Banning medical marijuana should be a deemed a criminal act

Richard Rider, Chairman, San Diego Tax Fighters Richard Rider, Chairman, San Diego Tax Fighters 20 Comments


I wanted to add my own personal commentary to the Bilbray story about his daughter using medical marijuana. It’s rare that I have an emotional attachment to an issue, as most of my positions are based on hard-nosed facts and sensible logic. However, with the issue of medical marijuana — where I differ from most (not all) of my fellow Republicans — I have both emotional and logical reasons for my position.

To start with, the problems of marijuana prohibition are FAR greater than the harm marijuana causes. It creates a profitable black market for criminals, and it’s crowding our legal and prison systems with non-violent offenders committed what really ARE victimless crimes.

This folly of marijuana prohibition is more widely accepted than you think. The list of bright folks who agree with marijuana legalization starts with most of the Economic Nobel Prize winners — including Milton Friedman.

AN ASIDE: I personally do not like marijuana. I have never smoked it — indeed I’ve never smoked so much as a cigarette. I prefer not to be around those that are high or getting high. The smell is bad, and the behavior of users can be boorish. But I fully understand that, if we want a free society, my dislike for marijuana and its users is not grounds for having the politicians, police, courts and prisons criminalizing and persecuting folks when no real crime has occurred.

I could go on and on as I always do with devastating facts, but I wanted to offer a more personal experience on this issue — limiting it to the medical marijuana benefits and legalization for just that narrow purpose. If you have no experience with the positive effects of marijuana on the sick, talk to someone who does. Like me.

When my son was 27, he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma — a type of cancer that 50 years ago was a death sentence. Fortunately, with modern day chemotherapy, the successful rate of treating this form of cancer is remarkably high. But the treatment process requires intense chemotherapy.

For those that have not seen someone go through chemotherapy, it’s likely you cannot imagine how unpleasant it is. My best effort to illustrate is that I ask people to imagine the worst case of a hangover, or food-poisoning, or some awful illness, and you still really aren’t even close to what hard-core chemotherapy is like.

My son stands 6’2, and during chemotherapy, his weight fell to under 150 lbs. His hair was gone. His attitude after treatment was bleak. The mere act of trying to eat was extraordinarily challenging.

There are some legal prescriptions that can be offered during this treatment that can help. Most important was an “Emend” pill that cost $100 EACH, which would bring down the nausea. It was needed for the 2 days after a chemo treatment, and he had to go through that treatment twice a month.

At this point, cost wasn’t a factor for him. His high deductible insurance didn’t cover this drug, but we parents gladly paid for the pills.

But for people without terrific insurance or the ability to come up with an extra $400 dollars a month, obtaining this legal prescription drug can be challenging if not impossible.

Alternatively, smoking marijuana was nothing short of a miracle drug for my son. There were three major medical benefits — the sum total of which made it considerably superior to Emend.

First, it eliminated the nausea almost instantly. And I do mean INSTANTLY — assuming the marijuana is smoked.

Second, it increased his appetite. I cannot emphasize enough how important this is.

Third, it improved his mental state. No, not by putting him in an upbeat mood, but by simply making him not feel completely terrible and hopeless. All of these are critical elements for successfully beating cancer and getting through the treatment.

Let me add a fourth benefit that is obvious — but needs to be included. Even though marijuana is an illegal drug, it’s CHEAP — certainly compared to Emend.  Probably only 1/100th of an Emend pill.  It would be cheaper still if it were legal.

Medical MJ is one of the ways we can help control the runaway costs of health care. Not a panacea, but another arrow in the medical quiver.

My son did beat cancer, but it was literally the fight of his life. When someone is fighting for their life, they do not want the government to interfere with their treatment. If I were faced with chemo, my personal dislike of marijuana would be trumped by my interest in effective treatment at a reasonable cost.

The argument against medical marijuana usually is that marijuana might fall into the wrong hands. Perhaps, but most of the problem evolves around the lack of oversight rules to control distribution. No doubt widespread abuse of this “medical” option occurs, but chalk that up to the complete inability of government to provide or enforce proper guidelines.

But back to medical marijuana. To deny cancer patients this highly effective, low cost drug when they are fighting for their lives, is unconscionably wrong.  I hope that Congressman Bilbray and my other Republican friends will reevaluate their position to be more accepting of medical marijuana. It is the right thing to do — both from a logical and from a compassionate perspective.


Comments 20

  1. Thanks for sharing your story, Richard. Our prayers are to your son for his continued recovery! Congressman Bilbray’s daughter will be on the show tomorrow morning at 7:00 to share her story.

    In Liberty,

  2. I too stand apart from many of my fellow Republicans on this issue. While I’m pleased to hear that it made Steve’s fight more bearable, we can reduce this to a simple Liberty issue, one which most Republicans should embrace.

    If we own our bodies, don’t we have the right to ingest whatever we choose, as long as we don’t harm anyone? Now, this is where people generally offer the straw-man arguments of driving while impaired, theft, etc–these are all illegal, as they should be.

