Pubdate: Sat, 12 Apr 2014
Source: Times Herald, The (Norristown, PA)
Page: A4
Copyright: 2014 The Times Herald
Author: Dana Milbank


WASHINGTON - Legal marijuana is spreading like a weed across the land
but it has yet to take root in the place where people might benefit
most from inhaling: the U.S. Capitol.

The Maryland General Assembly finished work Monday on a marijuana
decriminalization bill, joining two dozen other states and the
District in some form of legalization. Colorado and Washington allow
recreational pot, while most others have legalized only medical
marijuana, but the combined campaign has redefined the meaning of a
grass-roots movement.

Still, federal law hasn't budged, and a bill sponsored by Rep. Earl
Blumenauer, D-Ore., that would recognize the medical value of
marijuana has languished for a year; it has only 23 co-sponsors and no
chance of passing. On Monday, when members of the pro-legalization
Americans for Safe Access held their annual "lobby day" on Capitol
Hill, not a single member of Congress granted them a personal audience.

Of course, the cannabis corps wasn't agitated about that. It isn't
agitated about much of anything. This might have something to do with
the fact that many of its members use marijuana.

The lobby day briefing, scheduled for 11 a.m., was pushed back to
noon, at which point the host asked for a further five-minute delay.
There were no complaints, perhaps because munchies had been provided -
potato chips and sandwiches, as well as Coca-Cola - and the crinkling
of wrappers and crunching of chips could be heard throughout the
event. If the pot proponents were any more laid back, they would have
been horizontal.

In this sense, our perpetually warring lawmakers would have benefited
from meeting with the legalization crowd, and perhaps trying some free
samples. Our ever-indignant representatives need urgently to chill out
and free their minds. If the benefits the medical marijuana advocates
touted on Monday are real, Congress should immediately "reefer" the
matter to committee to draft a "joint" resolution: Everybody must get

Jahan Marcu, a Ph.D. who gave the pharmacological portion of Monday's
briefing, explained to me the mechanism by which medical marijuana, if
consumed by a sufficient number of lawmakers, could cure our political
ills. "Cannabis acts upon a system in

COMMENTARY our body, and that system - the endocannabinoid system -
regulates five things," said Marcu, who has long sideburns and wore an
open-collar purple shirt. "It helps us to eat, sleep, relax, forget
and protect."

Our leaders don't have much trouble eating, and whether they sleep
well and are protected from cancer and other illnesses is not our
concern. But getting them to relax and to forget? This could be most

Marcu said new research indicates that people who use marijuana
perform better intellectually than those who drink alcohol or smoke
tobacco. This suggests that if House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio,
were to switch vices from cigarettes and wine to pot, the body politic
might be healthier.

Tests show that marijuana makes animals less sensitive to provocations
such as a bell ringing. "If you ring it, they get freaked out," Marcu
said. "If you give them a cannabinoid, they tend not to get freaked

In addition, cannabis might help lawmakers rise above the cycle of
constant combat and revenge - much the way it helps soldiers overcome
posttraumatic stress disorder. "That's one great thing about the
endocannabinoid system," he said. "It's there to help you forget
useless information or information that's harmful." Far out. At the
briefing, the advocates took pains to demonstrate their
professionalism. Most wore business attire (although one man sported a
black cap, sunglasses and a large flower in his lapel) and they spoke
about manufacturing processes and growing standards.

"This is an industry that's in the maturation state," said Tim Smale,
who runs a marijuana dispensary in Maine. "No longer do you see the
hippies and the tie-dyes necessarily speaking." Still, a moment later
he got on his knees and asked congressional staffers to help the
cause. "I'm not opposed to begging," he said.

Smale, who uses cannabis for his migraines, wants his product to be
treated as any other "medicinal herb."

Mike Liszewski, Americans for Safe Access' policy director, described
the increasing array of marijuana tinctures and lotions. "There are
all kinds of ways to consume medical cannabis without smoking," he
said, "although smoking actually does remain a very effective delivery
system for many patients."

And so it could be for chronically dyspeptic lawmakers. Smoking dope
won't necessarily stop them from making a hash of things. But it could
hardly make things worse.
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MAP posted-by: Jo-D