The Scoop

Pot Shots

By Bob Harris

LAST NOVEMBER, voters in California and Arizona approved the use of marijuana for medical reasons. Because it reduces intraocular pressure, marijuana wails on glaucoma, and since it creates major munchies (hmm, Clinton jogs every day and still never loses weight), it’s also useful in treating life-threatening anorexia, chemotherapy-induced nausea, and the wasting syndrome of many AIDS patients.

Last week, Attorney General Janet Reno–who permanently wears Mr. Yuk Face–flouted democracy, announcing that doctors who prescribe marijuana will still face federal prosecution. Even though truly dangerous crap like cocaine, morphine, and Percodan is perfectly legal to prescribe, Janet Reno says medical marijuana sends the wrong message about drugs.

Messages? Hello?!?! Joe Camel is the best known cartoon in America, and–watch carefully–a single pro football game on TV contains nearly 100 beer ads. You want to save kids from drugs? Publicly denounce Jesse Helms and Dick Gephardt as front men for Philip Morris and Anheuser Busch.

Janet Reno should grill noted stoners Bill Clinton, Newt Gingrich, Al Gore, and Rush Limbaugh before screwing with the 60 million other Americans who have tried pot–or the doctors who want to use it to save dying people. Banning medical marijuana doesn’t send a message to children; it just sends compassionate doctors to prison.

Can marijuana really be a medicine? Yup. It was first used as a pain reliever in China over 5,000 years ago, and herbalists in India have prescribed it for headaches, insomnia, and nausea for at least 3,000 years. Its use in Europe extends all the way back to Galen and the ancient Greeks. Between 1839 and 1940, cannabis was one of the most common pain relievers in America. Over 100 medical journal articles recommended cannabis for various conditions, and the drug was sold over-the-counter by Parke-Davis, Eli Lilly, and Squibb. Only laws subsequent to the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937, which had less to do with public health than with protecting the paper and synthetic textile markets from hemp production, curtailed marijuana’s legal medical use in the United States.

However, continuing clinical studies reported that marijuana can even be used as a powerful antidepressant, anticonvulsive, and antibiotic. Illicit medical use remained widespread.

Still, from 1976 to 1990, the U.S. government supplied over 160,000 marijuana cigarettes to about 50 glaucoma and cancer patients under the Compassionate Investigative New Drug Program. The results were encouraging, and in 1988, even the DEA’s own administrative law judge wrote that “marijuana, in its natural form, is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known.” So there you are. The program was killed because, to be blunt, George Bush is evil.

In marijuana’s place, the government approved Marinol–tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), marijuana’s go juice, in pure form–from which the drug industry (in which Bush was personally invested) can make a jillion dollars. Trouble is, Marinol is often useless: patients who need THC precisely to fight severe nausea tend to vomit the capsule.

Marinol also has scary physical and psychoactive side effects, and an overdose can kill. Window-box pot is cheap, euphoric, and impossible to overdose on.

So is medical marijuana just a Trojan horse to legalize pot for recreational use? No. It’s about saving lives.

Look, I smoked enough hemp in college to rig the U.S.S. Constitution, but I stopped 10 years ago. The cancer risk bugged me, I write better straight, and it’s nice to actually remember the lyrics to my favorite reggae songs. However, before my own father died of chemotherapy last year, my family watched him slowly wither as a result of severe nausea. If Dad had wanted to light a joint so he could ease his pain and swallow a solid meal, I would have gladly gotten him one. So would you.

That’s all this is about. How many cancer specialists consider marijuana a useful medicine? Forty-four percent of oncologists recently surveyed admitted to illegally recommending marijuana at least once. Your government considers these doctors criminals. I’m surprised Janet Reno hasn’t called out the BATF, sprayed flammable CS gas into Mt. Sinai, and incinerated the cancer ward–all in the name of saving the patients.

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From the January 9-15, 1997 issue of the Sonoma County Independent

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