On Election Day, Arizona and South Dakota will vote on initiatives to partially nullify Federal narcotics laws pertaining to the medicinal use of cannabis. These initiatives are important to the residents of both states for many reasons. They offer a re-assertion of state sovereignty and interposition by the state(s) on behalf of patients and their caregivers.
They affirm the sanctity of the doctor/patient relationship independent of Federal meddling. They provide patients safe access to their medication. And perhaps most importantly, they affirm that Arizona and South Dakota are willing to join the group of states in this Union (as well as the Federal District) and the nations around the world who accept the standard that judges societies by how well they treat their weakest and most vulnerable members.
Approval of Prop. 203 in Arizona and Measure 13 in South Dakota will eliminate state penalties for the use of cannabis by approved patients, and allow caregivers to administer the medication within defined guidelines. They mandate patient and caregiver registries to ensure oversight and to prevent misuse. Registration fees are meant to pay for the systems’ upkeep, and the criminal justice systems stand to save money, manpower, and time by shifting these resources to other law enforcement priorities.
Both Prop. 203 and Measure 13 are not perfect systems, but they come with the hindsight and collective experience of others to make them work in their respective states. Still, naysayers have tabled many fraudulent claims to prevent medicinal cannabis from becoming reality. The claim that cannabis has no medicinal value is particularly absurd given the thousands of years it has been used by humans to treat their illnesses and ailments. The claim of stealth legalization for society at large is unfounded, and such arguments ought to be saved for if and when Arizona and/or South Dakota come to that bridge. The claim that allowing medicinal cannabis will increase the use of the drug overall is equally unfounded in every place it has been allowed. And the claim that cannabis will be detrimental to patients is absurd considering it is less addictive than caffeine, less harmful than aspirin, and less impairing than alcohol.
The most bogus assertion about medical cannabis is that it sends a mixed signal to children about drug use and enforcement. The truth is that allowing medical cannabis will provide no greater paradox than the sanctioned, medicinal use of opiates and cocaine while continuing to prosecute their recreational use amongst unauthorized persons. Parents, there is no mixed signal here; in fact, allowing medicinal cannabis is a great way to teach your kids about responsibly caring for the sick and dying.
Despite all the red herrings and straw men thrown up to tear medical cannabis down, the simple reality is that initiatives like Prop. 203 and Measure 13 are about seriously/terminally ill patients. They are meant for the folks who are at their wits’ end by being locked in an incessant battle against death or, at best, an agonizing existence for whatever time they have left on this Earth. They are meant for those who have tried all other options and who will use cannabis whether or not it is legal out of medical necessity.
So for those Arizonans and South Dakotans who still doubt the sincerity of the advocacy behind medical cannabis, and who intend on voting “No” on their respective initiatives, there is something you should do. Go find a cancer patient undergoing the rigors of chemotherapy, or an AIDS patient with Wasting Syndrome, or a patient with multiple sclerosis who is afflicted with painful muscle spasms. When you have found one, look them right in the eyes and tell them that you do not trust their judgment or that of their physicians/caregivers. Tell them that you do not believe they should be allowed to treat their afflictions the way they feel is best. Tell them that you would rather see them die behind bars than comfortably in a setting of their choosing surrounded by their loved ones. If you can bring yourself to do this, go look yourself in the mirror and ask if you can still call yourself a follower of a compassionate Creator. Ask yourself if you still qualify as a human being.