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QUESTION OF THE MONTH

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Marijuana should be legalized for medicinal use because it provides many suffering patients relief that they do not get from other medications.

Granted, there are serious possible side effects, including dependency and impairment of memory, concentration and motor coordination.

However, many legally prescribed sedatives, painkillers, cough suppressants and tranquilizers have similar and other serious and undesirable effects. If unintended harmful effects are not reason enough to prohibit the use of codeine, morphine and other beneficial drugs, why should similar effects be reason to prohibit marijuana?

Perhaps it is because marijuana is also used as a recreational drug, and many people associate its use with lifestyles that do not conform to traditionally acceptable norms.

But marijuana should not be denied to patients who need it just because some use it for recreation.

It is inhumane to allow a patient to suffer when there is an available drug that can alleviate his or her symptoms.

Whether the potential harm of a drug outweighs the benefits should not be determined by the government. That decision is best left to physician and patient.

Elaine Bind

Pikesville

Yes, I most definitely agree that the use of marijuana as a medicine should be legal.

Marijuana and other herbs have been used for centuries as a form of medicine. They are not like heroin, cocaine and other drugs.

My son passed away 10 years ago. The last two years of his life were spent in increasing suffering each day.

One of his friends brought him some brownies and told me how much they would help my son. Well, I found out they had marijuana in them. And, yes, they did help him.

He also smoked marijuana during the last year of his suffering. It really helped him with the nausea that was a side effect of the medications he had to take.

It also helped him at times when he was filled with great distress because he knew there was nothing that could be done about his illness.

Why can't the government see that there is a big difference between people using marijuana as a form of medicine and people using drugs to get high?

Kathy Riley

Baltimore

To deny people suffering from pain and nausea access to a treatment that would provide relief is simply hateful and foolish.

And in a society in which drugs such as alcohol and nicotine cause such suffering and, in the case of alcohol, so much antisocial behavior, to hold marijuana up as some unique danger is almost comical.

When will our nation wake up to the reality of the terrible failure of the "war on drugs" and realize that the many billions of dollars spent on policing, jails and "aid" to countries such as Colombia to slow the influx of drugs to the United States could be better spent?

Better spent on drug treatment to be sure, but also on education, health care, research on the mechanics of addiction and just about anything else besides prisons.

Kathryn Parke

Baltimore

I absolutely believe that the medicinal use of marijuana should be legal.

If medicinal marijuana would give a patient some relief when he or she is undergoing chemotherapy and suffering from extreme nausea, it should be made available.

I watched two of my dearest friends and my father-in-law suffer terribly.

They all knew that their prognosis was fatal. And if they could have had a way to get through those periods of pain and suffering, it would have made the final months of their lives so much more bearable.

It is heart-wrenching to watch a loved one endure such agony and not be able to afford them moments of comfort and give them their dignity.

Beverly Carrigan

Woodbine

Without question, physicians should have the authority to prescribe marijuana to patients who might benefit from its use.

We're not talking about the general population here. We're talking about patients with serious disabilities that would warrant a physician prescribing a drug to ease their pain or provide some other benefit.

Think about it. We allow physicians to prescribe pharmaceutical drugs by the millions that are far more powerful and addictive than marijuana. We trust their judgment in choosing what's best for our care.

So why take the option of marijuana out of their arsenal?

Richard Wheeler

Hanover

Positively, yes. The use of medical marijuana should be strictly a decision made by a medical professional.

Relief of such pain and suffering is too important to be denied to any patient who can benefit from it.

Unless and until it can be proved medically and scientifically that the claims for marijuana are all a farce, and that marijuana is of absolutely no solace, and proved by law enforcement that it causes a drastic escalation of the use of hard drugs, marijuana should be treated like any other pain-killing medicine given to gravely ill or terminal patients.

Harry E. Bennett

Baltimore

I have limited tolerance for pain -- for myself or anyone else.

Thus it seems to me inhumane and even unethical to withhold any measure of relief from those who have chronic, unrelenting pain.

In the name of mercy, let marijuana be administered by prescription in cases in which it will do some good and no harm.

Molly Kinnaird Johnston

Glen Arm

I believe that marijuana should be legalized for medicinal purposes.

America is a country that advocates and, in fact, symbolizes freedom of choice; it's what makes us one of the most unique and successful nations in the world.

I accept that the government is responsible for maintaining order and safety.

However, drugs are used everyday to save and better people's lives.

And if marijuana can also do this, the government should not deny people that aid.

Amy Shafer

Dayton

The writer is a junior at River Hill High School.

Not only do I believe that the medicinal use of marijuana should be legal, I believe all use of it should be legal.

I find it implausible that in a society as thoughtful and educated as ours, we condone the use of drugs such as alcohol, which we know can cause death, directly or indirectly.

We accept this drug and tax the revenue it provides, yet we prohibit the use of marijuana, an herb that has proven medicinal properties.

It's time to abandon the knee-jerk reaction to marijuana and legalize this natural, God-given product.

