For ill, medical marijuana ought to be obtainable

June 20, 2007

EDITORIAL, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin (Ontario, CA)

We can't say it any better than Leo said it. Still, it bears repeating.

Leo, of course, is Leo Greene, our colleague and friend who is battling ALS, Lou Gehrig's disease. He has been chronicling his thoughts and feelings as he confronts his illness in an award-winning series of columns and videos called "Leo's Story."

In Sunday's installment, he made the case for the use of medical marijuana to fight his terminal disease. It could buy him time, he wrote:

"Time to see my two younger sons graduate. Time to see another grandson born.

"Time, perhaps, for a cure to come along."

Those are powerful words, especially for those of us who know and love Leo and admire the incredible grace and dignity with which he has faced his illness. It puts the legal and law-enforcement wrangling over medical marijuana in a new light - a personal, gut-wrenching light.

Leo reported on marijuana research that has shown great promise for extending the life of those with ALS, as well as relieving the muscle twitching, spasms and potentially fatal excess mucous associated with the disease. Cannabis compounds have been found to offer symptomatic relief and slow the progression of multiple sclerosis and Parkinson's disease; to relieve rheumatoid arthritis; to slow nerve degeneration in Alzheimer's patients; and of course, to help cancer patients being treated with chemotherapy.

Marijuana has been in the news a lot lately, and not in a good way. Police have been busting pot "grow houses" left and right in suburban neighborhoods, many of them quite upscale, in and around the Inland Valley. Federal drug agents and Pomona police raided a medical marijuana dispensary in that city last week.

Most local cities have passed moratoriums against medical-marijuana dispensaries, reasoning that they sell much of their wares to people without a medical need and that they attract a bad element. They've decided that the problems - which are real - outweigh the good that marijuana does for some very ill people.

The dispensaries are legal under state law as a result of the passage of Proposition 215 in 1996, but federal law outlaws marijuana outright.

We find Claremont City Council's attitude refreshing amid all the moratoriums and bans being passed. The council has done protracted battle with one confrontational dispensary owner in town, but still decided in May not to pass a staff-recommended ban. Council members want to review other cities' and counties' ordinances and thoroughly explore the options before revisiting the issue in July.

If Claremont's leaders have the guts and the smarts to adopt an ordinance that allows patients with true medical need to obtain legal marijuana - as the state's voters intended - while minimizing the possibility of abuse, more power to them.

Frankly, we're willing to risk it, if it might mean some relief - and some more precious time - for Leo and others who need it.

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