Time to end the reefer madness
Marijuana has held an odd place in American culture, especially since the federal government specifically outlawed it in 1937.
That followed the release of the 1936 movie, "Reefer Madness," which today is widely lampooned for its over-the-top depictions of pot's addictiveness and effects on smokers, along with its warnings about other evils - especially jazz.
Marijuana's reputation always has exceeded its actual danger, as noted in a recent column in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette by longtime forensic pathologist Cyril Wecht. He said he had seen many cases in which legally prescribed narcotics had played a role, but never one in which marijuana was the cause of death.
In recent years many state governments have taken a much more rational approach to marijuana. Only two states, Colorado and Washington, have legalized marijuana for casual use. But 20 states and the District of Columbia have approved it for medical use.
Marijuana is prescribed in those areas for an array of conditions ranging from late-stage cancer to several neurological degenerative diseases and epilepsy.
Every day in every community, doctors prescribe drugs for patients that, if misused, are far more dangerous than marijuana. That medical professionals may prescribe those drugs but are precluded by law by prescribing marijuana to help suffering patients is irrational.
State Sen. Mike Folmer, a Lebanon County Republican, has introduced a bill to legalize medicinal marijuana use in Pennsylvania, joining long-time advocate Sen. Daylin Leach, a Delaware County Democrat.
Most Pennsylvanians get it. A recent Quinnipiac University poll, with just a 2.6 percent margin of error, found that a whopping 85 percent approve of physician-prescribed medicinal marijuana.
The Legislature should not act on polls alone, but that public view also is supported by science and a clear need. The true reefer madness would be to deny the substance to patients whose suffering it could alleviate.