Pubdate: Tue, 28 Apr 2009
Source: Chicago Sun-Times (IL)
Copyright: 2009 The Sun-Times Co.
Bookmark: (Marijuana - Medicinal)


In Illinois, people who suffer from cancer and smoke marijuana to 
stem their nausea, reduce their pain or improve their appetite -- 
well, those folks are criminals.

This must end, and fortunately a proposal before state lawmakers 
would bring much-needed common sense to the medical use of marijuana 
by legalizing it.

People ravaged with cancer or AIDS or other horrible illnesses don't 
smoke marijuana to get high.

They smoke pot to reduce the bone-shaking pain and the constant urge to vomit.

For them, marijuana is medicine.

This measure is not about whether lawmakers are sufficiently tough on 
crime. It's about whether we as a society are caring enough to extend 
compassion to people who are suffering.

Nor is this an extremist move. Thirteen other states already have 
legalized the medical use of marijuana.

It makes little sense that patients in severe pain are denied access 
to marijuana when they can obtain prescription drugs that can be much 
more harmful when abused, such as OxyContin.

Nationally, polls show that roughly 80 percent of Americans support 
legalizing the medical use of marijuana.

In Illinois, a key supporter of the measure is state Sen. William R. 
Haine, who for 14 years was the state's attorney in Downstate Madison County.

Hardly a radical.

Also among the bill's supporters are dozens of clergy throughout the state.

Earlier this year, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the 
Drug Enforcement Administration would stop raiding marijuana 
dispensaries in states where they are legal, fulfilling a campaign 
promise by President Obama.

Critics of the proposal fear that Illinois could become another 
California, where the voters legalized the medical use of marijuana 
in 1996 and have since had to deal with some unintended consequences. 
California, in fact, has provided a number of horror stories that 
critics of medicinal marijuana love to cite.

There are the large-scale illegal pot dealers hiding behind the 
medical marijuana law as a legal defense.

There are the people with negligible aches and pains shopping around 
for compliant doctors to get quickee prescriptions for pot.

There are pot vending machines -- marijuana at the push of a button.

While there are kernels of truth to such cautionary tales, they tend 
to be exaggerated and sensationalized and should not be allowed to 
derail the bill in Illinois.

The proposal in Illinois is much more narrowly drafted than the 
general measure in California, precisely to safeguard against the 
abuses seen in California.

Patients in Illinois would have to have relationships with their 
doctors before getting their OK for medical marijuana, and that 
prescription would have to be approved by the state.

If a patient abused their new right, it could be taken away.

State Sen. Haine has suggested that a commission be created to 
monitor the impact of the law; if the commission detected serious 
abuses of medicinal marijuana, the law could be fine tuned.

An additional safeguard is built into the proposal itself -- the law 
would expire in three years. In the highly unlikely event that reefer 
madness had descended upon the state, state lawmakers could then 
refuse to extend the law.

We suspect many state lawmakers would like to vote for this measure 
but fear the political backlash, though the vast majority of them 
come from safe districts.

We suggest they consider a few facts.

By and large, voters are not stupid.

By and large, they understand the difference between legalizing 
marijuana for severely sick people under tight controls and passing 
out joints on playgrounds.

The vast majority of voters have a relative or friend who has 
suffered greatly from cancer, AIDS or another brutal illness.

Are we a compassionate society?

If so, we will pass this bill. 
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake