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Medical pot is not about Cheech & Chong or drug cartels

Medical marijuana is not about the stoner culture of Cheech and Chong.

What a shame that it’s not looking good for medical marijuana in Illinois.

OPINION

Illinois became the 20th state to allow medical marijuana under a pilot program approved Aug. 1, 2013. Yet, the process dragged on, and former Gov. Pat Quinn left office without finalizing it. Now our current governor has said, “I’m concerned about the process,” so the waiting game continues.

Here’s why I think the situation is where it is: too many people in Illinois are letting their past ideas about marijuana cloud the issue.

For a lot of people — especially baby boomers — when they hear the words medical marijuana, the word “medical” falls on deaf ears. What pops into their collective heads are remembrances of people sitting in a circle passing around a joint. That or images of the munchies and Cheech and Chong. All they can see is the fun and games of it.

For others, they’re so worried that they, too, forget the word “medical.” All they can think of is the drug dealers who’ve disrupted their neighborhoods and turned them into places where people drive up to make illegal buys at all hours. All they can visualize is danger, crime.

But if you’ve had a family member with cancer, multiple sclerosis or epilepsy, or you yourself are the one suffering, the view is entirely different. All you see is the word “medical.”

You see marijuana as the medicinal relief it is. You wish others could realize these delays are just keeping medicine from those who need it, really sick people. Medical marijuana is just what its name says it is, not a party favor or something lethal to a community.

During this prolonged wait, I often have thought of my father, in those last months when the cancer had entered his bones, making everything so much more painful. You’d try to help him get out of a chair or assist him walking, and one touch to the wrong spot would leave him in agony.

Back then I broached the idea of using marijuana to ease his pain. (It’s not like the illegal stuff would be hard to find.) But he refused; didn’t want to break the law. Something might change, he figured, and then we could look into it. He died before the pilot program was ever legalized.

Dan Linn, executive director of Illinois NORML (National Organization to Reform Marijuana Laws), agrees there’s a lot of “misinformation and prejudice” surrounding marijuana’s use for sick patients.

Linn describes the rules of tight security the dispensaries would be required to follow; the only ones even allowed on the premises would be registered patients or caregivers (both of whom would have state-issued cards to prove their eligibility). No card, no admittance, according to Linn, whom I talked to last week.

So there’s no need to position these dispensaries in remote locations as so many have recommended, again something that slowed this process. Why make it so hard for sick people to get medicine to ease their pain?

To become eligible, patients went through the necessary hoops, popped for their own fingerprinting and paid a $150 annual fee. So far they’ve gotten nothing. For most the renewal fee will come up before a program even begins. Does that seem fair?

The statute is called the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act, a way to bring relief and comfort to sick Illinois residents. These continued delays tell me again a word has been forgotten: compassion.

Email: sueontiveros.cst@gmail.com

Twitter: @SueOntiveros