Ray Talbott

Westminster

The fundamental argument in the medical marijuana debate is about morality.

Many sincere people believe that a person in pain should not be permitted to receive a substance that some in the medical profession think will ease certain suffering.

The problem is: Who is authorized to administer morality? Who has the right to decree that the use of a substance for medical purposes is immoral?

I am hard-pressed to find an answer to these questions. But I refuse to yield to the notion that any person of moral conviction would put his or her morality above the suffering of another. That would be the highest sin one could commit.

I know what it is feels like to suffer. Fortunately, the approved pain medications worked well for me during my recent medical problems.

But if I had been in pain that went beyond what the approved drugs could address, I would want to know that there was hope in the use of medical marijuana or any substance approved by my doctor, even if it is not accepted by my pastor.

Those who do not know real pain should step back and reconsider their fundamental argument on morality and medicine.

I cast one vote for the use of medical marijuana.

John Holter

Baltimore

I believe the medicinal use of marijuana should be legal.

Marijuana has proved to be a benefit to individuals in pain from the effects of chemotherapy and other chronic health problems.

And people who have family members or friends who have struggled with a chronic disease and pain would welcome another avenue of help for their loved ones.

Barbara Glodek

Columbia

The illegality of medical marijuana simply makes no sense. If a licensed physician wishes to prescribe a medication, it should be legal, no matter what it is.

Marijuana is a drug that millions of voters have used in the past, with few lasting ill effects.

Prohibiting its use for medical purposes is the most unfortunate and frustrating legacy of the old movie Reefer Madness.

Our marijuana laws foster a distrust and disrespect of the legal system, and need to be thoroughly reviewed and updated.

Hank Bullwinkel

Upper Falls

I do not feel I need protection from cancer patients who use marijuana.

However, we all may need protection from heavy-handed prosecutors.

Norman J. Dean

Fallston

I would like to suggest that on this issue, as with many others, those who make the judgment should consider what it's like to walk in the shoes of those in need.

It's easy to reject the use of marijuana when you have no pain, no struggle.

Al Buls

Baltimore

Withholding any type of relief of suffering is cruel and inhumane.

If the agony of an opponent of medical marijuana, or that of someone he or she loved, could be lessened by the drug, that person's opinion would change.

Ruth Boggs

Baltimore

I have reservations about the use of marijuana for medical purposes.

Smoking has been banned from many public places. But people who live in townhouses have no protection against neighbors puffing away on their porches or steps.

I live in a townhouse, and every time my neighbor lights up, the smoke drifts into my home.

I have to close my doors and windows to keep smoke from drifting into my home.

Can you imagine what kind of problem I would have if my neighbors were smoking marijuana, for whatever reason?

Peggy Wagner

Baltimore

The people who are asking for the medicinal use of marijuana are sick. They are trying to exist; they are trying to live from day to day.

So how did this ever get to be a government issue? Why are we discussing it?

This is between doctors and their patients. I don't care what they have to take to feel better -- feeling better is the whole deal.

Give patients whatever drug it takes, no matter what it is, if their doctor approves.

It's not anyone else's business, least of all the government's.

Deborah G. Adams

Ellicott City

I do think the medicinal use of marijuana should be legal.

For people with the dreadful pain of AIDS or cancer, a fairly inexpensive substance such as marijuana can be a godsend.

Why should they have to suffer pain or find marijuana illegally on the street when doctors could prescribe it for them?

Shirley Heintz

Harwood

I believe that if there is definitive scientific proof that medicinal marijuana can ease the pain of the sick and suffering with no negative effects, then it should not be seen as any different from giving patients morphine, which is derived from opium, and tends to be highly addictive.

Jeremiah E. Taylor

Parkville

As someone who more than 20 years ago was prescribed THC pills to reduce the vomiting caused by chemotherapy, I clearly approve of the use of marijuana under prescription.

But there is an aspect that I have never seen discussed. To be effective, the pills had to be taken before it could be seen if my white blood count was high enough for chemotherapy treatment on that day. Because of this, I twice got the undiluted effect of the THC.

I'd like to know what factors of mind or body chemistry would permit someone to find that experience desirable, since I found it insulting to my intelligence.

Mark Owings

Baltimore

Do I think the medical use of marijuana should be legal?

No more than I think morphine should be legal for the pain of serious illnesses or injuries, or that Ritalin should be legal for the treatment of attention-deficit disorder in children despite its underground popularity as a stimulant among cramming college students, or that steroids, although abused by some coaches and athletes, should be prescribed for certain illnesses and injuries.

Janet Goldstein

Baltimore

Of course the medicinal use of marijuana should be legal. What person of conscience would deny treatment to someone who is suffering by arguing that marijuana is against the law?

Anyone against medicinal marijuana must not understand the difference between law and morality.

Slavery was legal but immoral. It was illegal for women to vote, and that was immoral.

Nelson Mandela broke the law in South Africa, but apartheid was immoral.

Alcohol, with all its baggage, is legal, but not medical marijuana. That is immoral.

Max Obuszewski

Baltimore

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