Connecticut Gov. M. Jodi Rell will soon receive a bill that would allow people with certain "debilitating" medical conditions to grow marijuana with a doctor's recommedation. The bill has passed both houses of the state legislature and will become law automatically 15 days after arriving on Rell's desk if she neither signs nor vetoes it. "In the past," says the governor's spokesman, "she has been sympathetic to helping the terminally ill and those with debilitating symptoms find relief, but she would frankly prefer to see the policy change at the federal level since it is a chronic problem for any state that takes up the issue."
The New York Times quotes a Republican legislator who anxiously bought marijuana for her husband (at his doctor's recommendation) when he was dying from bone cancer and a Democrat who used to oppose the medical use of marijuana but changed her mind after watching two cousins die from cancer. By contrast, "State Senator John McKinney, a Republican from Southport whose father, a congressman, died of AIDS in 1987, expressed sympathy for people with debilitating illnesses" but "said that supporting the bill would be 'sending the wrong message,' one that marijuana is not a bad drug."
In a sense, McKinney's concern is silly, since drugs are not inherently good or bad; it's the use to which they're put that matters. Even drug warriors implicitly acknowledge that point, approving the use of morphine, say, to relieve cancer pain but not to relieve psychological stress. Then again, I hope McKinney is right to worry that the safe and beneficial use of marijuana by seriously ill people will undermine the government's anti-pot propaganda by showing that concerns about the drug's hazards are greatly exaggerated. To the extent that drug prohibition depends on the demonization of chemicals, which are arbitrarily assigned to "good" and "bad"categories, any positive use of a proscribed substance, whether medical, psychotherapeutic, or religious, has the potential to advance the broader cause of drug policy reform.