Toking up or taking pills to alleviate the pain

What medicine is best should be left up to the patient and the doctor.

I am glad to see state Sen. Steve Kelley’s medical marijuana bill is receiving serious consideration by the state Senate. It’s time Minnesota lawmakers put an end to the cruel policy of arresting and incarcerating medical marijuana patients. Now that the Senate Judiciary Committee has passed Kelley’s medical marijuana bill, legislators are one step closer to protecting people with cancer from arrest and imprisonment. This compassionate legislation deserves quick passage, and the recent committee win shows it is gaining momentum. The bill will protect seriously ill patients from being thrown in jail for using medical marijuana with their doctors’ advice. Medical marijuana is a popular issue.

Medical marijuana ballot initiatives have passed in every state that has voted on them, and polls show massive public support. A 2005 statewide Zogby poll found that 60 percent of Minnesotans support medical marijuana legislation. So far, only three state legislatures – Hawaii, Rhode Island and Vermont – have had the courage to stop arresting patients without a drive from voters. Like Hawaii, Rhode Island and Vermont, Minnesota has no voter initiative process for legislation. The Minnesota Legislature must have the courage to pass a bill if patients in the state ever will earn protection.

This is not a partisan issue; it is a compassion issue. Many otherwise illegal substances, such as cocaine and morphine, legally can be prescribed. The same should be true for marijuana. Many legal alternatives proposed by opponents of medical marijuana are too expensive, too addictive and have too many side effects. Chemotherapy patients who are too nauseated to eat or swallow a pill should not have to fear arrest if they – and their doctors – find that smoking marijuana is the most effective means of treating their symptoms.

Ultimately, the decision of which medicine is best for an illness should be left up to the patient and the doctor, not to the government. When they have their doctors’ approval, patients should be able to use medical marijuana without fear. They also should be able to rely on a safe supply of marijuana, without having to resort to the dangerous criminal market.

Tax money should be used to prosecute violent crime, not punish medical marijuana users. Minnesota’s legislature should enact laws that protect patients. Senators should pass Kelley’s medical marijuana bill without delay.

M.K. and S.E. Brantseg are residents of Richfield. Please send comments to [email protected]