If the purpose of medicine — the practice and the substance — is to alleviate human suffering, then the continued prohibition of the medical use of marijuana makes no sense at all.
It is true that, as a natural substance with a mostly undeserved reputation as a demon defiler of innocent youth, marijuana has not been subjected to the kinds of Big Pharma-funded clinical trials that are given to other medicines. You know, like the opiates and other expensive prescription drugs that have spread addiction and death throughout the land.
But as enough people suffer, or watch loved ones suffer, from ailments ranging from glaucoma to seizures, as well as from the brutal side effects of such accepted medical practices as chemotherapy, more and more of us are starting to grasp the concept that, if there is a naturally occurring, plant-based substance that can relieve pain and distress, it would be morally indefensible to ban its use.
That would appear to be the common-sense results of a recent Salt Lake Tribune poll that shows a bare majority of Utah adults would favor allowing the use of medical marijuana.
The conclusion that this 51 percent majority is truly interested in helping the sick, and not just indulging in trendy hedonistic practices, is supported by the fact that only 27 percent of that same sample would favor the total legalization of the recreational use of pot.
It makes perfect sense to let the states where the voters have approved of it, Colorado and Washington, give this whole weed legalization thing a whirl while the rest of us stand back and watch what happens.
Meanwhile, Utah can and should take the much more measured approach, already being pursued in several states, of allowing the use of various forms and derivatives of cannabis to ease the symptoms of chemotherapy, glaucoma, arthritis and whatever other maladies it might ease.
Any such effort would be complicated and subject to abuse. It will be strenuously opposed, not just by those who are understandably uncomfortable about such a rapid shift in how this substance is viewed, but particularly by the well-heeling pharmaceutical giants who run the risk of losing considerable business to a substance that can be nurtured in a window box rather than mass-produced in big, expensive factories.
It would be futile to argue that some of the marijuana made legally available to the sick won’t find its way to those who have no legitimate medical need. But the benefit to those who have a real need is potentially too great to ignore.