Showtime documentary explores world of medical marijuana

Josh Nicolay

In order for a documentary to be somewhat interesting, a stir of controversy is absolutely necessary.

Showtime’s July 9 documentary “In Pot We Trust” does just that: gives a comprehensive look at the issue of medicinal marijuana. For many Americans, the questions raised by the film are an accurate portrayal of the current struggle between the legalities of marijuana use and its medical benefits in regards to terminal illnesses.

The documentary aims to shed light on the stigmas, the discrepancies and the arguments both for and against marijuana as a medicinal substance. A central figure throughout the film’s duration is Marijuana Policy Project lobbyist Aaron Houston and his journey around the nation’s capitol lobbying the 2006 Hinchey-Rohrabacher Amendment.

The Hinchey-Rohrabacher Amendment was aimed to prohibit the Department of Justice from prosecuting patients who use marijuana for medicinal purposes, thereby curtailing the federal government’s involvement in medicinal practices.

Although the amendment was ultimately shot down by a 163-259 vote in the House the results of Hinchey-Rohrabacher revealed that the controversy surrounding the medicinal marijuana argument is slowly starting make an about-face. “This is how it works: you gain ground, you hold it, and try to gain more ground next time around,” says Houston.

The problem facing many of the pro-medical advocates is the opposing side’s reliance on traditional typecasts for the common marijuana user. Prohibitionist groups tend to have the preconceived notion that marijuana users universally conform to the stereotypical “stoner” of yesteryear, but for many Americans, marijuana is the relief to daily pain resulting from a terminal illness that isn’t readily treated by prescription drugs.

“It’s a matter of choice,” said Washburn sophomore Collin McCarter. “If patients want to use it, they should be able to.”

Patients with a variety of ailments ranging from cancer to AIDS have found that marijuana can treat a variety of their symptoms, including pain, loss of appetite, and nausea and vomiting.

“It seems to have very good applications which can be useful for a variety of ailments,” said Washburn Student Health Service staff M.D. Iris Gonzalez. “There certainly are situations in which decriminalization for medicinal purposes would be useful.”

Irvin Rosenfeld, one of 13 legal medical marijuana patients in the United States, was a central figure in the documentary.

“What [marijuana] means to me is that I don’t have to worry about medicine,” says Rosenfeld. “I know that I’ll be as well as I can be and I don’t have to worry about having someone bust down my door because of my medicine.”

While many people take a fervent stance with the medical marijuana crowd, many feel it ultimately could be a waste of time.

“If other means are currently available that offer the same benefits, then it’s kind of pointless to waste time trying to pass legislation,” said Washburn senior Kyle Sissom.

Even though the slippery slope argument tends to be the basis for the cookie cutter counter against medicinal legalization, the fact remains that although marijuana does have the potential for abuse on the recreational level, so do many of the schedule II and III drugs available at any local pharmacy.

The line of reasoning about the issue of medicinal marijuana legalization needs to stem from an in-depth weighing of the benefits and damages in regard to medical benefits and not from an overly sensational adherence to unfounded laws.

John McWhorter, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research and documentary interviewee, asserts that “we always seem to drag along the baggage of history to the point that we don’t even know that it’s baggage, and those seem to be the hardest kind of policies to get rid of because they seem normal.”

In all reality, the issue of whether marijuana should be legal for medicinal purposes needs to rest solely on the shoulders of those who will genuinely benefit from its legalization.

“We’re the faces of the patient,” said Rosenfeld in the film. “We’re the people who are suffering and need this medicine. It’s just not fair to be made a criminal to get our medicine.”