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What is your perception of marijuana? Are you dead set against its use? Or could you be persuaded that what is actually called cannabis (marijuana is a Spanish term assigned by someone a long time ago) is a plant about as beneficial as broccoli when consumed as directed?
How much do we really know about this controversial plant called pot, weed, grass, reefer and, no doubt, a couple of other names – almost anything but “good” for most politicians and the larger law enforcement community?
Minnesota is not among the 16 states and the District of Columbia that have, by one means or another, usually by a citizens ballot petition, enacted laws removing most of their prior penalties for the cultivation, processing and distribution of cannabis for a significant number of ailments, most of them including AIDS, anorexia, arthritis, cachexia, cancer, chronic pain, glaucoma, migraine, persistent muscle spasms, including those associated with multiple sclerosis, seizures associated with but not limited to epilepsy, and severe nausea. Covered conditions vary, but, in every case, a doctor’s formal approval for its use is required and, in most instances, even an approved patient cannot possess more than one ounce or, perhaps an ounce-and-a-half.
However, although a law allowing the use of marijuana as a medical treatment has not yet passed in Minnesota (this state does not allow citizens initiative or referendum as most of those approving states do, but that’s another issue for another day), Minnesotadoes allow possession of one and one-half ounces of marijuana without penalty. Where you got the stuff might be interesting to law enforcement, since holding any amount above the 1-1/2 ounces is a felony (even in states where’s it’s been approved).
That said – the real arguments that haunt marijuana’s life in these United States, for either medical or recreational use, may be more political than scientific at this stage. Those who have discovered and benefitted from its salutary properties don’t give a hang about what makes it work so well for them. On the other hand, the spectre of “reefer madness” may be dancing through the memories and perceptions of others persuaded that cannabis is as addictive as cocaine and thus bound to ruin the life of anyone daring to consume it. The 1930s film of the same name depicts users as going off their nut in response to smoking marijuana. No one has ever witnessed such a reaction. But it was this perception that got the stuff placed on the Federal Government’s drug list as a Schedule I substance, right up there with heroine and cocaine.
It’s been condemned as a “gateway” drug to the worst of addictions, and yet its proponents insist that at least a half-dozen prescription drugs – namely oxycodone, oxycontin, and others – have been abused literally to death, especially young people, whereas no one is known to have overdosed on marijuana.
We talk with advocates for legalizing cannabis in Minnesota (and elsewhere), at least for medical purposes, but, in the long run, at least, to get the Feds to remove its ranking as a Schedule I substance. The state of Washington has an initiative ballot question legalizing pot entirely, not just for medical purposes.
TTT’s ANDY DRISCOLL and MICHELLE ALIMORADI query three members of NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) of Minnesota, each with their own stories about why they believe this stuff is a godsend to sick people, and may, in fact, be highly beneficial to take in on a regular basis, illness or no.
RANDY QUAST ~ Executive Director, MN NORML
KURT HANNA ~ Treasurer, MN NORML
KATHY RIPPENTROP ~ Medical Marijuana Caregiver, MN NORML Member