Show compassion for the sufferers

November 28, 2005

EDITORIAL, Beloit Daily News (WI)

IS THERE A certain amount of hypocrisy in believing the government should be aggressive in cracking down on illegal drugs, while allowing some chronically sick people to smoke pot to relieve their symptoms? Probably.

So what.

Only those who have never been desperately ill - or watched a loved one struggle with pain or nausea - could be so sure it's wrong to provide the option in certain extreme cases. For opponents, it's a principle. For the sick, it's a temporary escape from their world of pain.

A PROPOSAL IN the Wisconsin Assembly - AB 740 - would allow law enforcement to look the other way when marijuana is being used as a “medical necessity.” It would create a loophole in the state's criminal law which could permit patients and their caregivers to administer pot for relief of symptoms.

The kicker, of course, is in determining just what is a “medical necessity.” Some potheads undoubtedly would try to slip in under the radar, and use the law as an excuse for indulging their bad habit. In such instances, authorities should make examples of those who would abuse a privilege intended for sick people.

Likewise, there is debate within the medical community about the efficacy of medical marijuana. Many doctors are highly skeptical.

But anecdotal evidence from patients with cancer and other serious chronic conditions suggests many people obtain relief by smoking pot. Maybe it's because of the drug, maybe it's all in their heads. Either way, if it eases their suffering, who cares?

WE SIMPLY CANNOT understand why government should make criminals out of sick people just trying to make themselves feel better. Yet even in states which have relaxed laws on medicinal marijuana, the federal government has worked to criminalize the practice anyway. There's little reason to believe Wisconsin would avoid a showdown with the feds.

Still, common sense should rule. Medical marijuana should be restricted to only the most serious situations, where nothing else has worked and the patient is enduring extreme suffering. We can see no harm in allowing patients in such dire straits the opportunity to try something else.

This isn't about legalizing pot. Drug abuse is a crime.

It is about showing compassion for suffering human beings. What's wrong with that?

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