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Russell Shaw Headshot

How do you spell relief? The Supreme Court says "N-O"

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After an all-too-short lifetime of too many cigarettes and a daily Scotch to drown her day's worth of suffering fools, my friend who I will call Ellen spent her last days in a hospice.

The year was 1996. The chemo took her hair. The mutant cells caused by the evil nicotine made their final course through her body. After the painkillers started to lose their potency, Ellen cried out to her sister for something that might help her ease the pain.

For you see, Ellen remembered a happier time, 20 years prior, when she would smoke one or two of those cigarettes without logos, start to giggle, make love to a reggae song, and fall asleep next to her future husband - who was my best friend. She had given up those plants in favor of a responsible career path and motherhood, but she longed for what they had once brought her.

Relief from the suffering she did not deserve.

Today, the U.S. Supreme Court effectively said that states have the right to sentence the desperate and aching to jail. The rationale was that federal law, which prohibits the prescription and consumption of marijuana for pain relief, trumps state statutes that countenance such use.

To rectify the situation, the federal law would have to be changed. I don't think this likely in the short term. Why? Many lawmakers and members of this Administration are partial to big pharma - who look askance at rival pain relief remedies. Many older voters, who still turn out in proportionately greater numbers than younger citizens, still view marijuana as evil.

And, tonight's lead item on the local news will probably be about a meth or oxycontin bust where pot was also found.

But we are not talking about pot for consumption by dreadlocked skater boys in your local town square. We are talking about pot that could well provide relief for another Ellen, maybe even your aunt, mother, father. Or you.

But the Supreme Court said "no."

The hypocrisy of medical marijuana opponents is even more galling. Largely drawn from the "conservative" side of the aisle, many of these same people clamored for compassionate care for Terry Schiavo. And yes, many of the same people who would deny a joint to some poor groaning bone-cancer sufferer in the back room of the hospice would also be opposed to price-caps for drugs they would like to see the dying take.

Do you agree with me on this? I'd say your next task would be to take your advocacy to those who might be swayed on moral and religious grounds,but do not fall into traditional "liberal" stereotypecasting.

I'd like to see the medical marijuana equivalent of the Shoah Project-recorded testimonials from victims of the Holocaust. Think about it-members of your community going to hospices and recording testimonials from those whose pain-wracked last days were helped by medical pot.

Sadly, Ellen was denied that chance. After her death on a Christmas Eve at 48, she no longer needs it.

But I think you do, or will, know someone who might. The next time you drive past the hospital, or hospice, given yourself 10 seconds for your thoughts. Hear the screams from within those walls, and imagine those screams - muffled by pricey pharmaceuticals, but still tortured.