EDITORIALS

Some issues are better handled at federal level

Staff Writer
Washington Times-Reporter

In 1936, a movie called “Reefer Madness” depicted tragic consequences, such as suicide, rape and a descent into madness, for those who smoked marijuana.

In 1937, when marijuana became illegal, Harry Anslinger, then commissioner of the U.S. Bureau of Narcotics, testified before Congress, “There are 100,000 total marijuana smokers in the U.S. and most are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos and entertainers. Their satanic music, jazz and swing, result from marijuana usage. This marijuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers and many others.”

We have come at least a little ways in our thinking since then.

In the ‘70s, there was an exponential increase of recreational marijuana use, which led to the rediscovery of the plant’s possible medical benefits.

That leads us to the present when the Illinois General Assembly has a medical marijuana bill before it for the third time.

In Illinois today, the Illinois Nurses Association and the Aids Foundation of Chicago support the effort to legalize medical marijuana.

At the national level,  the American Public Health Association, American Nurses Association, American Academy of HIV Medicine and recently, the American College of Physicians show  support.

While the American Medical Association, the largest doctors’ group in the nation, does not currently express support for a change in the law, it does support research and discussion about medical marijuana.

As one would expect, more support for medical marijuana comes from Democrats than Republicans.

However, it is not entirely a partisan issue, as one of our stories this week on the front page points out.

Those are all fine facts.

But, one underlying fact remains: Even if Illinois passes a law legalizing medical marijuana, it will still be illegal under federal law.

Presidential candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have shown some flexibility with the issue.

But, there is not total support at the federal level right now.

“The biggest opposition comes from the White House, the drug czar’s office, the drug war apparatus, frankly,” said Bruce Merkin, a medical marijuana advocate with the Marijuana Policy Project.

Merkin said the main opposition is from people who think that if medical marijuana is legalized, it will send the wrong message to children.

There are “fear” stories that surround the legalization of marijuana in any form, Merkin said.

“These type of scare stories are always ready ... Terrible things are going to happen if we allow this. All of our kids are going to turn into potheads. It hasn’t happened in any of the 12 states (where medical marijuana is legal),” Merkin said.

When Merkin was asked how to overcome the emotional response people have about the issue, he said, “We do it the old-fashioned way. We keep presenting facts and have people (who have been helped by medical marijuana) tell their stories.”

Wasting our time on this issue at the state capital is not a step forward in providing compassion to those who might benefit from medical marijuana. All it does is give false hope to those very people when this issue’s answer really lies in the nation’s capital.

Send this issue back to Washington where it belongs.