Magazine article New York Times Upfront

Smoking the Pain Away

Magazine article New York Times Upfront

Smoking the Pain Away

Article excerpt

Should marijuana be legal for medical use?

YES

A year ago, a government-commissioned panel of experts reported that the chemicals in marijuana can fight the nausea induced by chemotherapy, boost the appetites of AIDS patients, and lessen some symptoms of multiple sclerosis. The report was no news to me. I had reached the same conclusions as a cancer patient seven years before.

In 1992, I was found to have testicular cancer. My chemotherapy put me in the hospital for five days at a time, once a month, for four months. But midway through my treatment I could tell that Zofran, then a hot new drug prescribed to combat nausea, was losing its effect. For the remainder of my chemotherapy I turned to marijuana to keep my head out of the toilet.

Federal laws still ban marijuana as stringently as heroin. And polemicists in the war on drugs fear that acknowledging marijuana's medical efficacy would set a bad example. Then why don't we take the morphine out of hospital medicine cabinets?

In almost every case when the medical use of marijuana has been put on a ballot, voters have approved it. Supporters have been as diverse as the rainwater liberals of Oregon and the cowboy libertarians of Arizona.

My chemotherapy worked, and I haven't smoked during the entire Clinton administration. But should I ever need to turn to marijuana again, I'd like to be able to do so without the added burden of breaking the law.

--RICHARD BROOKHISER Senior Editor National Review Times Op-Ed page

NO

Imagine going to your doctor for headaches or persistent nausea. …

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