Legalization of Marijuana

Do you know anyone who uses pot?  Has been arrested for pot?  Tried it once?  Do you know anyone who suffers from depression, addiction, chronic pain, cancer or fibromyalgia?  Well, it looks like NY is going to join the pantheon of states to legalize medical marijuana.  Many of our politicians freely admit to once using the herb such as Obama and Clinton.   Recently Republican Assemblyman Steve Katz was arrested and charged with possession as he was commuting to Albany to vote on legislation.  It is not clear if he has ever been high while on the floor passing laws but it seems now that these laws are affecting our lawmakers and they’re going to do something about it.

I know what you’re thinking.  Marijuana is a drug.  It slows motor skills.  It causes cancer in the long term.  It kills brain cells.  Well, again, the operative word here is “medical” marijuana.

If you could improve the quality of life for someone who is either elderly or suffering from debilitating injuries or disease, would you or, would you rather they suffer?  We know the side effects of marijuana so let’s look at a few of the side effects from many common doctor prescribed medications:

Diarrhea, vomiting, suicide, death, nausea, amnesia, heart failure, stroke, water weight gain, muscle pain, blood clots, rash, dizziness, thinning bones, weakness, internal bleeding, dehydration, headaches, blurred vision, grogginess, difficulty breathing, no appetite, loss of balance, weight loss, weight gain, ringing in ears. 

Marijuana doesn’t do any of those.  If your 80 year old grandmother suffered from painful  and debilitating arthritis, would you rather she suffer any of those aforementioned medicated side effects and sleep away her day or sit around watching TV, being snack obsessed and laughing at the paint on the wall?  Would you be concerned about her pot habit becoming a gateway drug?

What are some of the conditions medical marijuana is known for amelioration?  Alzheimer’s, arthritis, glaucoma, ALS, MS, fibromyalgia, migraines, pain relief, cancer, HIV/AIDS, breast and brain cancer, addiction, opioid addiction, depression, chronic pain, nausea, no appetite, suicide.

When I was answering the suicide hotline, I had a caller who once had breast cancer a few years prior and she became addicted to pain killers.  She was taking eight pills a day despite being prescribed only four per day.  They have no effect on her anymore and the pain is unbearable to the point that she is suicidal. She admitted that she had smoked pot with her daughter and that pot was the only thing that took away the pain.  She was afraid of being arrested or getting her daughter arrested who was only trying to help her long suffering mother.  If this was your mother, which treatment would you prefer she imbibe in?  Endless and pointless suffering or giddy induced four hour lunches?

I have a friend in his forties who was a construction worker.  He fell from a roof and is now permanently disabled.  When he wakes up in the morning he is in excruciating pain.  He takes medication which then knocks him out for four more hours.  When he wakes in the afternoon, he forces himself to get up and take more medication which makes him nauseous, unable to eat and it still it doesn’t take away his pain.  He has absolutely no life with his current medical treatment.  Enter marijuana.  When he smokes pot, he is able to eat and function for the whole day and it helps him to sleep at night.  Last year we went to the state fair and he was able to walk the entire park with no complaint.  So he had two fried doughs, a turkey leg, a cotton candy, two Slurpees, a beer and then we went to lunch.  He was able to function and have a quality day.  Please note that I did not share in his treatment and waited outside his car while he took his morning dosage.

I’m not talking about making pot legal like alcohol is – which unlike pot, kills over 5,000 children each year in DWI accidents.  Make pot available to people who can’t find relief from modern medicine – or who do not wish to suffer the side effects of modern medicine – or who do not have insurance and can’t afford the cost of modern medicine – or who sacrifice their quality of life because of the side effects of modern medicine. 

We would like for our elderly (old tokes) and disabled loved ones to have a certain quality of life.  If youth is through, do you think they are worried about long term damage from consuming or smoking an herb?  Not if it allows them to enjoy the few years they have left. 

A relative of mine was dying from cancer and she was prescribed morphine.  She refused to take it because she wanted to be awake for every precious moment she had left in this world.  Marijuana gave her a few pain free final weeks with her children which she would not have had otherwise. 

A funny aside, I recently had lunch with one of my former youth choir members who is now in his twenties.  He told me that when he was eight, his neighbor friend found his mother’s stash of pot and they both snuck down into his basement to smoke it.  He said that it didn’t have any effect on them and they really didn’t remember much.  His friend emerged from the basement with shaved eyebrows and they plugged the toilet with something causing it to overflow and flood the basement. 

It seems when a senator’s son comes out of the closet, they change their view on gay rights and attendant laws.  When a senator gets arrested for possession, we change our marijuana laws.   Once we do change the law, what are we going to do about the thousands of people in jail or prison who were arrested for possession and are serving lengthy sentences?  What about the people with prior felony convictions who are unemployable?  Congress, please fix the problems you created.

We need to arrest more senators.

-Malcolm Kogut.

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