As someone who has experienced the lows of a disease like cancer, Alexander Porter is all for the highs that medical marijuana can bring in assisting serious illness.
In a recent letter to talk-back radio host Alan Jones, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott threw his support behind the legalisation of medical marijuana. Citing the 20 American states that have made the decision to legalise medicinal marijuana, Abbott suggested that no further testing be required and that he had “no problem with the medical use of cannabis”. Yet for the support of our ultra-conservative leader, there remains large swathes of the country who oppose such an action, with a recent poll revealing a third of our population still reject the idea.
However, the opportunity for real change is at hand as a proposed bill is to be put before Parliament which, if approved, will see the Federal Government oversee the production and distribution of medical marijuana for patients with chronic pain or illnesses.
Where does the right answer lie, though, and just how necessary is weed for helping the treatment of illnesses like cancer?
There are many people who have smoked a hell of a lot of weed throughout their lives, but have never had chemotherapy. There are likely to be other people who have endured chemotherapy and who have never touched illicit drugs. As someone who has lived on either side of that fence I feel the ability to comment on the medical marijuana debate in a fair and impartial way, a perspective that isn’t simply indulging in the “lazy stoner” stigma of those who want weed legalised in general and which doesn’t pander to the conservative tee-totalling agenda of those who would prefer to see the sins of marijuana erased from existence.
To sum up in the most succinct way possible, those who think marijuana should not be made medically available are living so far out of touch with reality it isn’t even funny.
I was 18 years old when I first felt the kiss of Mary Jane, indulging in a poorly-drawn puff or two of weed with my high school friends in a dimly-lit backyard. Despite the initial coughs and the sharp burning sensation stinging the back of my throat it was a wholly enjoyable experience and one I was to repeat throughout my adult life. The thrill of letting go and embracing the childlike joy that weed gave me was always a rush and with every cone punched or joint pulled, my real world problems seemed so far away as to not even matter.
Within two years, I was diagnosed with cancer. Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (AML) to be precise; a disease that threatened to take away everything I had, from my university studies, to my Wednesday nights at the pub, to my life. The 244 days that followed included seven rounds of chemotherapy across eight months, each one as painfully endured as the last and without indulging in hyperbole, it was a truly hellish experience on this Earth. Imagine the worst hangover of your existence and multiply it by 10, add a dash of sadness, a pinch of terror and let it cook for 24 hours, and you might get some idea of the resulting feeling from chemotherapy. At the time, I had the option of daily injections to improve my nausea or nothing. While I chose the injection every time, I might as well have chosen nothing as it seemed to do precisely that, nothing, to alleviate the pain.
Feeling chemotherapy course through your veins is the ultimate slap in the face. A product designed to save your life does so by bringing you to your knees to achieve it. The idea that we could provide patients enduring this pain a method with which to relieve themselves, even in some small way, and choose NOT to do so boggles the mind. It is anathema to the ideas of civility and morality that frame so many other decisions we make as a society.
It is very easy to look down on something. In fact, humans in general have made an art form out of disparaging, discouraging and demeaning each other to the point that we question absolutely everything we do, from the way we dress to the choices we make about our own sexuality. For this reason I don’t begrudge the naysayers who think medical marijuana should not be the next logical step forward, it is their right to be small minded and afraid of change. I will however lend my voice to the chorus that grows ever louder all the time, not just asking for change on this issue but demanding it.
I’m not so naïve as to think the effects of marijuana would mirror my youthful experiences in a poorly lit backyard, with sporadic fits of laughter in between staring up at the stars and trying to name them all. In fact, I’m quite certain the magnitude of a cancer struggle would remain a heavy weight on the patient. However, if that same patient’s nausea lessened just a minute amount, it is worth it. If that patient gets even a modicum of enjoyment from their day that wouldn’t have otherwise occurred, then it is worth it. If just a single damn smile escapes the lips of that patient, a smile that would have been otherwise lost, then it is so definitively, and powerfully worth it.
At the end of the day, an issues’ importance is only as powerful as the people who espouse it. What remains a vital and influential topic of discussion for some is simply not worth the time of others. Nevertheless when the topic of medical marijuana is broached, there is simply no denying the fact that legalisation is necessary, as someone who smokes weed, as someone who’s had chemo, there is no discussion to be had, only a positive outcome to be reached. The sooner those with the power realise this, the better.
There is nothing wrong with a puff of weed.
There is no shame in fighting cancer.
Yet there is everything wrong with keeping the two separate for a single moment longer.
It is time to legalise medical marijuana now.
(If you missed it, read Alexander’s original piece about his struggle with cancer published on TBS – Cancer: A surefire way to ruin your day…)
To celebrate being a year old we want you, the readers, to help us decide the articles you loved best during our first year – and to encourage you to participate, we are giving away three prizes!
All you have to do is look through our archives of content and email us your favourite article – and also if you want, the one you weren’t so up with. From the submissions, we will assess the most-loved content from our first year and republish it at the end of our birthday month.
Both writers and readers are encouraged to enter (no, Paris, you cannot nominate your own articles…#justsaying), so please email us at [email protected] by Nov 30 to enter! Please include your name, address and mobile number.
And the prizes are…(did we mention there are prizes…?)
First prize: A brilliant acting course based in Sydney and hosted by Darlo Drama worth $550!
Second prize: A gift pack from our friends at Booktopia
Third prize: Four movie passes
(Plus, watch out for a couple of other competitions during our birthday month!)