Friday, May 24, 2013

The Laughing Shroud Award

Eighteen states and the District of Columbia
now have medical marijuana laws.
The Shroud Award is an award that is presented at the end of every Alabama legislative session. It goes to the representative who introduced what was considered the deadest bill of the legislative session. This year’s award went to Representative Patricia Todd of D-Birmingham for presenting House Bills 2, 315 and 550. These proposals were variously to authorize the medical use of marijuana and legalized cannabis for personal use. For some background and implications of the 2013 award:
Palliative care is care that is provided to relieve suffering for the seriously ill, the terminally ill, people facing life-threatening illnesses, and those who already know they are facing the end of their life. Cancer is an example where palliative care might provide some level of respite from that pain and suffering. Other examples of diseases where palliative care might provide some level of respite include HIV AIDS, Crohn’s disease and multiple sclerosis. Many of the current palliative treatment options add side effects to the suffering that these patients are already enduring. Medical marijuana is a proven, no side effect palliative care option for these as well as other diseases.

In the 2013 Alabama Legislative Session, which ended this past week, Representative Patricia Todd of Birmingham introduced bills to allow for the medical use of marijuana in Alabama. She also introduced a bill that would have included the recreational use of marijuana. Could be that was part of the problem. 
Representative Patricia Todd

None of the bills passed. To commemorate her efforts with the introduction of these bills, what the legislative body thought of her efforts, and the thousands of emails and phone calls that they received from their Alabama constituents in support of the medical marijuana bills, Representative Todd received the 2013 Shroud Award, more aptly named the Laughing Shroud Award, for the deadest piece of legislation of the session. 

Our state representatives had a really good laugh at her expense. If it wasn’t for the fact that this these bills were introduced to provide a viable, comparatively low cost, no side effect method to relieve the suffering of terminally ill patients, the roast would have been funny. Anybody who has ever held the hand of a terminally ill loved one with the full knowledge and awareness that the best and most effective way to relieve their suffering was not available to them because our Alabama politicians think it is a joke. I don’t even know how to complete that thought. The laughing shroud perhaps?

I spent over a month of the last year in the hospital, hooked up to various tubes and devices. It was months before I could eat again. I survived, but I could not imagine what kind of person would have laughed at me when I was in that condition. Would any of us laugh at a family member or loved one when they are in that kind of condition? Would any of us say, well, no, the best treatment is a joke in these parts? We would not do that. None of us would, we would want the best care for our loved ones. And once more, the shroud laughs, “But you can’t have it.”

I was lucky, I was not in a condition to need such, but if I had been, when the time comes, if I feel the need, I would like to have the option available. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that if it had reached the point where it was the end, and I did need relief, who in their right mind would not want the best treatment options available for themselves or their family members. Marijuana has been part of the pharmacopeia of the world for thousands of years. And in many cases, for many ailments, it has been regarded as the treatment of choice for just as long. 

In the last century, I want to say some do-gooder politicians, but it wasn’t some do-gooder politicians at all, the whole thing was started by Harry J. Anslinger, whose job had been enforcing alcohol prohibition. When alcohol prohibition ended, it was to the relief of just about everybody in the country, except Harry J. Anslinger. Since his career had been in enforcing alcohol prohibition, he was seriously concerned about his career prospects so he decided it would be a good idea to criminalize marijuana and that would be the next prohibition. So he launched a very successful campaign to do just that. 

Alcohol prescription form from the 1920s,
If Harry J. Anslinger was a joke, it’d be funny; but it wasn’t a joke. Nothing he ever did was a joke. The whole country knew what a mistake alcohol prohibition was, so when that ended, while everybody was still celebrating the end of alcohol prohibition, he started the campaign for the second wave of prohibition and that was marijuana. For as much good and as many uses as marijuana had in the pharmacopeia, it would make as much sense as criminalizing aspirin or cough syrup today. The thing is, if there was a real need, alcohol was still available by prescription during prohibition. How naive can we as a people be?

Now, they are laughing at Representative Todd for trying to do something about it. The thing is, they were not just laughing at her. They were laughing at every terminally ill patient in this state, they were laughing at every multiple sclerosis patient, cancer patient who has ever experienced the retching nausea of chemotherapy, every dying AIDs patient. They were laughing at every family member who has ever sat by the side of a dying loved one and watched as the last pained breaths of their life was covered by the shroud of death. And the Laughing Shroud Award of 2013 was supposed to be a joke on Representative Patricia Todd

These bills were not a joke. They were laughing at us all.

For more information see:
This article was updated May, 26, 2013.

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