Several years ago Tony May and I wrote a side-by-side column in support of medical marijuana.
At the time I mused that agreeing with Daylin Leach, one of the most liberal legislators, should cause me to re-think my position.
That was before state Sen. Mike Folmer, one of the legislature’s most conservative members, added his strong support to Leach’s proposals.
A lot has happened since then. Support for the legalization has grown across the commonwealth and within the General Assembly.
A recent Quinnipiac University poll says that 88 percent of Pennsylvanians support the legalization of marijuana for medical use. Eighty-eight percent! You’d have a hard time getting 88 percent support for motherhood or apple pie.
Yet marijuana remains illegal in Pennsylvania, even for medical purposes. With the support that exists everywhere you have to wonder what the roadblock is.
I suffer with glaucoma. I’ve already lost a frightening percentage of my eyesight. My condition is currently controlled with daily dosages of eye drops. If that should fail, I sure as heck would want every therapy available to me, including marijuana.
Of course there are many illnesses much more debilitating than glaucoma that can be treated with marijuana, from Alzheimer’s to fibromyalgia to HIV/AIDS to cancer. Many people with conditions far worse than mine are asking for the right to use marijuana legally.
Listening to the parents of kids with cancer and other horrible diseases pleading for the right to use medical marijuana to ease their children’s suffering is heartbreaking.
You have to ask, “Why are they not allowed to try something that could ease their burden even a little bit?”
Many in the medical community are also asking for legalization of marijuana for medical use.
Years ago, a National Institutes of Health panel concluded that smoking marijuana could help treat a number of chronic conditions including pain and nausea. It could also help people who failed to respond to other remedies the study said.
In one older survey, more than 70 percent of U.S. cancer specialists said they would prescribe marijuana if it were legal.
Nearly half of those interviewed said they had already recommended that their patients break the law to use marijuana.
Sanjay Gupta, CNN’s medical guru and a well-renowned neurosurgeon, once spoke out against legalization of marijuana for medical purposes.
But two years ago he wrote a piece entitled, “Why I changed my mind on weed,” in which he apologized for his earlier stand.
His further research, he said, had convinced him that he was simply wrong. He discussed the anti-cancer effects of marijuana and cited another study in which 76 percent of the physicians surveyed said they would approve the use of marijuana to help ease the pain of a woman suffering from breast cancer.
Medical marijuana is legal in about half the states. The largest state in the union, California, made it legal by popular vote nearly two decades ago.
In the intervening years none of the “scare” issues raised during the referendum has manifest themselves.
As the New York Times reported, “Warnings against partial legalization — of civil disorder, increased lawlessness and a drastic rise in other use — have proved unfounded.”
Support for legalization now runs exceptionally high (no pun intended) across every demographic. Although some once called it a “liberal” position, that characterization isn’t altogether historically accurate.
William F. Buckley, the godfather of modern conservatism and the founder of National Review, argued for the legalization of medical marijuana (and marijuana in general for that matter). Another National Review icon, Richard Brookhiser, used marijuana (not legally at the time) when he battled cancer.
His testimony in favor of medical usage of marijuana before the House Judiciary Committee sums up my own thoughts: “My support for medical marijuana is not a contradiction of my principles, but an extension of them. I am for law and order. But crime has to be fought intelligently and the law disgraces itself when it harasses the sick.
“I am for traditional virtues, but carrying your beliefs to unjust ends is not moral, it is philistine.
Most importantly, I believe in getting government off people’s backs. We should include the backs of sick people trying to help themselves.”
With the support of so many, hopefully it’s only a matter of brief time before the General Assembly moves and the governor signs legislation to make medical marijuana legal.
Charlie Gerow is CEO of Quantum Communications, a Harrisburg-based public affairs firm.
Gerow, along with “Donkeys & Elephants” columnist Tony May and PennLive Opinion Editor John L. Micek, is a panelist on “Face the State,” a weekly public affairs show on WHP-TV in Harrisburg.
VIA Penn Live