A Slippery Slope… Or Is It?

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Since Michigan voters passed Proposition 1 in 2008, legalizing the cultivation and use of medical marijuana, the debate of weed as medicine has been increasing in public discourse.

A front page spread on marijuana in the April 21, 2011, edition of the Detroit Free Press was, in part, a catalyst for our asking Louis Finkelman to report on whether there’s a Jewish perspective to the issue. Not surprisingly, there is.

While ferreting out the angles for his story, the author and I concluded that the health benefits (and risks) of cannabinoid consumption had been suitably covered through previous articles. Instead, his focus would look toward legalization’s relationship and effect on the Jewish community — from historical, financial and religious points of view.

The omission of marijuana’s medicinal benefit isn’t due to a dearth of material. On the contrary; we opted out of its inclusion partly due to space consideration but mainly because the anecdotal evidence overwhelmingly supports its medicinal efficacy.

In our opinion, marijuana’s role in alleviating certain physical ailments, like nausea, arthritic and other (pun alert) joint pain, as well as how some HIV/AIDS patients can derive positive benefits from its use (under certain circumstances), convinces us that Proposition 1 is good for the citizens of this state — thus, good for the Jews.

In fact, a 2004 editorial by former U.S. Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders sums it up nicely:

“The evidence is overwhelming that marijuana can relieve certain types of pain, nausea, vomiting and other symptoms caused by such illnesses as multiple sclerosis, cancer and AIDS — or by the harsh drugs sometimes used to treat them. And it can do so with remarkable safety. Indeed, marijuana is less toxic than many of the drugs that physicians prescribe every day.”

Editorial, Providence Journal
March 26, 2004

Ever since Hollywood gave the country Reefer Madness, cannabis cum boogeyman has driven the legislative process  — to where marijuana is now relegated to the same status as heroin, courtesy of its Schedule 1 classification by the Drug Enforcement Agency. Thankfully, Michigan is one of 16 states where patient care transcends Washington’s antiquated view.

The facet of the debate which is most fascinating, and fraught with personal invective, is the moral imperative: How can a society allow increased and state-sanctioned access to a drug that is widely known to have a psychoactive effect on the user?

The controversy seems anchored by two poles: If you think using an “illegal” drug is morally wrong, then no amount of contradictory data that demonstrates marijuana’s medicinal benefit will convince you otherwise.

Conversely, if you believe the cannabis plant holds true medical value, then opining about legal or moral issues holds little, if any, weight.

To that end, the decriminalization of growing and possessing small amounts of marijuana — with the blessing of a licensed physician — should trump the position of those who disagree with it on moral grounds; or because the medical establishment is not unanimous in its approval.

More than 6 out of 10 Michigan voters agree, too — thus the enactment of a law specifically designed to protect a person’s right to grow, obtain and ingest marijuana for medical purposes — which makes reports of law enforcement’s occasional disregard for Proposal 1 so unsettling.

We are not out to deny the opponents of medical marijuana their feelings, or negate the facts they cite to back their concerns, but on this issue we believe the pros outweigh the cons. We don’t see why voter will — and Michigan’s law of the land — should be ignored.

DAWN OF THE DAD
Sorry, dads, your letter got bumped this month by weed. However, you are no less important to your family than Mom. (I speak from firsthand experience on the subject.)
In the last few years, there has been a renewed emphasis on the importance a father plays in the lives of his children. (President Obama’s public service announcements on the subject come to mind.)

In 2008, I freelanced a piece on the potential consequences that can befall women who lacked a positive male role model/father figure during their formative years; and the benefits that Dad offers to his daughters are undisputed.

Specifically, social scientists, mental health experts and published studies all concluded that women who did not live with their father, or spend significant time with him (or a father-type figure), were more likely to act out sexually at an earlier age and had a greater propensity to end up the victim of abuse. Ergo, fathers matter.

(Surprisingly, little empirical evidence existed on father-son relations when I wrote the article, but it hardly seems like an absent father would be beneficial for boys, either.)

Today’s dad is not the dad of even my generation (I’m 37). Today’s dad, as I’ve previously blogged about, is a carpool-driving, meal-preparing, homework-helping equal when it comes to raising the kids.

More men than ever are now forced to roll up their sleeves and help with the minutiae of child rearing, mainly as a consequence of their spouses re-entering the workforce.

As a result, a father’s involvement in his children’s lives is more intertwined than ever. It’s the Dawn of the Dad  — and his kids are the biggest beneficiaries. Happy Father’s Day, Pop!

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