Vol. 10, No. 14

April 4 - 10, 2002

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Medical Marijuana: Delegates Act With Compassion

It’s heartening when leaders do the right thing — as the Maryland House of Delegates did by approving legislation that allows prescription use of marijuana for people battling cancer, AIDS and other ravaging diseases.

The values of our society have shifted in recent years to a more sympathetic understanding of suffering people and a more sympathetic acceptance of their wishes in preparing their departure from life.

Unfortunately, our policy toward medical marijuana remains bollixed up in slogans, politics and our massively expensive and ineffective “war on drugs.”

It’s ridiculous enough to siphon so many tax dollars and human resources in prosecuting hundreds of thousands of people annually for marijuana. It’s equally depressing to watch the courts chop away at civil liberties, as the Supreme Court may soon do if it requires urine tests for students as a condition of participating in after-school activities.

Let’s not compound our mistakes by denying some relief — and, perhaps, restored appetite — to people with pain both from diseases and debilitating treatments.

The bill in Annapolis is called the Darrell Putman Compassionate Use Act. It would make Maryland the ninth state to remove criminal penalties for seriously ill people who take pot for pain. It was named for Darrell Putman, a Howard County horse farmer and retired Army lieutenant colonel who died from cancer in 1999. Until a friend suggested marijuana, Putman had lost 40 pounds while undergoing chemotherapy in his final months.

The origin of the legislation puts to rest any suggestion that it is part of some liberal conspiracy. The sponsor is Del. Donald Murphy of Baltimore County, a self-described law-and-order Republican who saw the wisdom of medical marijuana while watching the suffering of Putman, his friend and a fellow Republican.

Murphy declared that House passage of the bill was a victory for cancer and AIDS patients “because it will keep them out of jail.”

Murphy and like-minded delegates should be praised for standing up to the demagoguery and misinformation that surfaces whenever the topic of marijuana rolls around. Del. Theodore Sophocleus, an Anne Arundel Democrat, demonstrated both when he argued that the bill would amount to “the camel’s nose under the tent” — meaning that it would lead to full-blown legalization.

Another camel analogy applies to Sophocleus and the other 55 delegates who voted against the bill: They look to us like camels who’ve buried their heads in the sand.

Copyright 2002
Bay Weekly