Garden State Bricolage

Commentary on national politics, film, television, media. Nothing in the vein of day-to-day petty problems to whine about.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Coming Soon: Medicinal Pot

Don't be surprised if the next time you or one of your friends sits in a cloudy circle, your mother or another relative pops up and says "Hey....don't bogart that blunt."
That is...if they're sick enough to qualify.

Soon the New Jersey State Senate will debate over Senate Bill No. 88, aka the "Compassionate Use" Bill, which is sponsored by Senator Nicholas P. Scutari and was introduced at the end of 2005. The "Compassionate Use" Bill is legislation written to allow the use of medicinal marijuana without penalty to those suffering from chronic pain or terminally ill patients. If passed, New Jersey would be the twelfth state that allows the medicinal use of marijuana. The guidelines of the bill are strict and crystal clear: dispensaries would be set up in adherence to zoning laws, with government regulation giving patients ID cards as well as a card for the patient's caretaker (meaning two cards per patient). Said patient would be allowed to possess up to one ounce and six plants without penalty. Other regulations within the Bill include the establishment of a physician-patient relationship, and said patient must be at least 18 years of age.
While I can not begin to tell you how wonderful it feels to know that my home state, the state that I love so much, is finally considering and now debating this, there is danger in the air. Recently, on April 20, the FDA released a report stating that their research showed absolutely no medicinal or scientific value in marijuana and concluded that it should remain a Schedule 1 drug. This could not have come at a more critical junction, especially with DEA agents at war with dispensaries in California. One notable story to come out of the battle between the feds and that state was that of candy bars and sodas laced with THC (the chemical compound that gets you "high") manufactured in a warehouse. It was the perfect opportunity for the Feds to blow the story up for the public in deeming them highly dangerous to children, even though these products were strictly sold in dispensaries, which are run by patients themselves.
At first glance, this seems like another chapter in the United States' War on Drugs, this time pitting scientists against government and state versus federal. But the more I think about it, the clearer it becomes. This is a question of money. Think about it. The War on Drugs, or more specifically, the War on Marijuana began at the beginning of the 20th century with William Randolph Hearst running stories in his newspapers on the dangers of marijuana, often using race as the bait with headlines screaming about African Americans and Mexican immigrants raping women while high on pot. What is interesting about this, is that at the time Hearst not only had a monopoly on the newspaper industry, but on the manufacture of the paper itself and was beginning to worry about the blossoming hemp industry. If more hemp was grown and processed into paper, Hearst stood to lose profits. He understood this, much like Big Pharm companies now do. Pharmaceutical companies have responded to the growth of medicinal marijuana over the past decade with their own drugs containing cannibinoids such as Sativex, or more recently Cesamet, as an alternative. These companies, along with Federal and State law enforcement, have much to gain by the continual criminalization of marijuana for both medicinal and recreational use, and nothing to lose. Recently Albany County District Attorney David Soares was forced to apologize for a speech made in Vancouver where he warned Canadians to stay far, far away from American drug policy, deeming it a failure in public policy. Is he right? I'd like to raise a fist in the air and say "Hell, yes!" But apparently, there is still a large number of people out there who disagree. I'd like to take this time and ask a simple question: what have we gained from the criminalization of a naturally grown plant? Have we saved people from so-called addiction by placing them in jail? Have we helped patients with terminal cancer by preventing their use of a natural remedy to ease pain and nausea? It's time to separate politics from science, money from compassion and repair a broken policy.