Saturday, April 21, 2007

Moral Legislation

Illinois State Senator John Cullerton, Democrat of Chicago, is sponsoring legislation in committee that, should it pass, would make Illinois the thirteenth state to legalize medical marijuana.

The bill currently in committee would allow those suffering from “debilitating” medical conditions to cultivate up to 12 cannabis plants and possess up to 2.5 ounces of smokable marijuana for personal use.

Senator Cullerton is getting some unexpected support as clergy members sign on, staking out moral territory by citing the desired end of alleviating human suffering as the basis of their support.

Some opposed to passage of the law come off as condescending and vapid – to say the least.

"I think they're using the compassion of people who don't understand what the goal is,'' said Anita Bedell of the Illinois Church Action on Alcohol & Addiction Problems, the group leading the fight against the bill.

How offensive is that? Poor gullible people of faith, poor little lambs, taken in by the big bad pusher man!

Somehow, this just doesn’t strike me as the words of a gullible schmoe who has been *taken in*:

"It's simply morally wrong to punish people for making an earnest attempt at healing,'' said Tyler Smith, spokesman for the Interfaith Drug Policy Initiative, the Washington-based group behind the religious campaign to pass the bill.

The letter from religious leaders supporting legalized medical marijuana states: "Our religious values of compassion, mercy, and justice compel us to ask that you vote yes on the medical marijuana bill." It was e-mailed to Illinois senators several weeks ago.

Smith acknowledges that when it comes to marijuana use, some people feel it is just inherently wrong. He maintains, however, that it is wrong to send people to prison for using marijuana to alleviate pain.

"It takes religious leaders taking a stand for people to really understand that,'' he said.

These ministers don’t sound gullible either:

"It comes down to, what do we think God is up to?'' said Pastor Bob Hillenbrand of First Presbyterian Church of Rockford. He said his own belief was in "a God of compassion, and therefore also of healing.''


Pastor Robert C. Morwell of Union United Methodist Church in Quincy said he had never used marijuana nor had any desire to. "But I think it's a little silly to say we can prescribe morphine … and other drugs that are more addictive,'' but not marijuana, he said.

Cullerton acknowledges that he only has, at present, 20 of the 30 Senate votes needed to pass the bill and send it to the House chamber for consideration. He dismissed concerns that it would lower the barriers to access of marijuana for recreational drug users, pointing out that the barriers now are pretty darn easy to surmount, and they don’t have to hassle with visiting the doctor. (Which probably costs more than the weed thy are looking to score anyway!)

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