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Jewish World Review May 21, 2001 / 28 Iyar, 5761

James Lileks

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One man's toke is another man's snort -- THE Supremes have nixed medical grass. That'll wipe the smiles off those hippies in the oncology ward - no more high-fives after an ominous biopsy now. Why, today you can go to any schoolyard and see a dozen patients in hospital gowns, still attached to their morphine drips, selling hits for a five-spot; you just know that legal prescription grass would end up in kids' hands, too. Sure, a cancer patient might insist that medical marijuana actually helps. But what does he know that the Supreme Court doesn't?

At the risk of offending those who've had their sarcasm detectors surgically removed - and got stoned that night because it made the stitches itch less - the preceeding paragraphs were opposed to the abolition of medical marijuana. There are instances where it probably does a great deal of good, and it ought to be allowed in carefully controlled circumstances. Just because marijuana's side-effect is agreeable stupification doesn't mean it should be withdrawn from the physician's quiver.

That does not mean, however, that anyone ought to be able to claim to have a medical condition that marijuana can solve. There are too many quack docs out there who'd cheerfully examine someone, diagnosis "Blocked Whimsy Ducts" and write a script for a pound of goofy-tinder. And what's wrong with that, exactly?

Well, it's the start of the slippery slope. If you can join a club that gives marijuana to people who are clinically depressed, then why not give it to those who are merely sad for reasons that have nothing to do with errant brain chemistry? Once we let anyone passout grass for big reasons, it gets passed out for small reasons, and it ends up legal. That wouldn't mean the end of Western Civilization. It is, however hard to argue that what America needs is MORE drug usage.

Of course, legalization might reduce the corruption, the hypocrisy, the crushing burden on the courts, and - best of all - the annoying public service spots. But legalizing pot is one step to legalizing everything, because one man's toke is another man's snort. Total legalization will give us two choices.

1. Private enterprise sells the dope. Right now, the state and the trial lawyers are scarfing down billions from lawsuits against Big Tobacco. What company wants to set itself up as Big Crack? Big Smack? Even if a company was stupid enough to try, imagine the perils of marketing Tweaker's Choice Menthol Meth. The government will require labels: Warning! the Surgeon General has determined that hordes of imaginary horseflies may consume your flesh, but don't harsh our buzz with your bad trip, dude; take it outside

Or, for grass: The Surgeon General has determined that neither you nor your roommate can remember whether you ordered pizza, or who's supposed to pay for it this time

As we've seen with cigarettes, a warning doesn't let a drug maker off the hook. That leads us to option 2: the Government sells it. Yes, Uncle Sam opens a crack store in the ghetto. You liked it as a conspiracy theory; you'll love it as public policy.

You'd still have a prison population full of drug users, except they'd be lockedup for thievery instead of possession. How else do you support a habit? Do we expect heroin addicts to get second jobs? Ah, but we'd educate them so they wouldn't have habits. We'd teach them to use crack responsibly. See, all those zombies staggering around the Œhood stealing from everyone to get another vial - that wasn't educational enough. You have to back it up with a slide-show and some puppet skits.

Here's your drugs, kids; they're completely legal. Now for G-d's sake don't even think of doing them - but if you do, here's how to make sure you tie off your arm without briusing a vein.

What does this have to do with medical marijuana? Nothing, at first. just to suggest that total legalization swaps one set of problems for another. Eventually we'll have drugs that will do what medical marijuana supposedly does, and does it for everyone. Until then, however, maybe it's not the wrong thing to let some people use it under medical supervision. Maybe there are some people in pain who might actually find it a blessing.

Disagree? Then complete the sentence. "No! They should suffer, because ____________" Bonus points if you can figure out a way to use the word "compassionate."

JWR contributor James Lileks is a columnist for the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Comment by clicking here.


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At the Sore/Loserman Transition HQ
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11/07/00: Get ready to return to the Dark Ages

© 2000, James Lileks