Electric EDGE
Web Edition of The Ragged Edge
March/April 1997
Electric Edge


FDR Memorial battle presses on

On May 1, the FDR Memorial will open on the Mall in Washington -- minus Roosevelt in a wheelchair.

Protracted wrangling, meetings and public debate have not swayed the Roosevelt Memorial Commission.

Following the rally at the U.S. Supreme Court, reports Justice For All, 25 disability activists, led by "FDR in a Wheelchair" Campaign Director Jim Dickson and Pat Wright of the Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund, trooped over to the offices of the Commission. Rather than meet with the group, the Commission shut its office, says JFA.

The group shoved a message under the Commission's door, calling for "bronze memorial, not a spray painted one, that commemorates FDR in his wheelchair, showing that the country he served as president is proud of him, disability and all."

In a fortuitous chance meeting in the hall with Commission co-chair Sen. Daniel Inouye (D.- HI) -- recorded for posterity by activist and photographer Michael Reynolds (below) -- the group called a statue of FDR in a wheelchair "essential."

Demonstrators meet Sen. Inouye Sen. Inouye reads demonstrators' statement


Pressure your congressperson and senator for a statue of Roosevelt in a wheelchair, urges Jim Dickson of the National Organization on Disability; insist that this "largely taxpayer-funded memorial" have at least one statue of FDR in his wheelchair. "The symbolism of exclusion will exist years from now, unless we act," says Justice for All. Write letters, and then contact Jim Dixon at N.O.D. at (202) 293-5950, TDD (202) 293-7999; email to Dickson@essential.org.

Deaf win
at Walt

Walt Disney World agreed in January to add sign-language interpreters, captioning systems and other audio-visual aids for more than 100 moving rides, parades and staged performances, according to an announcement by the Justice Department. The agreement was reached under the Americans With Disabilities Act. (See the Jan./Feb. Ragged Edge.) The agreement covers The Magic Kingdom, Epcot and MGM-Disney components of Disney World in Orlando, Fla., and Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif. As part of the agreement, Disney will train staff in assisting hearing-impaired patrons.


Marijuana debate pits 'healthy' vs 'ill'

In a vote that came down to the healthy versus the ill/disabled, California voters last November approved 56%-44% Proposition 215, the Medical Use of Marijuana Initiative. A similar law, including heroin and LSD, was approved in Arizona.

Those of us who suffer with the effects of serious, long-term illnesses, or know someone who does, were primarily in favor of the measure. Those who are blessed with perfect health and don't expect to need medication to control symptoms of nausea or glaucoma were primarily against the legalization.

Use of effective drugs to ease symptoms should be between the patient and the doctor, and not a matter of government control. Putting the matter to a vote is, in my mind, an invasion of privacy. Thank goodness the electorate agreed that marijuana has good uses and didn't fall for the Chicken Littles' claim that this is a step toward the entire state becoming potheads.

Proposition 215 "exempts from criminal laws patients and defined caregivers who possess or cultivate marijuana for medical treatment recommended by a physician" and also protects from punishment physicians who recommend marijuana.

One of the leading supporters of the California initiative was a nurse whose husband, who has cancer, suffered nausea until he began smoking marijuana. One of the most vocal opponents was Attorney General Dan Lungren, who vowed to "do everything I can" to defeat the proposition. Lungren's raid of the San Francisco Cannabis Buyers Club made national news as the subject of a Doonesbury sequence. Along with other law enforcement types, Lungren has now stated that Federal law takes precedence over state law and promised to continue prosecutions of marijuana possession and use. The Clinton Administration has now agreed.

What was the root of the controversy over the one drug that helps patients with certain conditions? The fear that if we legalize marijuana for some illnesses, our children might get hold of it somehow. What's next banning Vicodin for the same reason?

Marijuana, or cannabis, has been used for thousands of years in civilizations as diverse as China, the Arabic nations and ancient Greece. According to the text Basic and Clinical Pharmacology, "Three epidemiologic studies ... failed to find definite evidence of impairment...."

The real objection to the medical use of marijuana is the knee-jerk reaction to the name. Had the initiative referred to, for example, 11-hydroxy-THC (the chemical formula) or a brand name such as MarThec, not much fuss would have been raised. In fact, there would have been widespread applause because someone had finally discovered a drug that helps nausea and glaucoma. Several chronically ill people have pointed out that when you can't keep anything down, including pills such as Marinol (the legal homolog) marijuana can work because you puff it; you don't swallow it -- there's nothing to be "kept down." That's not something that would dawn on most healthy people. But any of us who've tried to take medication while suffering continuous nausea realize it instinctively.

There's a reason the subtitle of the new California law is "the Compassionate Use Act" -- the only intent was compassion for those of us who medically need marijuana. Dave Fratello, spokesman for the initiative's backers, observed that his organization "may end up in agreement with the federal government" if only those doctors who want only prescribe marijuana regardless of medical necessity are prosecuted. Most supporters of the initiative didn't vote for full legalization but only for use in specific circumstances.

We're tired of news stories about elderly people going to jail for nothing more sinister than wanting their spouses' final days to be as comfortable as possible. Why is that a crime? In what way is allowing a painless natural death comparable to calling Dr. Kevorkian?

The proof that the marijuana debate breaks down along health, rather than political, lines, comes from conservative Richard Brookhiser: although a senior editor of National Review would be expected to be against legalization, his personal experience of using marijuana to control nausea during chemotherapy convinced him that "wonder drugs" do have a place in society even if they are potentially addictive and otherwise illegal. If more opponents of marijuana saw for themselves the good it can do, they might change their minds; but most of them only recognize it as an illegal substance that is inherently immoral, and therefore "bad" under all circumstances.

Until the privacy issue is cleared up by the courts, one California physician has decided to he give his patients a note stating that they have glaucoma, AIDS or cancer, to justify their possession of marijuana to the authorities but he doesn't actually prescribe marijuana in writing.

We can only hope that the judge who decides the test case is him/herself, or is related to, a disabled person who relies on medications for improved quality of life. Someone with no personal experience with long-term illness or chronic nausea might be more prone to believe that the only purpose for the new law is to open the door to full legalization of currently illegal substances.

-- Karen M. Campbell


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