Dear Representative DeLuca,
I am writing to share my response to your “…thoughts on pending legislation that would legalize ‘Marijuana’ for recreational use in Illinois,” as published in your newsletter on 5/6/2019. To be completely transparent, I’m coming to you from the angle of a recovering drug addict with PTSD, a medical cannabis card-holder, a cannabis advocate, a parent, and a writer—the only place I have any real expertise is in the words. Everything else is anecdotal.
I love that you start by talking about what we call things and—as you really emphasized—what we don’t call things (“Don’t be misled, Cannabis is the same drug as marijuana, pot, dope or weed.”) Of course it is, because Cannabis is the Latin genus that encompasses the three branches of the weed family—the indicas whose sedative effects make it the right medicine for someone like me, their sativa sisters whose head-high rattles my brain and throws me into anxiety, and the auto-flowering and less fussy ruderalis.
Marijuana is a word that came from Mexico in the early 20th century (that magical time when white men really started cutting their disguise-racism-as-policy teeth and planted the corpse flower we’re all currently smelling on social media, every news station and anywhere people go). The legend of the xenophobic roots of the U.S. War on Drugs/Brown Folks and Other Outsiders is one of the canonical stoner myths that seems to be true. Here’s an easy read on it (way better than my hot take would be, and I urge everyone to read it).
Pot, weed, dope? I want to talk about dope, Representative.
Dope is what you call heroin. Sometimes it means meth. You shoot dope, snort dope, cook it. I hope you don’t know any of this. I hope that you and your circle have been spared the agony of addiction and that you wrote that word from a place of genuine ignorance. That’s statistically unlikely, though, anywhere. Your 80th District is no exception.
With full acknowledgement that a long time ago, “dope” was slang for cannabis, I suggest taking that one off of your list. Words really are important.
Toward the end of your letter, you refer to THC as “one of the most harmful poisons” in dope [sic]. Poisons. One of them. Plural. Poisons kill living things. They induce extreme illness. Nothing in cannabis kills people or comes near it. That is irrefutable science.
Of course, there are metaphors, but as a professional writer and copy editor, I suggest you revise your sentence if you meant metaphorical poison—right now, it just looks like a language-based scare tactic and a lie.
P.S. I noticed that you advocate for veterans—thank you. I’m not one but I love many. I’ve poured their drinks behind south suburban bars off and on for much of my adult life, and I’ve had the privilege to interview them on their experiences in combat. My paternal grandfather designed torpedoes for the Navy. The maternal one was a Marine. My only uncle served over 20 incredible years in the U.S. Air Force (we joke that he has top secret clearance and knows things—but the truth is he travels the world installing and instructing the military on software upgrades to fighter jets and that’s in his retirement), and I recently congratulated one of my little brothers on becoming a Reservist. He’s a nurse anesthetist who wants to provide his expertise and service to wounded soldiers. I’m as fierce about the military as I am about unions (the men in my family who weren’t soldiers were union workers, and one was both, but I digress).
These veterans you and I care for have been through hell. The tie between PTSD and veteran suicides is undeniable. Here is a link to the FY18 IDPH report on the State’s medical cannabis pilot program. Spoiler: PTSD is the top-qualifying condition, and veteran applications have increased nearly five-fold over the course of the pilot program. I urge you to consider veterans when you vote on legislation on cannabis, recreational or otherwise.