I just talked to a friend I hadn't heard from in a while. He sounded chipper as usual, even when he almost casually mentioned that the cancer he’d fought off with surgery and chemo more than a year ago was back. He’s undergoing radiation treatment this time.
He mentioned that he was trying to find some way to deal with the pain and discomfort. “I need help medi-cann-ly,” he said. He was looking for someone who could get him some pot.
Two weeks ago another guy I know was on his way out of town to visit a family friend dying of cancer when the meeting he’d arranged to pick up some marijuana for her fell through. As he described it to me, he had to scramble to make other arrangements “to get something to help an old lady who needs it.”
Thirteen states have passed laws allowing some use of marijuana for medical purposes, and others are considering them—an Iowa state board held a hearing earlier this week to consider the issue , and an aggressive campaign to put the issue on next year’s ballot is under way in Florida.
The subject is picking up steam in Illinois as well. A bill passed earlier this year by a 30-28-1 vote in the Illinois Senate would create a pilot program allowing marijuana possession for people with a “debilitating medical condition.” It's now awaiting a hearing in the state house.
Thousands of people suffering from chronic pain and discomfort have found that marijuana helps and would like to have the choice, to use a favored word in the health care debate, to acquire it without sneaking around. And clearly the taxes generated by medical programs could help pay for vital government services, including our declining public health networks. Yet opponents of these laws generally say they just end up decriminalizing or legalizing recreational pot use.
In some places that’s turned out to be true. Which just raises the bigger question: so what?
For years the political mainstream has refused to even discuss the issue (let alone the many, many other problematic issues created by the broader war on drugs) even though much of the country doesn't respect or heed the ban on marijuana. These policies have done nothing to lessen the underground market for pot, but they have resulted in higher law enforcement expenses, more "sophisticated" drug gangs, lost tax revenue—and unnecessary human misery.
Surely no one can disagree time that it's time to start talking about it. All of it.