The Politics Of Pot

October 06, 2006

Mike Peters, Columnist, Greeley Tribune

Bill Smits, 22, of Greeley stands next to his truck that has a sign in the back of his window with a saying that saved his life.  When Smits was a teen, he had constant chemotherapy, which made him vomit everything he ate.  He lost 84 pounds in a month.  Medical marijuana was the only thing in the beginning that helped him keep food down. You would think, just by seeing his pickup truck, that Bill Smits would favor the ballot initiative in the upcoming election that would legalize marijuana possession in Colorado.

His pickup, which has the professionally-painted sign, "CANCER SUCKS marijuana saved my life!" in his back window, obviously draws attention as he drives around Greeley.  But Smits' sign isn't about legalization.  It's about medicinal marijuana.

As a teen, Smits had a cancerous tumor on his brain stem, and he had to undergo almost constant chemotherapy, drugs, radiation and surgeries.  Because of the chemo, he was nauseous most of the time.

"I lost 84 pounds in one month," says Smits, who is now 22 and cancer-free.  "Everything I ate, I threw up."

He tried Marinol, a drug that has some of the chemicals of marijuana, but it didn't work.  Then he got some marijuana from friends in Boulder and it stopped the nausea.  Smits was able to keep food down, and he began to get well.

If you ask him how he survived cancer, he'll give you a one-word answer: "Weed."

But because he still considers marijuana dangerous for some people, he is undecided on a ballot initiative that would make the weed legal in Colorado.

"I think it's important for some people -- those seriously ill -- to have marijuana if they need it.  But it shouldn't be abused, either," Smits said.

Smits said he no longer uses marijuana because he was afraid of becoming addicted.  He tapered off after the cancer was in remission.

"But I'm still not sure how I'll vote on the question," Smits said.

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