Pubdate: Tues 2 Feb 1999
Source: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (AR)
Copyright: 1999, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Inc.
Author: John R. Starr, former managing editor of the Democrat-Gazette.


I sat down at my writing machine Monday with the worst case of
writer's block I've had since I got into the newspaper business.

Writer's block is the expression for a writer's inability to put
anything on paper (or, in this case, into the computer's memory).

The last time I suffered from writer's block this bad, I was 20 years
old and trying to write fiction at Norma's parents' home in Pine
Bluff. At that time, writer's block wasn't as dangerous. There was no
deadline for the material I was producing. Nobody except me would care
if I didn't write another short story.

The argument could be made that nobody cares if I never write another
column, but I'm not going to get into that.

In the 20 years I have been writing a column for the Arkansas Democrat
and the Democrat-Gazette, I remember having writer's block only two or
three times, and each time I panicked. Each time, something happened
before the absolute deadline for the column that I wanted to write

One reason I am so seldom bereft of ideas is that I maintain a file
called "Column notes" that contains clippings, letters and other
material on subjects that I plan to write about someday. Alas, that
file is in Arkansas, and I am in Florida.

Maybe this is the day I should endorse use of marijuana for medical
purposes. The scientists say marijuana helps terminally ill patients
withstand pain.

Half a dozen states have legalized use of marijuana for medical
purposes, but the federal government is fighting in court to keep the
states from implementing the laws.

Bill Clinton, the man who once said, "I feel your pain," is leading
the fight against relief for thousands of dying patients. The next
time he talks about feeling others' pain, someone should shout at
him, "Yeah, but you're not going to do anything about it, you hypocrite."

Is he afraid that terminally ill patients will become

There is pretty firm evidence that marijuana reduces pain from some
affliction that is not terminal. I'd approve medical marijuana for
anybody afflicted with constant pain, including people suffering with
AIDS. If I were pushed, I'm not too sure that I wouldn't be for
legalizing marijuana on the streets. The word is that anyone who wants
it and can pay the drug dealer's inflated price can get marijuana on
almost any street corner. In other words, people willing to risk
becoming criminals can get marijuana. People with the pain of terminal
illness can't.

Using marijuana is a victimless crime. No one is harmed except the
user. Yes, it is a drug, but so are cigarettes and alcohol, and both
are legal. Both are more deadly than marijuana.

We have too many victimless crimes in this country. Most of them are
based on a puritan ethic that no longer guides the country. We spend
several billion dollars housing people convicted of victimless crimes.
It doesn't make sense.

I take drugs for pain prescribed by my doctor. It is illegal to
possess these drugs without a prescription. It is also unlawful to
trade them on the street. Why should marijuana be treated

Unlike our president, I have never experimented with drugs, mostly
because they were illegal and I held positions that were not
compatible with breaking the law. I've said I'll try it if I ever get
to a country where it is legal, and I will.

If it reduces my pain, I'm going to come back and do what I can to

help those groups that are trying to legalize it.

I'm sure that the millions suffering from chronic pain are going to
like this idea. Millions who, like Clinton, speak of compassion but
have none in their hearts will oppose it.

But using marijuana for medical purposes is an idea whose time has
come. The puritans may fight long and hard, just as they did against
pornography in the movies and on television, but eventually they will
lose. A nation that gives 67 percent support to a president who lies
just because the economy is good is already morally bankrupt.

If marijuana were legalized, the government could control it better.
It could also tax the product. I'd suggest a heavy tax, one that would
make marijuana almost as expensive as it is on the black market, with
all proceeds dedicated to paying down the national debt.

Something as radical as this is the only way we'll ever pay down the
debt. You have noticed, haven't you, that Democrats want to spend all
the surplus? Republicans want to spend most of it with a pittance set
aside for a tax cut. Neither side is proposing that we start paying
off the national debt. It's time somebody did.

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MAP posted-by: Rich O'Grady