Make Medical Marijuana Legal in the US: An Open Letter to Senator Dick Durbin

durbinEarlier this week I sent an email to my Senator, Dick Durbin, asking him to support Senator Elizabeth Warren’s effort to slow the opioid epidemic with medical cannabis. This is my reply to his reply.

Following my open letter, you’ll find the verbatim response I received from his office on Tuesday, my address withheld so any would-be trolls have to at least do a little homework first.

(I also wrote to Senator Mark Kirk and Representative Rodney Davis. The former has not replied; the latter only wrote to tell me he received my correspondence.)

Open Letter to Senator Durbin

August 31, 2016

Dear Senator Durbin,

First of all, thank you for serving as my senator. I had to reply to your reply, because there are still a couple of points I must make regarding your role in passing reasonable federal marijuana laws.

Overall the tone of your email seems dismissive, which I just don’t get. You wrote:

“Under federal law, it is illegal to manufacture, sell, or possess marijuana.”

I promise I’m not trying to be a smartass, but that’s kind of the point. My assessment of the current situation is that the federal law is crap, and since you get paid $174,000 a year to write and vote on laws, well, I wanted to put a bug in your ear. If you’re going to represent me—and the 82% of Illinoisans who agree with me on this issue—you have to hear from us, right?

I can show up at one of your offices to discuss the matter if that’s more effective, but I have a debilitating medical condition which makes traveling extremely problematic. Please don’t make me do that. (Coincidentally, that debilitating condition also qualifies me for medical marijuana under the State of Illinois’ Medical Cannabis Pilot Program.)

The bottom line is that medical marijuana needs to be legal at the federal level.

Marijuana for general use isn’t really a part of my agenda at the moment, but since you mentioned that you “oppose the legalization of marijuana for general use,” I think now is a good time to remind you that your job is to represent the nearly 13 million people who live in Illinois.

We get to vote our conscience. You get to represent us.

While legalization proponents only make up about 45% of the State’s population at the moment, the margins are shrinking. You should definitely keep an eye on that.

Something else in your reply bothers me. You wrote, “I will keep your views in mind if the Senate considers the use of medical marijuana as an alternative pain relief option for opioid addiction treatment.” Seriously. Where’s your initiative?

The Beltway might be a cesspool, Senator, but you can still make waves.


Emily Suess

Senator Durbin’s Form Letter

August 30, 2016

Ms. Emily Suess

Dear Ms. Suess:

Thank you for contacting me about the use of medical marijuana and the nation’s opioid epidemic.  I appreciate hearing from you.

Under federal law, it is illegal to manufacture, sell, or possess marijuana.  While the states have similar prohibitions, some states have exempted from their prohibitions the use of the drug purely for medicinal purposes.  I oppose the legalization of marijuana for general use.  At the same time, I believe that marijuana may have medical applications when prescribed by a doctor in specific cases.

The opioid addiction epidemic reaches every corner of our society.  There is no town too small or suburb too wealthy to avoid this crisis.  Since 1999, the number of drug overdose deaths in America has more than doubled.  In Illinois, there were 1,652 overdose-related deaths in 2014, an increase of almost 29 percent since 2010.

I am a cosponsor the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, which would provide a community-based response to heroin and opioid addiction that includes law enforcement, the criminal justice system, public health institutions, and the recovery support system.  This bill passed the Senate in March 2016, and would authorize grants to states to train law enforcement agencies and first responders how to use naloxone, an overdose reversal medication.

I will keep your views in mind if the Senate considers the use of medical marijuana as an alternative pain relief option for opioid addiction treatment.

Thank you for contacting me.  Please feel free to keep in touch.


Richard J. Durbin
United States Senator



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