvis Presley as
a muse. Largen is a tall guy in his mid-30s, laid back, with sleepy
eyes, a shock of black curly hair, and an endearing habit of ending
e-mails with the phrase, "Your Iconoclast, Christopher." Those
attributes, while charming, didn't create an air of confidence or

So it was a pleasant surprise to receive in the mail several months later
an advance copy of Prescription Pot: A Leading Advocate's Heroic Battle to
Legalize Medical Marijuana, one of the most interesting non-fiction books
I've read in a while. Both men are gentle souls, and their Zen view of the
world colors almost every page. Largen supplied enthusiasm tempered by an
understated writing style, wisely avoiding the shrill tone employed by many
activist authors. Combined with McMahon's passionate views, that relaxed
style does a better job than preachiness would, to present their case
convincingly. Readers are more likely to be angered by the hypocrisy of
U.S. policy simply because no one in the book is telling them to get angry.

Anyone upset by the corruption and evil (not a word to be used
lightly) found in Washington D.C. will appreciate this book and the
courage it took to tackle the subject. The story features medical
marijuana smokers, nurses, physicians, activists, and a few
politicians who risk careers and reputations to buck a government that
is using Gestapo-like tactics in its quest to stamp out a natural
plant that was used as a medicine for thousands of years before being
outlawed in the 1930s for reasons that had more to do with economics
than with protecting the populace. Many people in this book are
philosophical soldiers, as brave as the heroic men and women currently
serving in the Middle East.

The U.S. government has been growing marijuana since 1976 and giving
it to a handful of medical patients, while at the same time arresting
thousands upon thousands of citizens for smoking pot. The government
claims marijuana lacks medicinal powers yet doesn't study the patients
it supplies with marijuana, who say pot is their most effective
medicine at battling the effects of many illnesses. Medical
researchers have found that marijuana can reduce nausea, pain, and
muscle spasms; slow the advance of glaucoma; and treat symptoms
related to cancer, AIDS, and multiple sclerosis.

The federal war on marijuana is so unbending that presidents, drug
czars, and federal agents for years have denied sick people a cheap,
effective, and relatively safe medicine -- but a medicine that grows
naturally and can't be patented, thus cutting into the profits of
pharmaceutical companies, lobbyists, and politicians. Two-thirds of
the U.S. population has tried pot, and eight of 10 of those surveyed
have said they believe sick people should have access, yet the
government continues to classify marijuana as a dangerous drug with no
medicinal applications -- on the same level as heroin and crack cocaine.

McMahon and Largen make a convincing case that this approach is
nonsensical. Largen's introduction alone makes for fascinating
reading, but the real accomplishment is in how he helped McMahon tell
this maddening, complicated tale in such a simple, loving, and
forthright manner. Along the way, they meet people who help or hurt
them, and sometimes it's surprising to see those who come across as
empathetic and gallant, including police officers and people such as
Edwin Meese III (former attorney general under Ronald Reagan) and
former U.S. Sen. Phil Gramm of Texas.

The book follows McMahon through his early life, traumatized by a rare
and horrifically painful disease called nail patella syndrome and
years of bad reactions to prescribed drugs, his discovery of
marijuana's medicinal superiority over pharmaceuticals in fighting the
disease, his quest to gain legal access to pot, and his willingness to
bring trouble on himself while fighting for the rights of other sick
patients. This inspiring and important tale challenges the
government's stance as McMahon tries to understand a country where
"drug lords, pharmaceutical executives, and government officials get
rich, while suffering patients trying to get relief go to jail and
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