I would like to address some important viewpoints Dr. Charles Shaw has laid out (Scott Cooper, "Pot of gold," May 12, 2010, Gazette). First, the belief that marijuana is a gateway drug is just government propaganda. If there is a valid argument to the gateway drug theory, alcohol would be more of a gateway drug since alcohol is generally the first substance experimented with.
Why is marijuana illegal to begin with? Well, the law had nothing to do with health concerns; marijuana laws were first passed for two main reasons: greed and racial discrimination.
Harry J. Anslinger, considered America's first drug czar, was appointed by Secretary of State Andrew Mellon under President Herbert Hoover to head up the newly formed Federal Bureau of Narcotics.
Due to pressure from states with large Hispanic populations, Anslinger was ordered to add cannabis to the hit list. Under protest, he came up with the tax stamp. Initially, though, he resisted this because he couldn't figure out how he could legislate a weed that grew wild throughout most of the Midwest. The Great Depression was on, and this was viewed as a great excuse to force Mexicans back across the border. The media painted Hispanics of the day as dope-smoking fiends that acted wild, attacking and raping white women.
As a California native and a disabled American, I can tell you from personal experience that the medical value is indispensable. In 1995, after an industrial injury due to unsafe working conditions, I found myself unable to walk for the better part of that year, and in excruciating pain for many years to follow. At 40 years old, it had been years since I had smoked pot.
What happened to me is the same thing that happens to most people who are in chronic pain: My only relief was through the use of strong narcotic medication. The side effects of these drugs, not to mention the most obvious " addiction " were almost as bad as the level of pain I had.
In 1996, California voters made the use of medical marijuana legal, and by 1999 I started to investigate it as an alternative. I witnessed cancer patients improve the quality of their lives in numerous ways; I watched AIDS patients who were so thin and sickly looking when they first changed drugs to the use of cannabis recover physically, put on weight, no longer relying on walkers and canes. Lupus patients who were in so much pain they rarely left the house were able to have a decent quality of life.
I was eventually able to let go of all narcotics. I no longer smoke or use cannabis, but I will defend the rights of Americans to do so. It is time we demand that our government stop trying to legislate morality and restore the document that made America great. The War on Drugs has dismantled the Bill of Rights.
"Glenn H. Smith