Though Minnesota has proven to be a progressive state, in the area of medical marijuana legalization it remains anchored in the past. I have been an MS sufferer for 35 years, and have used medical MJ for more than 20 — until this December past, when I became institutionalized. Its benefits are now forbidden to me.

It offered me relief from pain, inflammation, stress, cramps and insomnia, and since I have stopped using it, my pain level has increased from 2 to 6, along with the severity of other symptoms that make my challenging life much less bearable. I have had no withdrawals or ill effects, nor have I been desirous of taking even stronger forbidden substances since stopping its use. Of course, I am able to use legal chemical painkillers (which have side effects and are much less effective) and one Valium in the evening for cramps.

The arguments against MJ’s use are based in fear, misinformation, intentional ignorance and the lobbying efforts of the prison workers’ union, Big Pharma and the American Medical Association, which together spend millions influencing Congress and legislatures to vote against legalization.

There is plenty of evidence that victims of well more than 35 medical conditions gain relief from the use of medical cannabis, but we have a system in which profits are more important than people. To continue this suffering is a shame — a dirty, rotten shame.

The fact that better, stronger hybrid forms are available means that users do not need nearly as much to get its benefits, and the misunderstood notion that pot users are some sort of hippie space cadets is simply ignorant, for in fact before long the psychoactive effects, the so-called “high” is mostly gone. The effects are more of a numbing of the physical symptoms of diseases like ALS, Parkinson’s, MS, other nervous disorders, hypertension, insomnia, stress, and the loss of appetite suffered by cancer patients. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

There are still folks who fall back on the quasi-Christian attitude that if God has willed that you suffer, then you should “offer it up” to purify your soul. I would kindly like to inform such folks that the problems of incontinence, impotence, sight loss, motor dysfunction, and difficulty swallowing, walking, speaking and performing basic tasks like brushing your teeth, bathing and eliminating waste perhaps ought to satisfy even the most puritanical purists. Most of us would self-flagellate and wear sackcloth if we could have the relief of medical MJ in exchange.

In Las Vegas, where we lived for a time, its use was legal, and dispensaries controlled the sale to people with doctors’ prescriptions, until the federal government started interfering with the state’s rights to make its own laws. The sale can be taxed, and decriminalizing its use frees those in law enforcement to actually go after real criminals, instead of beating the bushes to find pot plants to pull out of the ground.

Since there is no money in prescribing medical marijuana for patients who suffer symptoms from the above-mentioned diseases, I have little hope that most doctors will ever change their mind. We do not have a health care system, but a sick-cure gulag that employs drugs with such alarming side effects that the use of them seems to any rational person ludicrous. MJ’s side effects are nil, and even immature users cannot overdose. They simply fall asleep.

Compare the effects and cost to society of cannabis to the results of alcohol, nicotine, prescription drugs and even over-the-counter painkillers, and it’s a no-brainer. But, then, that’s what the purveyors of misinformation thrive on.

Now, most folks already know all this but are afraid to be the first to change their minds unless the government gives its blessing.

Last, let me add that, for me, the use of marijuana is like a vitamin for the brain, opening me up to the 90 percent of the brain we don’t use, lifting thought away from the brainstem — the survival, reptilian part of our gray matter — and allowing a contemplation beyond the mundane. How frightening to stop and think.



Michael Shimpach is a freelance writer in Owatonna, Minn.