    Shouldn’t we focus on those crimes instead of what a free man chooses to ingest? Our jails are filled with non-violent criminals whose only crime was to “escape reality” for a spell.

    The criminalization of marijuana is, well…just…criminal.

  3. If marijuana is illegal, then alcohol should be as well. To ban one and keep the other is hypocrisy. Alcohol in excess kills. Marijuana in excess causes one to sing CS&N too much.

  4. I stopped smoking dope when Jerry Ford was still President, but I agree with this article entirely. Regulate usage in other ways (job screening) but decriminalization, especially for medical usages, is definitely the way to go.

  5. Fenjun:
    I preferred CSN&Y the rare times I partook as a young Thor, and just Y the other times (now included, re: Y).

  6. It seems that people across the political spectrum agree that legitimate medical marijuana (for real diseases, not prescribe-on-demand) has its place in therapy.

    Politicians appear to be the main holdouts, because they want to be seen as tough on crime. Their perceived political benefit outweighs the suffering of individual patients. I think that perception is outmoded. There’s room not only for Libertarians, but for conservative politicians to say what Richard so eloquently said. Perhaps Brian Bilbray can be that politician.

  7. Post
  8. Very thoughtful piece, Richard. Thanks!

    I was exposed to CSN&Y in college – way back in 1988 – along with the Grateful Dead and Bob Marley.

    Whenever I hear that music it takes me right back to my musty old dorm room. While I enjoyed living on my own for the first time, I liked that music much more than my dorm room.

  9. Richard –

    I am so glad your son is OK.

    I have non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma myself. It is mantle cell type. A different type of lymphoma from your son’s, but I can certainly relate to him.

    Nowadays in addition to the chemo, they can give immunotherapy (antibodies against the bad lymphocytes). I don’t know about other types, but this is used in mantle cell.

    I am in remission now, and am feeling completely healthy. The doctor says that, while it is very likely to come back, I will live. I get the immunotherapy every 6 months and this will help maintain remission.

    In the beginning I didn’t know how it would work out. Knowing that medical marijuana was a possibility was how I could sleep at night. Thank goodness I did not need that (I do not want to give up driving and would have had to) but the fact that it was there did wonders for my morale.

    There are lots of things out there for patients, but medical marijuana can make all the difference. Human lives are more important than rules. Anyone who is seriously ill should check out ways and means of obtaining it.

    It helped your son so much! And I am so glad he’s OK!

  10. Like you, I have never used — and don’t like being around those who are high from anything, but freedom requires that we leave people alone to make their own decisions.

    I was thrown off a jury panel because I told a judge that if the facts warranted I could find the defendant guilty of driving while high, but NOT for possession.

    Your personal story is very informative and touching. Mahalo!

  11. Relevant lyric lines from the classic hit recording
    of the single, “Because I got High”….

    “I was gonna go to class before I got high
    I coulda cheated and I coulda passed but
    I got high

    I was gonna go to work but then I got high
    I just got a new promotion but I got high
    now I’m selling dope and I know why
    (why man?) yea heayy,

    I was gonna go to court before I got high
    I was gonna pay my child support but then I got high
    they took my whole paycheck and I know why (why
    man?) yea heayy,

    I wasn’t gonna run from the cops but I was high
    I was gonna pull right over and stop but I was high
    Now I am a paraplegic and i know why (why man?)
    yea heayy,”

    This song is very amusing when You Hear it,
    but in cold black print it tells a sad story. A mind
    is a terrible thing to waste, or to get wasted.

  12. Jim,

    I couldn’t agree more, but just to play Devil’s Advocate shouldn’t the decision of whether or not to waste one’s mind be an individual decision and not one that the government makes for you?

  13. Whether drugs, as well as other “victim-less crimes” such as prostitution, should be legal or not is an interesting question for Republicans who claim to be in favor of less government and more personal freedom.

    What I have found is that while most Democrats want too much government regulation of your business, most Republicans want too much government regulation of your personal life.


    Democratic Mayoral candidate, former Deputy Mayor of San Diego, and sitting Congressman Bob Filner differs from the 3 top Republicans DeMaio/Fletcher/Dumanis with his support for safe access to Medical Marijuana for patients with a doctor’s recommendation. On October 28, 2011 Congressman Filner co-wrote a letter to President Obama regarding “recent activity by the Department of Justice against legitimate medical cannabis dispensaries in California that are operating legally under state law… For these reasons, it is more urgent now than ever to reschedule marijuana as a legitimate controlled substance for medical purposes.”

    On December 7, 2011 Congressman Bob Filner signed on as a Co-Sponsored of the House Bill H.R. 1831 – The Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2011. To amend the Controlled Substances Act to exclude industrial hemp from the definition of marijuana, and for other purposes.

  15. Here are 2 more choruses from the memorable song:

    “I was gonna pay my car note until I got high
    I wasn’t gonna gamble on the boat but then I got high
    now the tow truck is pulling away and I know why
    (why man?) yea heyy, – because I got high

    I messed up my entire life because I got high
    I lost my kids and wife because I got high
    now I’m sleeping on the sidewalk and I know why
    (why man?) yea heyy, – cause I got high “

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