OUR VIEW: It’s time to pass medical marijuana

May 07, 2007

EDITORIAL, Winona Daily News (MN)

To hear some Republican legislators talk, Minnesota might as well start putting heroin in milk and open a methadone clinic on every street corner. A new law in the Legislature has created quite a little rhetoric by some politicians who worry that legalizing marijuana for medical use would throw open the door to drugs.

Really, Minnesota would join 12 other states in making medical marijuana legal. What that means is that those with a marijuana card would be held immune from state prosecution for possession or use of the drug, while the federal authorities could, if they chose, still prosecute those who possess marijuana, a violation of federal drug law.

A slim majority of Senate lawmakers have chosen common sense over rhetoric and done the right thing by passing a medical marijuana bill. Our two local senators, Sharon Erickson Ropes and Steve Murphy, both voted in favor of the humane law.

As we live longer, we are faced with more terminal diseases that take life one miserable piece at a time rather than suddenly. That means that palliative care — or managing pain — is going to become more and more essential in our society. Marijuana for medical purposes has that kind of potential.

For those who argue that marijuana’s prevalence in our society will only result in more children and adults becoming addicted, we’ve got news for you: Marijuana is already commonplace in our communities. Medical marijuana’s impact on the streets of Minnesota will most likely be negligible because those who need it aren’t doing it for a high; it’s not an illicit drug to them. It’s something to be used, like a prescription or aspirin — something to make them feel better.

For too long, opponents of the medical marijuana debate have confused it with the War on Drugs. But medical marijuana has nothing to do with illicit drug use. This is about using the drug for palliative care. It’s no different than prescription pain killers that can be and often are abused.

It seems unfair — even cruel — to ban marijuana from those who might use it to have a life that’s more pain free just because of the potential for abuse by a few. We must think of the good that will be served by those who will use it for legitimate medical purposes and prosecute those who obtain it illegally.

We hope the Minnesota House will follow suit and pass a similar bill.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty has threatened to veto this bill because he believes it will make it harder for law enforcement officers to do their jobs.

While we don’t think a police officer’s job should be any harder, we also trust their professional judgment to determine the difference between illicit use and medical use. We wish the governor would give the law enforcement community a

little more credit. And we wish the governor would support legislation that would help demonstrate that compassionate and conservative are more than just words in a party slogan.

We hope that someday the need for medical marijuana will end. That would mean that medical science has eliminated chronic, painful and debilitating diseases. But that day isn’t here now. For now, there’s compassion and maybe soon, there’ll be medical marijuana in Minnesota.

The Winona Daily News editorial board also includes publisher Rusty Cunningham and online editor Jerome Christenson. To comment, call 453-3522 or send e-mail to letters@winonadailynews.com.


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