FOR SOMEONE LIKE RALPH
Everyone knows someone like Ralph Seeley.
A father, son, brother, uncle, or best friend. A mother, sister, daughter, cousin, or soul mate. A co-worker, supervisor, teacher, or coach. Living with AIDS. Dying of cancer. Nauseous from chemotherapy or mind-numbing narcotics. Rail-thin and unable to eat. Or swallow. Or breathe.
Like that special someone you know and have loved, Ralph Seeley is losing his battle - to terminal bone cancer.
Over the weekend, he lapsed into a coma and was admitted to a Tacoma hospital. He was scheduled to testify at a public hearing last night in support of a narrowly-drawn bill to allow the use of marijuana for the express purpose of alleviating the suffering of seriously ill patients under a doctor's care.
Before the coma, Seeley was on the front lines of the fight to legalize medical marijuana. The Tacoma lawyer argued his case before the state Supreme Court earlier this year. He lost but continued to lobby stubbornly for patients' rights and compassionate use of medical pot. In a letter he sent just days before he lost consciousness, Seeley implored members of the Senate Health Care Committee to pass Senate Bill 6271 out of committee. "It amounts to no more than doing the right thing," he wrote.
The responsibly crafted legislation, sponsored by Sen. Jeanne Kohl, D-Seattle, would provide legal immunity to patients who use medical marijuana and the licensed physicians who advise them on such use.
Unlike the failed Initiative 685, Kohl's bill does not decriminalize non-violent drug offenses, does not involve other drugs, and creates a statewide school program to stress that marijuana use is illegal except when used as a medicine by seriously ill patients under controlled, authorized, therapeutic use.
Several doctors publicly support the measure; respected University of Washington professor Roger Roffman notes that the bill offers "compassionate relief."
Opponents say the political winds are blowing the wrong way. Even Sen. Alex Deccio, chairman of the Senate Health and Long Term Care Committee, who has been sympathetic to the cause since his 24-year-old daughter died of cancer two decades ago, is now wavering on whether to move the bill. Deccio is in a powerful position to do better. Time is too precious - and life too short - to dither while the state allows needless suffering to continue.
Copyright The Seattle Times