Medical pot: the right prescription

It’s tragic that providing marijuana to suffering people, some of whom are not long for this world, is federally illegal.

It is a matter of common sense to provide sick people with medicine prescribed by their doctors. No one would yank away morphine from a trauma patient. No one would take away Vicodin from a man or woman recovering from surgery.

Those are both heavy narcotics, addictive and, in high doses, fatal. Marijuana is none of that. Why the prohibition? Who among us has the temerity to deliver a lecture to a patient with inoperable brain tumors or ravaged by cancer that he or she isn’t entitled to the medicine that makes life livable and was prescribed by a doctor?

Along with tikkun olam, the biblical phrase “Justice, justice shall you pursue” from Deuteronomy is one of the all-time great clichés for well-meaning Jews involved in social programs. But just because it’s an overused phrase doesn’t mean it’s not applicable.

It is an injustice when sick and dying people’s homes are invaded and their medicine is carried off. It’s an injustice when the people using or supplying the medication are tried and sentenced to punishments befitting drug barons. And, even for those not at risk of incarceration, it’s an injustice that responsible people who simply wish to fight physical ailments are forced to define themselves as criminals and live under a cloud.

Inspired by the Bay Area branch of the Women of Reform Judaism, the Reform movement took a stance in favor of medical marijuana years ago. In 1996, the East Bay Council of Rabbis (which includes rabbis of all denominations) unanimously supported Proposition 215, which legalized medical marijuana.

We Jews like to think we’re different from everyone else, but national polls show a heavy majority of Americans also favor medical marijuana. This is clearly a concept whose time has come.

Certainly someone is benefiting from draconian marijuana laws that often treat casual users more harshly than violent criminals. Prison guard unions, pharmaceutical companies and career drug warriors seem to have a vested interest in keeping marijuana 100 percent illegal.

But sick and dying Americans are the ones who are hurt. If standing up for the rights of the weak, the helpless and the diseased is a Jewish value, then this is a Jewish issue.

And it should be a galvanizing issue. If Judaism is to remain strong and honest, “Justice, justice shall you pursue” must cease to be a cliché and start to become an obligation.