Prescriptions for pot

It is time to make the medical use of marijuana legal. Plus, genocide and the ADL
August 22, 2007 12:42:32 PM


Smoking a joint can be a better and more effective way of easing specific types of chronic pain than the use of legal but addictive prescription narcotics such as OxyContin and morphine.

Is this a flash bulletin from the Cheech and Chong School of Medicine? An advertorial from the pages of High Times magazine? Folk wisdom dispensed by a whacky but reliable Central Square pot dealer?

The answer is none of the above. Instead, the conclusion comes from researchers at the University of California, and has been validated by the American Academy of Neurology.

In other words, this reaffirmation that pot, marijuana, cannabis — whatever you want to call it — has legitimate medical applications comes straight from the conservative bosom of the nation’s medical establishment.

While this recent study focused on a very specific sort of pain suffered by HIV victims, its findings are equally applicable to the sorts of pain associated with multiple sclerosis, diabetes, arthritis, and a wide range of side-effects caused by cancer and its treatment.

Plus, more than 150 years of medical research have already established that, in addition to treating certain types of pain, marijuana can be used to treat anxiety, nausea, appetite loss, vomiting, and a host of other afflictions.

Marijuana used in a medical context is not a cure in the sense that antibiotics are. It is more akin to a treatment, something like aspirin. For almost 5000 years, marijuana’s medical uses have been recognized around the world as being both valid and versatile.

The US government has a penchant for fighting foolish wars; Vietnam and Iraq are only geopolitical examples. The so-called war on drugs is an equally misguided crusade. It perverts science, compromises medicine, and callously denies millions who are suffering access to fast, effective, and inexpensive relief.

Laws that remove state-level penalties for medical marijuana are currently in place in Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington. Ten others, plus the District of Columbia, have endorsed the concept.

It is time for Massachusetts to join the ranks of those that make it legal to grow and possess marijuana for medical reasons, subject to medical approval.

As for circumventing prosecution at the federal level, which the US Supreme Court allows, Massachusetts’s congressional delegation should vote to deny specifically the funds needed to prosecute such “crimes,” and should move to protect doctors who prescribe marijuana for medical reasons.

Of genocide
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) allowed itself some wiggle room when it granted that the massacre in and around 1915 of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians by Ottoman Turks was “tantamount to genocide.” Even so, ADL’s announcement marked a change of course.

By actually using the word “genocide” — albeit with a qualifier — the national ADL may have cleared the way for the resolution of a growing local dispute that had threatened the use of an ADL-developed anti-bigotry curriculum in Watertown and surrounding communities. That is good news.

Watertown is home to 8000 Armenian Americans, and many there had resented the fact that the ADL — which recognized the slaughter as fact but refused to employ the term of genocide — should wield control of a “No Place for Hate” program at school.

Responding to growing local pressure, the local ADL backed a move in Congress to term the massacres as genocide, the effect of which would mark the atrocities as being premeditated and centrally planned, a position that is widely and popularly held but is still disputed by some eminent scholars, such as historian Bernard Lewis. The local ADL’s support — and its willingness to refer to the slaughter as genocide — led to the firing this past week of its New England regional director, Andrew Tarsy, and the subsequent resignation of some board members. Now that the national ADL has bowed to pressure, it is unclear whether Tarsy will be invited back. (We hope that he is.)

Even so, the national ADL is still withholding support for the congressional move, out of concern for the safety of Turkish Jews — perhaps the only Jewish community that thrives in the Islamic Mediterranean. The ADL and others are also concerned that the congressional action would poison or taint Turkish relations with Israel, as Turkey stands as the only Islamic ally Israel has in the region. And to further complicate an already complicated situation, a friendly Turkey is vital to US interests should Iraq further deteriorate and already-hostile relations with Iran further escalate. Meanwhile, the local Armenian-American community soldiers on to dignify and memorialize the suffering of its ancestors.

That Tarsy and his board bucked the national ADL’s long-held position is a tribute to their integrity and the seriousness of their purpose. As this dispute enters a new phase, we can only wonder what another man of conscience, the late ADL regional chief Lenny Zakim, would counsel as the next step to take. It is doubtful, however, that had Zakim taken the same steps as Tarsy and his board took, he would have been fired.


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