Celebrities are notorious for canceling charity commitments at the last moment. Not Montel Williams, not for medical marijuana. Despite being in visible agony, despite having had to fly in after attending a relative's funeral, Williams showed up and gave an impassioned speech defending patients' rights to use cannabis medicinally.
The talk show host -- who noted with pride the renewal of his show and its staying power -- has multiple sclerosis and has found that marijuana is the only thing that can even touch the severe pain he suffers. But the day of the benefit for the Marijuana Policy Project last week was, he said, his voice cracking, "a bad day."
Williams noted that he'd served America for 22 years in the Navy. "I've laid my life on the line for the country I love," he said, "And now I get called a dope addict and a criminal? The hypocrisy is beyond belief."
He said that he takes 54 pills every morning and 54 in the evening, and his children watch. He cried. He went on, "They don't go through my drawers to find my pot."
One of his children was given detention for suggesting that marijuana was medicine at his private school. As he told the story, his frustration was viscerally apparent.
He added however, that he is the drug warriors' worst nightmare -- because he has long demonstrated his commitment to keep drugs away from children and because his service to his country is uncontested. The drug czar's office was apparently so shaken by his testimony in favor of a medical marijuana law being considered by New Jersey that it sent someone in to try to mitigate it.
Williams also made clear his disgust with the media and with other celebrities and politicians who privately support him but will not "come out." I share that: with 2/3 of the public supporting medical marijuana and with the availability of far more harmful drugs like cocaine for medical use, the political posturing and the fact that we are even having a debate over it is bizarre in the 21st century.
To me, he struck only one false note -- ending his presentation by comparing people "drooling in the corner on morphine" with those experiencing the milder side effects of marijuana. But this is unfair: opioids like morphine help numerous pain patients to function perfectly normally, no drooling or nodding involved. Just because opioids don't work for him, Williams shouldn't add to these patients' difficulties in getting what they need to try to help him end his own.
The House is apparently set to vote next week on a bill -- Hinchey-Rohrabacher Medical Marijuana Amendment -- that would stop the DEA from busting patients for medical marijuana use in states that now allow it. This link allows people to email their representatives to urge them to vote in favor of it.
And then, perhaps, someone can draft legislation to get the DEA out of opioid prescribing prosecutions as well.
Note: I'm off to Denver to speak at the International Cultic Studies Association about the way tough love schools use coercive persuasion tactics to push parents into sending their kids to fraudulent and dangerous programs and to convince kids that the programs have "saved their lives." This article is a good introduction to the subject and cites my book, Help at Any Cost: How the Troubled-Teen Industry Cons Parents and Hurts Kids. Back next week!