Melissa Etheridge: Pot Saved Me! Legalize It!
Singer Melissa Etheridge was moved by the recent ACLU report, "The War on Marijuana in Black and White: Billions of Dollars Wasted on Racially Biased Arrests," outlining why marijuana reform is necessary now. In an Op-Ed for cnn.com, the singer tells her story of how medical marijuana saved her during a very dark time—is still helping her—and why the drug war, which has ruined so many lives, needs to end.
In 2004, when Etheridge was diagnosed with breast cancer, she opted for particularly strong "dose dense" chemotherapy, partly because she had the luxury of not working while in treatment.
"My close friends told me that, as an alternative, medical marijuana was a natural way to help with the excruciating side effects of chemo," she writes. "It worked. The entire experience changed my life. It opened my mind to a new way of thinking about my body, my health and the future.
"This herb, this weed that is so strong it grows wild by the side of the road, has always been with us. In ancient times it was highly regarded and has even been found in tombs. It has even been put forth from some biblical scholars that Jesus may have used cannabis oil to heal."
Etheridge admits she was a pretty straight arrow in terms of drug use up until then (some rock star!) But using it every day during chemo it helped her appetite so she was able to keep her strength up, helped with depression and eased her stomach pain.
"I have been a medicinal marijuana smoker for nine years now. I find relief from the gastrointestinal effects of the chemo even now. I find it helps with regulating my sleep. I also enjoy it before I watch 'Game of Thrones,'" she writes. "The state of fear in which these laws were created has changed. Educated people have experienced pot or they understand that research has shown that while marijuana use is not entirely safe, its dangers have been grossly overstated."
But she's not advocating marijuana use for all. After all, as she points out, she is the mother of teenage children, and has to negotiate the tricky question of why it's okay for her to smoke pot and not them. Here's her answer: "I have found a way to inform my children that the growing adolescent brain reacts differently to cannabis and studies have shown that the benefits an adult brain experiences are actually detrimental to the growing teenage brain. Common sense tells me that kids smoking pot is not a good idea. Just like sex, you can handle it when you are mature enough to respect it."
She then compares the debate about same-sex marriage with the dialogue about ending pot prohibition and concludes, rousingly:
"We have arrived at the tipping point of understanding that true freedom is the ability of a nation to handle diversity.
These days our society is experiencing a new open-mindedness. We are beginning to break away from the old fears that governed our parents' world. We do not automatically fear someone because of the color of his or her skin. We do not fear for our children if homosexuals are living in the neighborhood. And we do not fear that smoking pot will necessarily lead to a life of ruin.
I believe it is time to shine a light on the old "Reefer Madness" fears. Let's legitimize cannabis sales so that our youth are as protected from illegal pot as they are from illegal alcohol and tobacco sales. Legitimize the growers so that pot can have regulations and I know I am supporting American businesses and not outlaws when I purchase it.
The legalization of pot is making sense. It will create a real business form and take the lawlessness out of its sale and distribution.
The ACLU report on racial bias in pot possession arrests is enlightening. The fact that people of color are arrested four times more often than whites is disturbing. This imbalance is coming to a head. We can be the generation that makes the change. We live in a nation that holds freedom as a sacred right.
Our great Constitution challenges us to grow constantly Let's put an end to marijuana prohibition and get clear regulations on the legal sale of pot. The benefits might surprise us."
Sing it, Melissa!