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Bob Bytes Back Archive: 12/03/1996 Reefer Madness: The Sequel

by Bob Fitrakis

Attorney General Betty Montgomery vows to close the “loophole” that allows doctors to prescribe marijuana in Ohio; the governor’s spokesperson claims “it was snuck into the bill” unbeknownst to the Guv; and Franklin County Judge Dale Crawford asks, “How did it get there?” It’s called democracy and the legislative process.

O.K., so Voinovich, Montgomery and Crawford are all incompetent public officials incapable of either following publicly debated legislation or reading a newspaper.

That’s the only logical conclusion one can draw after reading last Wednesday’s Dispatch article, “State smokin’ over pot loophole,” and last Thursday’s “Lawmakers hid rule in plain sight.”

“Hid?” Hogwash. Poppycock. Twenty-mule-team dung droppings. Dispatch writer Catherine Candisky’s lead in Wednesday’s article is curious. “Ohio lawmakers quietly legalized the medical use of marijuana last summer . . . ,” scribed she. Evidently, she doesn’t read her own paper. On March 25, 1996, the Big D’s Dennis Fiely penned an excellent and informative piece, “Forbidden Medicine.” The balanced and non-hysterical article is well worth rereading. Or, in Voinovich’s, Montgomery’s and Crawford’s cases, a first reading. Had that clueless collage read the story in the first place, they might have seen the following:

“Senate Bill 2, one of Ohio’s crime bills, recognizes the medical use of marijuana as an ‘affirmative defense’ when an offender has a prior written recommendation from a doctor.” Or that, “The law, which will go into effect July 1, seems to lend ‘some credence to the idea that a doctor is on safe ground to make the recommendation’…”

Either our outraged trio was too busy thinking up new ways to throw AIDS and cancer patients into prison for using marijuana to relieve their suffering; or perhaps the three simply smoked something that impaired their memory.

The Dispatch articles are reminiscent of the heyday of the Hearst papers’ “yellow journalism.” William Randolph Hearst-“Citizen Hearst”-pioneered mass-hysteria reporting at the turn of the century. Hearst papers demanded prohibitions against alcohol, cigarettes, public dancing and popular music. The anti-Hispanic bigot had both a financial and ideological stake in his campaign against hemp and “marijuana,” both legal products in the U.S. before Hearst’s crusade. The hemp plant, the world’s premier renewable source of high-quality paper products, was in direct competition with poor-quality, highly acidic wood pulp paper that Hearst had a huge financial interest in promoting. He owned timberland, paper mills, and produced wood pulp paper products with DuPont.

Although you couldn’t get high off the low THC content in industrial hemp, this didn’t deter Hearst papers from first linking hemp to “marijuana” and next to “dope” associated with narcotics. Ignoring the Spanish word for hemp, can~amo, Hearst equated hemp with “marijuana” or “Mary Jane,” a slang word for pot.

Inflamed by the Mexican revolution, Hearst’s papers’ anti-Hispanic rhetoric led to the fist local ordinance against marijuana in 1914 in El Paso, Texas. There, a City Council composed of primarily drunken cowboys outlawed marijuana because of fear of violent Mexicans.

His reporters popularized the term “marijuana” especially after the Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa seized 800,000 acres of prime timberland that Hearst owned in Mexico in 1916 and gave it to the Mexican peasants. The Mexican peasants and most of the rest of the world preferred hemp products for paper, clothing, rope and fuel.

Thus Hearst, through his newspapers, systematically demonized the use of both hemp products and the medical use of marijuana for his personal gain. Hearst’s Herald-Tribune enthusiastically promoted Mussolini’s crusade against pot in the 1920s with such headlines as “Mussolini leads way in crushing dope.”

By 1937, industrial hemp, a product grown and advocated by both Washington and Jefferson, was now illegal and the dreaded marijuana was a Schedule One narcotic-with “no therapeutic” use- alongside heroin. By contrast, both cocaine and morphine, an opium-derivative, are Schedule Two narcotics and can be prescribed by doctors.

Kenny Schweickart, spokesperson for the Ohio Industrial Hemp and Medical Use Coalition, said, “The only reason why the Dispatch recently wrote that marijuana has no recognized therapeutic benefits is because it is currently listed as a Schedule One narcotic, not because it’s actually true. Read Dennis Fiely’s earlier coverage.”

In 1988, Drug Enforcement Agency Law Judge Francis Young, after an extensive hearing, ruled that marijuana was one of the safest and most therapeutic substances known to humankind. His ruling rescheduled marijuana as a Schedule Two narcotic, but was overruled.

Marijuana, the Forbidden Medicine, a Yale University Press book, lists marijuana as medicine for not only AIDS and cancer patients but for those with chronic pain, epilepsy, glaucoma, insomnia, labor pains, menstrual cramps, migraine headaches, mood disorders, multiple sclerosis, nausea, paraplegia and quadriplegia.

Ohio’s “affirmative defense,” despite the Dispatch’s claim, does not “legalize” marijuana. It does, however, make it virtually impossible to prosecute any pot-smoker with a written prescription from a recognized physician.

Now, if the Dispatch would just quit doing its Hearst imitation and George, Betty and Dale would quit watching that Reefer Madness video, then we could alleviate some real human suffering.