Pubdate: Wed, 27 Oct 2010
Source: Volante, The (U of SD, Edu SD)
Copyright: 2010 The Volante
Pubdate: 27 Oct 2010
Author: Thomas Emanuel


As I write this, I am listening to Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the
Moon" - namely the song "Time." This is no coincidence. I figured if
I'm going to write about pot, I should put myself in the proper frame
of mind. Word choice is important here: "frame," not "state." I am
not, in fact, high right now.

Now that we have established that, South Dakota voters should vote yes
on Measure 13 to legalize medicinal marijuana.

Marijuana has been found to be an effective remedy for a number of
medical conditions. It can be used as a painkiller, a relaxant and an
appetite stimulant in conjunction with everything from Alzheimer's
disease to breast cancer.

Doctors' objections to medical cannabis have been directed, not at the
drug itself, but at the method of consumption. They point out smoking
pot - smoking anything - is still harmful, and other, less
carcinogenic remedies are preferable.

They are absolutely right, of course. However, one can use marijuana
without smoking it. For instance, patients could use a vaporizer.
Vaporizers heat the THC in marijuana until it becomes a gas and then
cools it to temperatures suitable for inhalation, allowing a patient
to receive the high without the carcinogens.

Some will argue allowing patients to use cannabis will make them
addicted. Sure, you can become addicted to marijuana. You can become
addicted to alcohol, too. Many people are, in fact. Yet it is
completely legal to get a drink after a long day at work. Why should
it be illegal to get high after a long day of battling chronic pain?
The key is moderation, not teetotalism. Either we go should go back to
Prohibition - a terrible, terrible idea - or legalize both, for
consistency's sake.

That leaves the tried-and-true "gateway drug" argument. My high school
English teacher taught me about that one. She called it the "slippery
slope" fallacy and told us to avoid it in our writing, because it was
bad logic.

Quite apart from evidence, I have very personal reasons for supporting
the decriminalization of medicinal marijuana. When I was three years
old, my father had to be treated for scarlet fever. The doctors
accidentally used a contaminated blood sample for one of his
transfusions, and he contracted hepatitis C. Starting when I was 14,
he had to undergo intensive chemotherapy in order to keep a doctor's
mistake from killing him. So as an adolescent, I got to watch my
father suffer through the three worst years of his life, hoping the
drugs would destroy disease faster than they destroyed him.

Now, at 60, my father is doing much better. It was hard, though, to
watch him in that kind of pain on a prolonged, day-to-day basis.

Although it did not occur to me at the time, medicinal marijuana would
probably have made my dad's life easier. He never used it, of course.
Had he done so, he would have risked up to a $1,000 fine or a year in
jail. Furthermore, he would have been branded with a criminal record
that would have endangered his job with the federal government and,
thus, threatened the welfare of his children.

This insane policy goes back to the Depression. During the 1930s, some
people were afraid that "the blacks" and "the Mexicans" were using
"reefer" to ensnare America's youth and turn them into indolent
hooligans. According to a 1930's newspaper, "Marihuana (sic)
influences Negroes to look at white people in the eye, step on white
men's shadows and look at a white woman twice." This is preposterous,
of course, but it caught the imagination of a latently racist American
public, leading them to ban cannabis.

Now, people like my father have been denied the opportunity to
alleviate their suffering, all because some Depression-era legislators
were scared of black people. The only crime I see here is that current
cannabis laws are allowed to continue. South Dakota should vote yes on
Measure 13 Nov. 2 as the first step toward ending an obsolete and
counterproductive drug policy.  
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MAP posted-by: Jo-D