A smoking issue

November 18, 2004

EDITORIAL, The Commercial Appeal - Memphis

AFTER A bruising battle to legalize a lottery in Tennessee, you might think state Sen. Steve Cohen would be reluctant to champion another politically sensitive issue with strong moral undertones.

You'd be wrong, though. 

The Memphis Democrat plans to make legalizing marijuana use for medicinal purposes one of his top priorities next year.

Inevitably, there will be some jokes. Just don't call Cohen 'Senator Spicoli,' in honor of the pot-loving antihero from the 'Fast Times at Ridgemont High' movie.

To Cohen, this is no laughing matter. He believes the drug, when properly prescribed by doctors, can alleviate pain and suffering for many people with chronic medical conditions.

It took him 17 years to convince his colleagues in the General Assembly to approve a lottery. But Cohen isn't expecting his latest cause to require that much deliberation.

Tennessee had a similar law in place from 1981 to 1992, so Cohen figures the precedent has already been set.

Of the 11 states that currently have medical marijuana laws, Cohen said many are 'red' states where cultural conservatives hold sway. Cohen also noted that a poll published in the Houston Chronicle this week found that 75 percent of the people in President Bush's home state of Texas would support medicinal marijuana legislation.

We may all be driving along Interstate 69 in hydrogen-powered cars before Cohen's bill passes. Then again, given the senator's track record, it's awfully hard to bet against him.

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