Medical marijuana becomes a prescription for passionate debate

Green Bliss Clinic, a medical marijuana evaluation clinic, opened at 7509 N. Milwaukee Ave. in Niles in October.  |  Natasha Wasinski/For Sun-Times Media
Green Bliss Clinic, a medical marijuana evaluation clinic, opened at 7509 N. Milwaukee Ave. in Niles in October. | Natasha Wasinski/For Sun-Times Media

I love a good debate, and often find myself intrigued at how people — equally well-meaning, equally intelligent — can come down so differently on important issues.

You see these polar opposite philosophies on everything from immigration reform to military intervention to privacy issues to the kind of foods we should be putting into our bodies.

Much of what side of the fence a person lands on has to do with their politics, background, and of course, the situation they are experiencing at the moment.

Especially interesting is the ongoing debate about the legalization of marijuana. Some believe rapidly changing laws that now make weed legal in a couple states and its use as a medicine legal in 23 is the work of the devil himself.

Others are equally passionate when they declare this gradual decriminalization of marijuana is a godsend.

When I read the story we published a week ago on how law enforcement is reacting to the new Illinois law, one quote jumped out at me: that of Limey Nargelenas, spokesman for the Illinois Association of Police Chiefs:

“Medicinal marijuana. think that’s a misnomer. It’s not medicine.”

Among those who agree is Judy Kreamer of Naperville, who heads the national group Educating Voices Inc. that has spent the last decade battling the legalization of marijuana.

Among her many concerns: the new law allows 18-year-olds to get medical marijuana cards without parental permission, and that a loophole in the law qualifies pain as a debilitating medical condition, something that can easily be feigned.

She and others like here are especially concerned the law does not limit THC levels. Marijuana growers and users are constantly trying to increase the potency and there is nothing in the law preventing it, they say.

Some THC levels are now running 25 percent, they insist, which has morphed marijuana into a “hardcore drug.”

Now compare those statements to the words of Randy Gross, who moved his family from Naperville to Colorado nine months ago for one reason: to give his young son a fighting chance at life.

Gross stated in a letter to the editor, and later in an interview with reporter Erika Wurst, that his son’s neurologist tried nine different medications to control the epileptic seizures that were so frequent, he couldn’t function past the level of an 18-month-old.

The cannabis oil they were able to get in Colorado, Gross insisted, cut their son’s seizures by 60 percent.

Declaring that “Ignorance is no longer an excuse for law enforcement or anyone else,” Gross also fired off a letter to the Illinois Association of Chief of Police demanding the group recant the statement.

“My son, and hundreds of others, do indeed use marijuana as medicine, recommended by neurologists from around the country and the world,” he wrote. “Further, there are several drugs in the market today that take advantage of cannabis, and a slew of others coming.”

“I truly hope that Mr. Nargelenas’ opinion is his own,” he added, “because as a shared opinion, it marginalizes science in favor of fear.”

Another statement from law enforcement stands out for a different reason for me, this one from Kane County Sheriff Pat Perez in a previous column I wrote about the changing law.

Perez is in the home stretch of a career spent in the trenches watching the effect of illicit drugs on individuals, families and communities. Yet he couldn’t help but wonder how medical marijuana would have eased his own father’s suffering from cancer when morphine had no effect on the pain.

Hard core drug or life enhancing medicine? It’s a debate framed in black and white.

Yet the picture remains surrounded in a swirl of gray.

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