Marijuana should be legal for medical use

February 14, 2005

Coleen O\'Hanley (OpEd), The Patriot Ledger

I continually fail to understand why people who could benefit from the medical use of marijuana, as described in your Feb. 7 article, ‘‘Legal pot use in Mass. is not a dead issue,'' should be denied it.

Illegal use of drugs is a serious problem in this country and elsewhere. I would never trivialize it, but it seems shameful that people who could be helped by marijuana are denied it, apparently because of the specter of its illegal use. Although it would be ideal if the benefits of marijuana could be delivered in, for example, pill form (thereby preventing risks to the respiratory system from smoking), if smoking marijuana legitimately helps people with MS, or with cancer pain, or with any other such serious condition, why on earth should they be denied the opportunity of legally using it?

The parallel I would draw is this: It is illegal to possess or use narcotics without a prescription. That does not mean, however, that the medical community is reluctant to use these substances; rather, they constitute landmark discoveries in medicine.

Imagine having surgery and waking up to be told, ‘‘Sorry, we won't be sending you home with Percocet because too many people abuse it. You'll just have to endure the pain.'' Most of us would consider that barbaric. It is equally barbaric to criminalize people who are seeking to alleviate chronic pain or symptoms with a method that has been proven successful.

If medical marijuana is made available through the proper channels, it should be monitored, tightly controlled and thoroughly tested for possible undesirable effects. It should not simply be outlawed because of preconceived notions about its recreational use.

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