Marijuana or Weed reform is measuring its progress by large leaps and bounds each day. Medical marijuana is being viewed with increasing popularity, and the movement towards legalization, which has so far been approved in Colorado and Washington, is also gaining momentum. Those who feel compelled to give their time and/or money might have a tough time deciding which cause and organization to support — those fighting for medical cannabis or those fighting for legal cannabis.
As Mason Tvert, communications director for the Marijuana Policy Project says, there is no standard answer to the question “Which cause should I support?” but it is instead up to the individual:
“I would never say someone should rally around one thing or another — they rally around what they are inspired to rally around. Someone who is passionate about or solely interested in passing a medical marijuana law can rally around passing a medical marijuana law. Or they could rally around broader reform because it will help pass a medical marijuana law. Or someone who is solely interested in broader reform and not medical — which is generally never the case — can rally around broader reform. Or they might be in a place where they believe they can only achieve broader reform by passing a medical marijuana law. I don’t see it as a black-and-white, pick-a-camp issue.”
Which makes perfect sense; there is no “best cause.” People must follow their hearts (pardon the cliché) when joining a cause because the sole reason to give support is because you feel passionately about a change that needs to be made. One cannot quantify the importance of one cause or one issue. That would be like arguing that lung cancer foundations are better than liver cancer foundations. In the end, they are still working towards the greater good.
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Many cannabis law reformers (though not all of course) would agree that legalization for recreational use as well as medical use would be optimal. Legalization has already occurred in two states in this country, so it isn’t an unfathomable goal. One of the most important aspects in the fight for reform is that hundreds of thousands of Americans, with a disproportionate amount being black and Hispanic, are arrested every year for marijuana-related offenses. These arrests have absolutely no positive effect on society and need to be stopped.
As the renowned National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) states so succinctly on their website:
“Marijuana is the third most popular recreational drug in America (behind only alcohol and tobacco), and has been used by nearly 100 million Americans. According to government surveys, some 25 million Americans have smoked marijuana in the past year, and more than 14 million do so regularly despite harsh laws against its use. Our public policies should reflect this reality, not deny it.”
Laws are meant to enforce the values of society. Not even taking into consideration the fact that marijuana is not dangerous or deadly, this alone, that so many millions of Americans have used it and therefore don’t view it as something that is undesirable, should be enough reason to end prohibition.
As horrible as unjust arrest and incarceration is (and the wasted billions in taxpayer dollars that go into making it happen), making patients who could greatly improve their lives with cannabis choose between forgoing treatment and being a criminal is no better. The medical cannabis movement has been more prominent and much more successful than the legalization movement in recent years. This is because the allowance of medical use is much more widely accepted.
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John Pardee, president and board member of the state medical marijuana initiative Ohio Rights Group, has firsthand experience with the tremendous benefits of medical cannabis. His son was in a serious car accident, which causes him chronic pain. He replaced his addictive, unhealthy prescription painkillers with cannabis and has actually moved to California so he isn’t branded as a criminal for attempting to manage his pain. John wants his son to be afforded the same rights in his home state.
He also sees the medical marijuana initiative as having certain strategic advantages, as opposed to going the route of full legalization (which would of course allow patients to legally use their medicine as well), which he points out:
“The thing that has the least amount of friction and argument is if you understand cannabis as medicine and how it can affect people that are ailing. To us, that is an unassailable argument. Some people can sit there and make arguments about whether it should be recreational or not. But especially when you look at it in Ohio, medical polls at between 60 and 70 percent, but full legal polls in the mid-30s. So we know that Ohio is a state that is probably not ready for full legal, but we wanted to make sure that our veterans, seniors, cancer patients, Parkinson’s patients, and other folks have access to high-quality, regulated cannabis.”
The simple fact that the legalization of medical cannabis is a much more likely scenario than full legalization at this time, and that people are physically suffering due to its illegality, seems to be cause enough to fight for it. The sooner we can help people — whether it is those persecuted for recreational use or for medical use — the better. And let’s not forget that many people who would benefit from medical cannabis are understandably not using it because it is illegal, and the result is more physical pain and anguish for them.
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Even though the point of introducing legal medical cannabis is to help patients, there is no denying that it will also help acclimate people to the reality that cannabis is not some dangerous substance that has no place in society. It seems to truly be a step towards full legalization. Colorado and Washington, the two pioneers in statewide recreational legalization, were pioneers in medical cannabis first. Perhaps once skeptics see the truth of what legal marijuana (in any form) is and they realize that it has no effect — it could even have a positive effect — on their lives, but helps ailing people feel better, keeps valuable members of society out of the justice system, and provides tax revenue for the state, they will come around.
So the two movements have different goals, dovetailed together by the same plant. No matter which cause you support, or for what reason, you will still be helping a worthy one. But if you do think medical cannabis and/or recreational cannabis should be legal, just make sure to do something about it. These organizations can always use support and donations, and it will go toward direct action in the fight against this unjust and harmful prohibition.
[ picture from Kathwah on flickr ]