Nothing criminal in healing herbs (EDITORIAL)

February 11, 2004

, Chicago Sun-Times

Should patients suffering from severe ailments -- AIDS, cancer, glaucoma -- have access to medical marijuana which, often alone among available medicines, can alleviate their suffering? Or should they be liable to arrest and prosecution like any other drug user?

Few issues cut so wide a gulf between the federal government and the states. The feds are anti-pot, period. Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Nevada, Oregon and Washington have passed laws exempting the very ill, often terminally ill, from facing jail. Now Illinois may join them. A medical marijuana bill introduced into the General Assembly would exempt patients who have a doctor's prescription from prosecution. It deserves full debate and then swift passage.

Use of medical marijuana is only controversial to the feds -- responsible medical organizations such as the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Academy of HIV Medicine, the New England Journal of Medicine and the American Nurses Association support it, as do countless doctors. 'It is pointless and cruel,' said one Chicago physician, 'to threaten the sick with arrest and jail simply for trying to feel better.' The sufferings of thousands of sick Illinois citizens demand that we cast off punitive and wrong-headed notions about marijuana and pass this bill without delay.

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