Column - Coming Out of the Closet by Ashley H. Clements Editor's note - Copyright 2002
It takes courage to admit to consuming cannabis. The risk of losing all we love and own, tends to discourage the practice. Slowly, but surely, people are growing tired. Tired of wearing the criminal label. Tired of living in pain. Tired of living in fear. The following is the first of what is hoped to be many contributions to this column.
Please copy and distribute freely. 2/27/2023 Dear President Bush, My name is Ashley Clements. I am 48 years old and live in Atlanta, Georgia. I am writing today about the war on drugs and the effect it has on tens of millions of honest, otherwise law-abiding Americans. I first smoked cannabis as a teenager in 1969. I still use cannabis today. In my 32 years of sporadic use of cannabis I have the following criminal record: No arrests, indictments, or convictions for murder, robbery, burglary, rape, sexual or child molestation, DUI, assault, battery, selling drugs, or growing cannabis: no arrests, indictments, or convictions for anything. If there were truly a link between personal use of cannabis and crime, then surely in 32 years I would have become the violent dangerous criminal that it is implied I am, simply because I use cannabis. I don't use cocaine, crack, heroin, amphetamines or barbiturates. If the "gateway" theory (cannabis use inevitably leads to hard drugs use) were correct I would surely be addicted to all of these hard drugs by now. I use cannabis; this is my only "crime." Alcohol and tobacco are addicting, and readily available, yet usage has been reduced over the last 4 decades by means of public opinion, public service announcements, medical and scientific education and the real "truth" about these drugs. There were 400,000 plus deaths from tobacco uses last year. There were 100,000 plus deaths from alcohol last year. Yet, in 63 years of cannabis prohibition there has not been one (meaning zero - zilch - nada - none) death from cannabis. Billions of dollars have been spent to criminalize me, yet millions of dollars of research have not found a single death caused by cannabis. The debate on drugs has been kept one-sided too long. Honest Americans are afraid to admit they use medicinal cannabis for fear of criminal persecution. No, I don't mean prosecution I do mean persecution! The persecution that could have cost me an outstanding career as an educator, that could remove my driver's license without so much as an accusation of DUI, and that could allow my money and property to be seized, all without any criminal charges proven or even filed. I am not afraid anymore. I use cannabis. Does it impair my ability to express myself in a straightforward, articulate manner? If you want to put this cripple in prison remember these facts: it will take limited court and police resources to prosecute me, it will cost much to incarcerate me, my medical situation will require treatment at public expense, and a violent criminal may have to be released in order to put a harmless man in. Basically, it comes to this: AM I REALLY WORTH THE COST? The Partnership for a Drug Free America says "tell the truth about marijuana." Well, I just have. You have my confession: "I use cannabis." I am disabled and though my disability is something that medicinal cannabis will treat, I am denied the right to have this medicine legally. My doctors are denied the right to prescribe cannabis, though they may prescribe opiates (pain medications) at will. Crude cannabis has been shown to have medicinal value not available in any other medicine. Proven with federal money, no less! I ask you to refer to the Institute of Medicine review of medicinal cannabis research at http://www.nap.edu/readingroom/books/marimed/ . Cannabis is listed as a Schedule 1 dangerous drug, allegedly having NO medical uses. How many spinal injury and MS patients have to tell how cannabis relieves their spasms and pain, how many AIDS and cancer patients have to tell of its efficacy in fighting nausea and the "wasting syndrome" and how many physicians must advocate its medicinal use before the lie is put to the Schedule 1 classification? In 1988, after an extensive 2 year review of medicinal cannabis research, Drug Enforcement Agency Administrative Law Judge Francis Young stated that medicinal cannabis is "the safest therapeutically active substance known to man" and that depriving the sick of this medicine is "unreasonable, arbitrary and capricious." Judge Young ruled that cannabis should be removed from Schedule 1 only to be subsequently overruled by the DEA. Now, 13 years later, Congress will have a unique opportunity to enable tens of thousands of sick and disabled Americans to have access to medicinal cannabis under existing federal law. Please have your Administration expedite passage of HR 1344, the "States Rights to Medical Marijuana" bill that will finally allow medicinal cannabis to be prescribed by qualified physicians and available to qualified patients in the many states that have already passed Medicinal Cannabis legislation and the many more states which will pass Medicinal Cannabis legislation in the very near future. Only your Administration can do the right thing about this, and we, the many patients with a legitimate need for medicinal cannabis, may not be able to live without your compassion in what for many of us is a matter of life and death. Do the right thing, President Bush. Give us medicine and compassion, not propaganda and prisons! Ashley Howard Clements
1416 Brookvalley Lane
Atlanta Georgia 30324
Author's LinksMedia Awareness Project - A worldwide network dedicated to drug policy reform through informing public opinion and promoting balanced media coverage.
DrugSense.Org - We exist to provide accurate information relevant to drug policy in order to heighten awareness of the extreme damage being caused to our nation and the world by our current flawed and failed "War on Drugs." We aim to inform the public of the existence of rational alternatives to the drug war, and to help organize citizens to bring about needed reforms.
November Coalition - We are a growing body of citizens whose lives have been gravely affected by our government's present drug policy. We are prisoners, parents of those incarcerated, wives, sisters, brothers, children, aunts, uncles and cousins. Some of us are loving friends and concerned citizens, each of us concerned that drug war casualties are rising in absolutely horrific proportions.
Fear.Org - Forfeiture Endangers American Rights is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to reform of federal and state asset forfeiture laws to restore due process and protect property rights in the forfeiture process. Forfeiture Endangers American Rights.
Editor's note -