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Reefer Madness in the Houston Press

Thanks to Scott (of course), comes this amazing piece in the Houston Press. It’s a five (web) page article on medical marijuana by Michael Serazio called Reefer Madness.
I’m just going to quote extensively from it (although this is still just a brief taste of the article).
Along with the tape from the Montel show, this is required reading for people considering the pros and cons of legalizing medical marijuana.

When he emerged from 13 straight months in the hospital and rehab, Jones choked back a steady diet of assorted pills: Demerol, Vistaril, Valium, Halcion and Lioresal, among others. He describes the feeling in his back “like somebody’s got an ice pick and they just keep jabbing it in and out of that same damn spot, constantly.” The pills, he found, didn’t work well enough.

“I was at the point that I was taking 280 milligrams of baclofen,” or generic Lioresal. “And the maximum dosage on that is 80 milligrams a day,” he says. “Just to try to control spasticity. I’d be sitting in my wheelchair. I would get a spasm out of nowhere. Next thing I knew, I was trying to block my head from hitting the ground. It just threw me right out of my chair. Threw me over backwards.”

He says that in the early ’90s his doctor recommended, unofficially, trying marijuana for the pain. Nowadays, Jones needs only a strong aspirin, a Benadryl for his sinuses and most critically — he points to the table — cannabis. …

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Dr. Alan Robison, who chaired the pharmacology department at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston before retiring, conducted some of the earliest research on marijuana’s toxicity level.

“That was the first and only drug I ever studied in my career that was so nontoxic that no matter how much of it you gave to a mouse or a rat, you couldn’t kill the damn thing,” says Robison, the founder of the Drug Policy Forum of Texas. “As an industrial chemical, it’s a real loser, because you can’t even kill a cockroach with it.” …

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The self-described “straight-edge” teen had seen cocaine wreck her mother’s life and initially shied away from medicating with cannabis. When her cancer returned, though, in the midst of a painful chemotherapy run, she gave it a shot. It worked, at least for her depression and nausea.

“Without smoking pot, I don’t eat. At all.” She pauses. “Just, I don’t eat at all.” She later adds, “The marijuana works with the pain. It actually, like, relaxes — like, when you’re in pain for so long, your body gets so on edge and you get so tense and it just makes the pain worse. And usually it results, when you’re in that kind of pain, you have to go to the ER and get IV pain medication.” …

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A 2001 Pew Research Center study found the public supports prescription marijuana by a more than three-to-one ratio, and a Time/CNN survey one year later had it at 80 percent. But despite the fact that marijuana’s medical use enjoys widespread and consistent public support, it’s a source of a paralysis on the part of elected officials — perhaps the strangest paradox in politics. Both conservative columnist William F. Buckley Jr.’s writings and the NORML Web site, odd bedfellows in the fight to legalize, lament this pervasive fear of looking “soft on drugs.”

“You know why it’s not legal,” says Paul. “It’s because people are afraid to vote that way. You know, people get hysterical” — he fakes a shrieky voice — “Oh, I can’t do that. I agree with you, but the people’ll think I’m pro-drugs… The whole thing is just carried away. So Congress is way behind what the people are thinking. If this were a really, really bad position, I couldn’t be in office, because it’s been used against me continuously.” The point is salient not only to Paul, but it speaks to a second, perhaps stranger paradox: Despite the issue’s volatility, no one can think of a single case of someone significant losing their seat because of a stance on medical marijuana.

“Ron Paul should’ve been gone 20 years ago if that were the case,” says Alan Bock, author of Waiting to Inhale: The Politics of Medical Marijuana. “I think partly what this is, most people, early in their political careers, some consultant told them: ‘Don’t touch that. Your career’s over.’ And they’ve never rethought it. Even if they’ve had fairly serious questions about it.”

None of this is particularly new to those who follow drug policy reform closely — you’ve heard me talk about the problem with politicians being afraid of being considered “soft” on drugs again and again — but it’s powerful to see this kind of article in the press.

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