Medical Marijuana: Reagan Aide Lyn Nofziger Dead at 81 -- Supported Patients' Rights 4/7/06

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Long-time conservative consultant Lynn Nofziger died at age 81 in his Falls Church, Virginia, home March 27. Nofziger made his name as an aide to Ronald Reagan, first in California and then in the Reagan White House.

Lyn Nofziger with NORML's Keith Stroup and
patient activist Gary Storck, 2002 (courtesy NORML)
But while Nofziger helped bring us the "Just Say No" Reagan administration war on drugs, family tragedy brought him around on at least one drug policy issue: medical marijuana. When cancer struck and ultimately killed his daughter, Nofziger spoke out in support of allowing patients to use marijuana.

"When our daughter was undergoing chemotherapy for lymph cancer, she was sick and vomiting constantly as a result of her treatments," Nofziger wrote in an op-ed piece in the Washington Post in the late 1990s. "No legal drugs, including Marinol, helped her. We finally turned to marijuana. With it, she kept her food down, was comfortable and even gained weight. Those who say Marinol and other drugs are satisfactory substitutes for marijuana may be right in some cases but certainly not in all cases. If doctors can prescribe morphine and other addictive medicines, it makes no sense to deny marijuana to sick and dying patients when it can be provided on a carefully controlled, prescription basis."

Nofziger continued to speak out on the issue, going so far as to address a 2002 Capitol Hill news conference supporting a federal medical marijuana bill introduced by Reps. Barney Frank (D-MA) and Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA). He told the press conference about his daughter's struggle and how marijuana helped. "Based on this, I've become an advocate of medical marijuana," he said. "It is truly compassionate. I sincerely hope the administration can get behind this bill."

Nofziger, always a movement conservative, used the Frank bill to attack President Bush on both states' rights and compassionate grounds. "It seems to me that the very definition of compassionate conservatism should convince President Bush to support legislation that would allow states to legalize the use of marijuana for medical purposes," he wrote. "In fact, if the president understands the meaning of those two words ('compassionate conservative'), not to support Frank is to reject the philosophy for which he says he stands and on which he ran for president."

By helping to elect Ronald Reagan, Lyn Nofziger shares responsibility for unleashing the Reagan drug war on America. But when faced with family tragedy, he was able to see the light -- at least on medical marijuana.

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Issue #430 -- 4/7/06

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