Legal Pot Use in Mass. is Not a Dead Issue

Legal Pot Use in Mass. is Not a Dead Issue
Posted by CN Staff on February 08, 2005 at 07:40:08 PT
By Don Conkey, The Patriot Ledger
Source: Patriot Ledger
Marijuana or another night without sleep? Alan faces that question every night, and every night he chooses marijuana. The Kingston resident, who asked that his real name not be used, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis about 20 years ago and is confined to a wheelchair.The degenerative nerve disease largely destroyed his peripheral vision. His legs jerk involuntarily, and the shaking is violent enough to wake him at night. ‘‘If I sit and smoke a joint, the tremors stop,'' he said. ‘‘Then I can sleep.''
Alan would like to see medical use of marijuana allowed.Despite strong support from voters in the last two state elections, the Legislature is unlikely to approve personal or medical use of marijuana this year.In November, people in 12 legislative districts, including three on the South Shore, voted on nonbinding marijuana questions.Medical use of the drug received 70 percent support and legalization received 64 percent.In 2002, marijuana questions were considered in 21 of the 200 districts, with 62 percent supporting medical use and 60 percent supporting legalization.Communities where voters have backed marijuana questions include Abington, Whitman, Canton, Cohasset, Hingham, Hull, Rockland, Hanover, Scituate, Randolph, Stoughton and Quincy.Alan, who is in his 50s, estimates that he uses about a quarter ounce of marijuana a week, enough for about 12 to 15 marijuana cigarettes. A week's supply costs him about $60, he said.Alan said legalizing the medical use of marijuana also would ease his anxiety about getting caught smoking it.‘‘Being able to buy marijuana legally would make my life a lot better,'' he said.The Legislature approved a research program in 1991 that would have allowed patients to use marijuana to alleviate pain from certain illnesses, such as glaucoma, asthma or nausea from chemotherapy.The state Department of Public Health, however, never established the program, citing a federal ban on marijuana that some states have challenged and which will soon be before the U.S. Supreme Court.Proposed Legislation Would Legalize UseRep. Frank Smizik, D-Brookline, has filed legislation that would decriminalize medicinal marijuana and would allow the program to be established without federal approval.‘‘We're talking about very small amounts, grown under auspices of the Department of Health and prescribed by a doctor,'' Smizik said. ‘‘We are dealing with people who are usually in the later stages of their life. So why can't we get them some help, if it works?''Smizik acknowledged that it could take years for his bill to become law.Sen. Robert Hedlund, R-Weymouth, is co-sponsoring a different medical marijuana bill this year.‘‘My support derives from the recognition of the benefit for people, medically,'' he said.‘‘Am I ready to make the leap to general decriminalization? No, but I am in favor of the federal government not burying its head in the sand on this issue because of political correctness,'' Hedlund said.Whitney Taylor, executive director of the Drug Policy Forum of Massachusetts - an advocacy group that sponsored the marijuana-related ballot questions - believes that change in the law is inevitable.‘‘I am very encouraged that there seems to be new legislative interest, people introducing bills that could someday become passed,'' she said.Advocates Must First Convince ProsecutorsFirst, Taylor and others pushing for more lenient marijuana laws have to convince their longtime opponents: prosecutors.‘‘The district attorneys recognize that it is a well-intentioned but misguided effort to legalize a harmful drug,'' said Geline Williams, a former Plymouth County prosecutor who now runs the Massachusetts District Attorneys Association.‘‘It has been proven over and over in research that drug abuse is behind a huge percentage of crime, and that includes marijuana,'' she said.Susie Dugan, spokeswoman for Drug Watch International, agreed.She said the problem is smoking marijuana, not using derivatives of the plant in medical treatment.‘‘Crude marijuana is so unstable, so unpredictable,'' she said from the organization's offices in Omaha, Neb. ‘‘It is a dangerous drug that affects the immune system.''The organization believes that smoking marijuana is a gateway to the use of harder drugs.Eleven states have passed medical marijuana laws since 1996: California, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont and Washington.In all of those states, it is currently legal to obtain marijuana with a doctor's permission.Oregon Has 10,000 Licensed Pot GrowersIn Oregon, nearly 10,000 people have been issued cards allowing them to grow small amounts of marijuana for treatment of chronic pain, nausea and other conditions.In November, the Supreme Court heard arguments in a California case that could determine whether the federal government has the right to prosecute marijuana possession in states that allow therapeutic use of the drug.Legislation has been introduced in Congress to allow the use of marijuana for medical reasons, but it has been stalled for several years.John Leonard, 47, of Hingham, is among those who want Massachusetts to join the states that have passed medical marijuana laws.‘‘My father was killed by a drunken driver in 1994,'' said Leonard, a former director of the Massachusetts Cannabis Reform Coalition.‘‘He was a pedestrian, was thrown 25 feet, and died of complications a few months later.‘‘The guy who hit him lost his license for two months. If you are caught using marijuana in your home, you can be punished far worse than that,'' Leonard said.Source: Patriot Ledger, The (MA)Author: Don Conkey, The Patriot LedgerPublished: Monday, February 07, 2005Copyright: 2005 The Patriot LedgerContact: editpage ledger.comWebsite: Medical Marijuana Archives
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Comment #1 posted by Universer on February 08, 2005 at 18:02:51 PT
"Am I ready to make the leap to general decriminalization? No, but I am in favor of the federal government not burying its head in the sand on this issue because of political correctness," said Sen. Robert Hedlund, R-Weymouth.Wow. Can we get confirmation that these are indeed the words of a Republican?Heretic!Ah, but the fairness and balance of the article is proven by the compulsory Statement Of Ignorance. "It is a dangerous drug that affects the immune system."You mean alcohol, right, Susie? So your organization is dedicated to the prohibition of alcohol, right?Ugh.
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