Allow medical marijuana

Gov. Pawlenty promises to veto the medical marijuana bill despite evidence and support.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty has promised to kill a bill that would provide legal immunity to chronically ill patients who use marijuana as a means of medicinal relief. Pawlenty is letting the war on drugs and conventional wisdom cloud the real objective of the bill: To offer relief and protection to patients suffering from conditions like cancer and AIDS who can’t find pain reduction in other medications.

The bill was passed by the Senate last year, and it heads to the House floor where it is expected to pass as well. Pawlenty’s opposition comes from law enforcement and county prosecutors who oppose the idea of licensed medical organizations becoming marijuana providers to patients. They fear the bill would open the floodgates of drug use and hamper the billions spent on arresting and processing marijuana users. And the Republican governor doesn’t want to hurt himself politically by seeming soft on drugs.

However, 12 other states have already passed similar bills, and many politicians who were in favor have since been re-elected – which is evidence this issue won’t break a political career.

The fact is that marijuana use is a prevalent part of society, and it’s not going away – no matter if Pawlenty approves the bill or not. We highly doubt the relatively small portion of those suffering from chronic illness will exacerbate the number of drug arrests or provide a gateway for others to use the drug.

And terminally ill patients aren’t getting high and going to White Castle, nor are they lurking around dark corners peddling pot to minors. They are using the drug to alleviate debilitating pain, just as they would use prescription painkillers.

The medicinal properties of marijuana have been proven by extensive research done by the Institute of Medicine, and the College of American Physicians wholly endorses the use of marijuana in severe medical situations. Medical marijuana not only alleviates symptoms of horrible diseases, it has recently been shown to attack damaging cells. The potential risks and side effects of marijuana use are on par with, or are fewer than, those associated with mainstream pain killers, according to research.

We urge Pawlenty to decide this issue based on the perspective of ill patients who seek relief, not on the politics of drug use.