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My perspective on what Montel Williams has been doing vis-a-vis medical marijuana in the U.S. is in short that he's saving lives.
There's a wide body of research (including clinical trials that have been approved by the FDA) that indicates marijuana is medically beneficial for patients suffering from AIDS, cancer, chronic pain, and MS. In some instances, marijuana allows patients who have an
incurable illness to function better -- or even function at all. In other instances, marijuana enables a patient to survive treatment, such as chemotherapy for cancer, such that they ultimately end up living the life of a normal, healthy person again.
In 1997, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy -- known as the office of the "drug czar" -- commissioned the National Academy of Sciences to look at the science behind medical marijuana, which the NAS ended up endorsing in 1999. And the favorable scientific reviews have only piled up since then.
So Montel Williams is correct on the science, and we already know about his personal perspective on medical marijuana. But is he helping patients other than himself? Unequivocally, the answer is "yes."
Montel has participated in news conferences and lobbied in New York State and, as such, the New York legislature and governor are poised to make medical marijuana legal this year.
Montel attended the Republican National Convention in Saint Paul this past summer and connected with a number of prominent Minnesota policymakers, including Gov. Tim Palenty (R). Minnesota policymakers have already invited Montel back to their state to make a final push for the medical marijuana bill that's expected to pass this year, with
Montel dedicated the entire hour of one of his national TV shows to the medical marijuana issue, giving real patients and one physician the opportunity to discuss the importance of marijuana as part of a treatment regimen for some patients, including those with brain tumors and rare bone disorders.
Montel gave a briefing to congressional staffers on Capitol Hill (which was the most well-attended briefing I've ever seen on Capitol Hill), in addition to participating in a news conference with five members of Congress (which generated more TV coverage than any news conference I've ever been involved with).
Montel has spoken at a number of MPP-sponsored fundraising events, including in New York City, Los Angeles, and our nation's capital, for the purpose of raising money to pass medical marijuana bills across the country.
For all of the above, Montel was never paid for his time, nor did he ask to be paid.
If all of the above advocacy was for the purpose of changing laws to make it easier to provide food to the homeless, no one would question his advocacy. But because his advocacy involves medical marijuana -- which is merely a different way of saving lives -- his advocacy might draw criticism from certain quarters. But not many quarters, because
medical marijuana, which consistently enjoys support from 75% of American voters, is more popular than almost any public policy issue one can think of. And popular support for medical marijuana is certainly greater than the percentage of votes that almost every state legislator, judge, and member of Congress receives when they run for election or reelection.
Montel's values are strong, politically popular, and validated by science. Given his previous military service to his country, it's easy to say that he's an American hero.
Rob Kampia, Executive Director
Marijuana Policy Project