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by Steve Young

Steve Young columns

Nothing reveals the damage caused by the broadcast Lords of Loud than looking into the faces of those persecuted and tormented because of their blather. Sure, the bloviators try to distance themselves from the effect of their words when they condemn hope through demonization of some victim, but it doesn't make their culpability any less. Same goes for legislators who vote without first looking at the inhumanity their decisions will cause -- or sometimes worse, what good their decisions deny.

There's probably no better example than kneejerk scare tactic attacks on anything or anyone close to Universal Healthcare. When they call it "socialism" (which it isn't) or that we'll lose choice (which we won't), they simply devalue the lives of millions of men, women and children who cannot afford life-saving treatment, let alone preventive medical care.

Last weekend I attended the Fourth National Clinical Conference on Cannabis Therapeutics on the (ironically designated) non-smoking campus of Santa Barbara City College. Amongst the thousand there I may have been the only attendee who did not actually partake, and the ocean breezes didn't allow the cannabis clouds to hang around long enough for a contact buzz. I can still plead "blameless" at the next NA meeting.

Packed into the SBCC cafeteria (how munchie-appropriate) were people with terminal illnesses, debilitating diseases and/or chronic pain that fends off all known legal relief while and ignores no demographic, party or station. Multiple-sclerosis sufferers, David "Squiggy" Lander and Montel Williams made appearances, not for show or pay, but to share their stories of suffering and search for relief -- stories familiar to the other attendees. They were all there to hear what nearly all of them already knew: Marijuana has helped them survive, and actually live something close to a normal life. Doctor after doctor, researcher after researcher, victim after victim, stepped up to detail what even federal research has confirmed: medical marijuana works where nothing else will.

No matter how many stoner/pot jokes flew, the conference dealt with an all too serious issue: there are many who need marijuana to be deemed wholly legal and accessable for medicinal purposes. Yet just last year the Supreme Court decided 6-3 that the federal government can prosecute medical marijuana patients, even in states where medical marijuana is legal.

Of course, the stigma of recreational use or its questionable standing as a "gateway" drug makes an easy target for those who choose not to investigate further.

To be perfectly honest, there are a few talkers, even on the Right, who Libertarianly profess a belief in drug legalization or an end to the failed "War on Drugs," which makes Iraq look like a cakewalk. But even then, it's a posture more from an economic or constitutional angle rather than a healthcare conviction.

But pain is not political. And it's not about being a stoner, a hippie, a left coast wacko. It's about making the pain bearable. Unfortunately, those who choose to blare disdain for the victims, may never see or understand what the victim faces until they're looking back at it in the mirror. Short of actual compassion, perhaps the only way for critics to understand the pain no "legal" medication can relieve is too feel it themselves. A shame it is that when we speak of walking in other's shoes we never get past the ankles. Tough to know the futility when the pain is heard but not felt.

So, I think I've come up with a solution.

I've seen reporters jump out of planes or be on the target side of a police taser. Several newsfolk who go through some personal affliction bring their audiences in on their firsthand struggle with pain and anguish. Katie Couric brought her Today Show audience along to (and through) her colonosopy -- a response to her husband's terminal bout with colon cancer. Couric's face (and other bodily accouterments) brought huge awareness to the preventive efficacy of the procedure.

I say that, from now on, every Congressman, Senator, Supreme Court Justice or Attorney General who wants to outlaw or prosecute medical marijuana use, every talk show host or other opinion-monger who decides to shortchange or mock something that people profess to be a life-giving necessity, should be made to feel the same pain and hopelessness the sufferer does -- and suffer the pain for just as long. Then, just for good measure, they must have their child or parent or spouse suffer the same torment while our pundit is forced to look on at their loved-one's agony helplessly. Perhaps then they might forsake political and opportunistic partisanship for a truly empathetic judgement.

'Course, that might be considered torture.

Then again, what do you call keeping pain relief kept away from those who are truly suffering?

For more information, check out Patients Out Of Time

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Albion Monitor   April 5, 2006   (

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