Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Patients Smoke 'Medical Marijuana' On Grounds Of Sydney Hospital

Will Millions Of Baby Boomers Choose To Fade Away In A Cloud Of Dope Smoke?

In the next two decades there will be more Australians over the age of 60 than under the age of 25. The Baby Boomers are hitting voluntary or forced retirement age, and health resources are likely to be extremely, perhaps dangerously, stretched as millions enter their last years and their physical and mental needs will hammer state and federal health budgets.

Hospitals will only become more overcrowded, publicly-funded pharmaceutical programs will cost billions a year, with most boomers are expected to survive well into their late 80s or early 90s, soaking up more health care resources the longer they live.

There will need to be a much greater revolution in health care in Australia to cope with the demand from Boomers, for prescription medications alone, but what if hundreds of thousands of Baby Boomers start demanding access to alternative medicines now deemed illegal?

I've been a regular patient at St Vincent's in recent years and have watched widely varying reactions from doctors when confronted with the reality of patient marijuana use.

There seems to be a "don't ask, don't tell" mentality. But I use marijuana and always want the doctors taking care of me, in and out of hospital, to be aware of it. I wait for the smoking question to tell them.

...younger doctors will much more comfortably share views on cannabis and its uses and are far more inclined to acknowledge its positive effects.

They are becoming aware, too, that baby boomers who first inhaled some 30 years ago are now demanding medical marijuana - and these doctors will have to deal with it. Few boomers want today's hydroponic horrors, the toxic response to prohibition, but rather the milder garden-grown weed of our youth.

It eased period pain back then, will it ease my arthritis pain now?

It works as well as a sleeping pill - which will I choose? And in emotionally traumatic times - valium or a cannabis cookie? And when the cancer pain comes and the surgery pain comes and you're allergic to morphine? Who will stand and refuse us?

Marijuana took the pain away, while morphine made me sick. Other hospital offerings either made me sick or didn't work.

The patients who used cannabis (I was aware of four smokers on the ward) had their own favourite spots in the hospital's garden. I was far from the only criminal in-patient. But I was the oldest. And that's the point. I'm a baby-boomer. And most of us did inhale.

There is no possibility of governments controlling marijuana use among ageing baby boomers. Many of us will choose marijuana over morphine, marijuana over valium, marijuana over blood pressure meds, marijuana for appetite. And, of course, some shameful old boomers will partake for simple pleasure.

We don't need to rake over the efficacy of cannabis yet again - the pros and cons have been articulated ad nauseum. It is a totally unsuitable drug for some people. However, almost unbelievably, few on either side of the marijuana debate are differentiating between the indoor and outdoor grown varieties of the drug. Equating today's hydro to yesterday's home grown is ludicrous. An apples with oranges comparison.

Last week Dr Wodak predicted marijuana use would exceed tobacco use in the next decade. Well, yes. That will be us baby boomers coming home to roost.

Retired Baby Boomers will become one of the most powerful political forces in Australian history, if they unite in the majority behind key issues. The pressure of their voting numbers alone will force politicians to give them just about everything they want, short of far more generous pensions and tax breaks.

If hundreds of thousands of Baby Boomers begin demanding the right to use cannabis for medicinal or even recreational purposes, politicians will eventually cave in. It may not be full legalisation, but busting hundreds of old people for anything is always a bad look. They've already proven that their public acts of dissent can shock the hell out of evening news viewers. How many half-naked elderly protests in city centres over anything could younger Australians take?

So in 2018, when your teenage son shows a curious interest in repeatedly visiting grandpa at the Happiest Nursing Home In The World, to "help him out in the garden", you will understand why.