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Mike McFeely, Published May 01 2009

McFeely: Medical marijuana should be permitted

Marijuana talk is all the rage in Minnesota, with Vikings No. 1 draft pick Percy Harvin and the state Senate showing an affinity for the stuff.

In the talented Harvin’s case, it shows a lack of maturity mixed with a healthy dollop of stupidity. He tested positive for pot at the NFL combine, an important tryout at which millions of dollars are at stake. Percy the Pothead lucked out. The Vikings were willing to overlook the red flag and fill his pockets with green.

In the Senate’s case, the toke talk reflects a compassion that hopefully can overcome hysteria based on research gleaned from the schlock film “Reefer Madness.”

The Senate voted Wednesday to tentatively approve a bill that would allow the use of marijuana for medical purposes. It is aimed at people who suffer debilitating pain – think cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy or HIV-AIDS sufferers – and could use marijuana to alleviate their misery, if only temporarily. The Senate has to give final approval, and the bill still has to get through the House and governor’s office before it becomes law.

This should happen. And any opponents should be subject to mandatory drug testing.

Quick clarification: We’re not talking about legalizing Mary Jane across the board. There will not be dope kiosks set up on every small-town street corner. There will not be Weed-Marts in the big-city malls.

We’re talking about making marijuana – long known as an effective temporary painkiller – the equivalent of a prescription drug, with doctors certifying who is eligible. It will be regulated. Minnesota will not turn into the Land of 10,000 Stoners, with vast tracts of the populace stumbling around at 4 a.m. looking for a Taco Bell.

It’s a quality-of-life issue. It’s a compassion issue. It’s not a war-on-drugs issue. Anyone who’s seen a family member or friend suffer through chemotherapy treatments – or gone through it themselves – knows about the agony. Those people should have every available tool to reduce the pain, whether it’s an already-legal painkiller or a puff on a joint.

Cops and conservatives have long been against prescription pot, making arguments about so-called gateway drugs, increased violence and the message it sends to children. That’s playing on fears, the idea of 1960s hallucinatory hippies freaking out and going Charles Manson.

Will there be abuses? Will people try to score some recreational weed under the ruse of pain? Yes. And that would make medical marijuana no different than drug abusers using doctor’s prescriptions to obtain other painkillers.

Marijuana is illegal. There’s no disputing that. People who use it illegally should be prosecuted. But if legalizing the drug in specific, regulated cases would improve the life of those suffering from debilitating pain, there’s no reason to avoid it.

It’s a matter of compassion. To think otherwise is the true madness.

Forum sports columnist Mike McFeely can be heard from noon to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday on WDAY-AM (970). He can be reached at (701) 241-5580 or mmcfeely@forumcomm.com. McFeely’s blog can be found at www.areavoices.com