Saturday, August 29, 2009
The following is a response to a piece in the Contra Costa (CA) Times, in which columnist Tom Barnidge expresses his skepticism about medical marijuana, asks "What's up with this scam, anyway?" and says he "has a hard time taking the whole issue seriously."
By Steve Elliott, Reality Catcher
Tom -- or should I say Mr. Barnidge? -- it's fine having skepticism about the value of medical marijuana. Skepticism is a healthy trait, and it's certainly good journalism.
However, persisting in that skepticism even after being confronted with the evidence is not so good. And it's especially not good when you feel your skepticism gives you a license for mean-natured snickering, poking fun and implying that most medical marijuana patients are faking it just to get high.
It's true that there are always a few people who manage to work the system in their favor. But if the system, as it currently stands, allows one or two people who may not strictly need medical marijuana for every patient who obtains (in many cases life-saving of life-altering) relief, then what would you do? Would you deny relief to the one, just to deny the high to the other?
Considering the overall tone of your story and how you chose to both begin and end it, I believe it's fair to say that you are unconvinced. But whether or not you, yourself, choose to be convinced by the evidence, or whether you choose to believe in the value of medical marijuana to many patients, is irrelevant, really -- because it works.
Criticizing medical marijuana precisely because of its usefulness -- its efficacy in fighting the misery and discomfort produced by a variety of diseases -- seems particularly disingenuous. Would you feel better about medical marijuana if it treated only one condition? Well, here's the news flash, Mr. Journalist: There are hundreds of medical studies to show that pot is effective in treating every single one of the diseases Dr. Gieringer mentioned to you, and many more besides.
The pity is, that in your smirking sarcasm, you are going to be justifying, in many readers' minds, the narrow-minded prejudices they already have regarding the medical use of marijuana -- prejudices that have been inculcated in them, among other channels, through inaccurate media coverage. Well, like this piece for instance.
It would have been great if you could have fostered more understanding and dialogue between medical marijuana patients and the general public, rather than feeding the mistrust and the fear that many members of the public have about pot.
As a medical marijuana patient, let me say that if you don't trust the medical studies, and you don't trust the law, then maybe you can open your heart to trust the ill people to whom marijuana brings relief, when we tell you that, yes, it does work. If you believe you are in some sort of moral position to make judgments on those people and to disregard their testimony, then you are mistaken.
Maybe you enjoy laughing up your sleeve. Maybe you think it looks smart or cultured to adopt a debonair pose of having "a hard time taking the whole thing seriously." That's fine, if you like that sort of thing.
But for those of us who really are seriously ill, who really have conditions which can be effectively treated by medical marijuana, you should know that it makes you come off exactly like a thoughtless jerk, reveling in his own ignorance.