April, 1997

Hugh Shillicot

A giant sweet-smelling storm cloud looms over the medical profession and in recent months it has begun to rain down on doctors, patients, medical associations, and Federal and State lawmakers.

The twister in question is the issue of marijuana as medicine, and if certain pot-for-health advocates have their way, the age-old, leafy green weed will be reclassified from Schudule I to Schedule II of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency's Controlled Substance Act, essentially meaning that physicians in the United States would no longer violate Federal law by prescribing it to their patients for legitimate therapeutic purposes.

But are we ready for giggly migraine sufferers, chilled-out chemo recipients and absurdly inspired asthmatics?

"Without a doubt," insists Los Angeles filmmaker Marc Ostrick, director of PRESSURE DROP, the upcoming comedy feature film about the elderly Jewish man whose grandson turns him on to a hip Manhattan senior citizens' pot den advertized on the Internet.

Says Ostrick, the NYU film school grad who originally co-produced an award-winning 18-minute version of PRESSURE DROP as his college thesis, "any chronically ill person should have medical-marijuana as an option as they struggle to reduce their suffering - and they should not have to run the risk of getting thrown in prison for it. It's a question of dignity, not legality."

Cannabis, over-the-counter or not, has been proven to possess a surprisingly wide variety of medical benefits. There are historical texts confirming the plant's use as a therapeutic agent dating back to, among other cultures, 15th century B.C. China, 10th century B.C. India, England in the 1800s, and the United States where it was listed in the American Medical Association's pharmacopeia until 1941. Just a few of the conditions it served to treat ranged from arthritis to depression, and alcohol addiction to multiple sclerosis. So how long will it actually take to relegalize it for medical purposes?

Ostrick offers an optimistic assessment. "In California and Arizona the people have spoken and Proposition 215 has passed, so it's legal there already. As long as Clinton doesn't step in and have the doctors and patients arrested, within a few years we may see similar landmark propositions sprouting up across the U.S. and Canada."

If PRESSURE DROP, to be shot in New York in early fall by Ostrick's LA-Montreal venture Mensch Films has any say, it will be the senior members of our communities who will help most to advance the growing pot-for-health movement.

"The marijuana plant is not just an alternative to conventional medications, it's an alternative to the difficult, often painful times the elderly face when their mortality looks them in the eye and says, 'hey, you're comin' with me.' Soon enough we'll all find ourselves in that position and personally, I think it would be a lot more pleasant to go out with a buzz than to go out with a whimper."