The political atmosphere around marijuana has changed. It used to be a slam dunk to make fun of marijuana users — even medical marijuana patients — but a recent drama which played out in Washington state showed how much that has changed. A Republican candidate for U.S. Senate has been forced to “clarify” a series of tasteless jokes he made at the expense of medical marijuana research and patients.
“Last week, Republican Dino Rossi issued an extremely immature and thoughtless press release criticizing federally funded research being conducted at Washington State University into marijuana’s effect on pain medication,” said Mike Meno of the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP).
The two-year study, by psychology professor Michael Morgan, involves injecting rats with synthetic cannabinoids and opiates in order to research their combined actions in order to find ways to improve treatment for people suffering from chronic pain.
“Rather than emphasize the great need for this type of research, as well as the proven efficacy of marijuana in helping to manage pain, Rossi decided to revert to hackneyed and unoriginal middle-school level humor,” Meno said.
“Washington state taxpayers are tired of their money going up in smoke,” Rossi was quoted as saying in a release issued by his office. “This bill isn’t going to stimulate anything other than sales of Cheetos.”
“It’s odd that Rossi thinks he knows more about good research than these neuroscientists,” responded Morgan, who received $148,438 in federal stimulus funds from the National Institutes of Health.
“It would have been nice if Rossi had checked his facts before trashing research that could be very beneficial,” Morgan said. “There are millions of Americans suffering from chronic pain. Is Rossi arguing that we should not do research to find better ways to reduce this suffering?”
Just one day later, a chagrined spokesman for Rossi was put on the defensive, and tried to backtrack by claiming “no judgment was made [by the campaign] on the validity of the research.”
“This last development is important for one major reason,” Meno said. “After years of being considered a third-rail issue that politicians were free to scorn, more candidates and officials are now waking to the reality that marijuana reform issues — and medical marijuana in particular — are very, very popular among voters.”
“As the Rossi campaign has discovered, the most controversial thing about medical marijuana nowadays can be opposing it,” Meno said.
Nationally, 81 percent of Americans support medical marijuana.
So why did Rossi even put on such an embarrassing sideshow?
Maybe he wanted to draw attention away from the fact that he was recently named to a list of the 11 Most Crooked Candidates in the entire nation put together by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.