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MEDICAL MARIJUANA IS LEGAL IN COLORADO! states the ad in the Independent, along with the increasing number of other ads for clinics and doctor consultants that are also advertising. Within weeks of the increased media coverage of medical marijuana, it has been clear that there are a few entrepreneurs in this town trying to profit with this new business opportunity.

After the Independent published my letter to the editor ("Legalize all pot," Letters, Sept. 17) stating that I was a disgruntled medical marijuana patient who supports total legalization of marijuana, I knew that I would be taking a risk by signing my name and having it posted on the Web for all to see, now and forever. Since this is a very important issue to publicly address in order to educate people and reform the current legal system, I felt someone needed to stand up and speak out. I also felt that I was protected under the current Colorado law governing this matter.

Now I am one of many patients caught in a legal limbo between contradictory federal and state laws.

I was confronted with the possibility that I could be terminated from my customer service position at a local nonprofit organization because my job is in a "drug-free" workplace. The human resources director read my letter, and afterward I came into question as to being a "drug addict," with the stigma of Reefer Madness still prevalent in today's working world!

I could be a functioning alcoholic or a pill-popper addicted to taking Vicodin or OxyContin without consequences, but to be a medical marijuana patient is so looked down upon. Why? Because my Sept. 17 letter clearly stated that I purchased my medicine illegally on the streets for more than 15 years before becoming legal this past year.

But it also stated I have a legitimate medical need due to chronic back pain, because I have had arthritis since I was a child. That's more than 35 years of suffering! And due to having stomach and vertigo issues, I can't take prescription pain pills.

I am not a drug addict, but a 48-year-old American citizen legally licensed by Colorado and prescribed an alternative pain medicine. I have never been arrested for any criminal activity, nor have I ever been required to enter a drug rehabilitation program. I am simply a middle-aged woman with a chronic pain issue, and at some point I could become unemployed because of it.

I waited to hear from human resources on this matter. Would I be considered too much of a liability? Would they dismiss me for not disclosing my status earlier? Would I be fired for not accurately stating my medical status on my job application almost five years ago? Would I ever be considered employable again?

Today, I continue to have the same job, but the stress of this legal limbo has become almost unbearable for me. So once again I appeal to the populace and the powers that be: End pot prohibition — legalize marijuana totally!

If low-grade marijuana were legalized and classified like alcohol, and medical-grade marijuana continued to be regulated by the state, then the federal government could regulate the production and distribution of all marijuana sold in America. Many jobs would be created and much tax money collected. Our borders would be safer, our citizens more protected from drug crimes, and organized crime would not profit from the multibillion-dollar annual business of illegal street sales.

And even though the federal government ordered that the Drug Enforcement Administration not try to arrest medical marijuana patients and caretakers, it still can. And even though California is pushing to totally legalize marijuana so that state can control the problem of Mexican cartels growing illegal crops on state and federal land, the federal government still won't recognize that the legal system is broken and needs to be revised.

The time is now. We need to repeal the restrictions placed on medical marijuana. We need to make the legal system stronger and better-managed for the benefit of patients like me who need this medicine, and who don't deserve to be persecuted because of it.

Dorian Beth Wenzel is a writer who lives in Manitou Springs.

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