|It’s time to stop all the fuss and just legalize it|
Readers of the Jan. 29 Sunday Olympian woke up to two front-page headlines, five full-color photos and 85 column inches about the legal woes of local medical cannabis providers. The story had all the makings of great political drama: ambiguous laws, ambivalent lawmakers, undercover cops, lawyers of all stripes.
And yet, I’m in the chorus of millions asking: What’s the fuss? Any other business accused of a code violation, whether undercooking food or selling alcohol to a minor, could expect a visit from a clipboard-wielding state worker. But change one detail and it’s armed federal agents, state troopers and the local narcotics task force at the door – usually not knocking politely.
As similar scenes unfold across the nation, more communities bear witness to the waste and dishonor of cannabis prohibition. Not only does it harm already ailing patients, it makes criminals out of people who choose a safer alternative to alcohol, the world’s most destructive drug.
In 2012, the federal government looks pretty lonely insisting cannabis has “no medical use.” Research scientists, the American Medical Association, traditional medicine practitioners and 81 percent of the American public acknowledge its therapeutic benefits.
For thousands of years, herbal cannabis has relieved pain and inflammation, prevented nausea, treated menstrual discomfort and improved sleep. Repeated studies show cannabis helps addiction recovery, epilepsy, PTSD and cancer.
The medical marijuana movement deserves credit for raising awareness about an herb that was legally sold in the United States until 1937. Still, the prescription model is overly restrictive. Imagine if you needed an established history of headaches in order to buy ibuprofen. Or if you needed a doctor’s note to get sleeping pills. Or if you had to join a co-op in order to access cough syrup for your kids.
All of these products, incidentally, result in fatal overdoses every year. (Herbal cannabis has never killed anyone because it has no lethal dose.) And yet we don’t think twice about seeing rows of meds in every grocery store and gas station. Let’s reserve prescriptions for truly dangerous drugs like Oxycontin and morphine, slap on a label stating cannabis “may cause drowsiness,” and stop spending tax dollars eradicating a natural remedy.
Again, in 2012, the question isn’t whether cannabis should be legal, but rather, why not? Herbal cannabis is safer than alcohol, healthier than fast food, and less addictive than your daily cup of coffee.
Next to America’s drug of choice, there’s no comparison: Alcohol poisons the liver. Cannabis is nontoxic. Alcohol damages the brain. Cannabis is neuroprotective. Alcohol increases violent behavior. Cannabis does the opposite. Alcohol makes dangerous drivers. Cannabis has less effect on driver safety than fatigue. (These studies are cited at www.saferchoice.org and www.norml.org.)
The propaganda campaign against cannabis has run its course, thanks to advocacy groups like NORML, and free information on the Internet. As of last fall, a record 50 percent of Americans favor legalization, up from just 12 percent in 1969. The game is up.
The T-shirt from The Healing Center co-op in Olympia reads: “If you don’t like medical marijuana, you won’t like the future.” Whether medical or otherwise, really, what’s so bad about that future? Less violence, less disease, you’ll have the choice to use a safer substance without fearing incarceration.
And hopefully, you can read about something more pressing in the paper.
Renata Rollins is a board member of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws of Washington NORML, can be reached at [email protected]