Pubdate: Fri, 22 Feb 2002
Source: Watertown Daily Times (NY)
Copyright: 2002 Watertown Daily Times
Author: Charles Levendosky
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)


Once Again the Federal Drug Agents are Going After the Terminally Ill

On Feb. 12, the same day that President Bush issued his National Drug 
Control Strategy, agents from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration 
raided the Harm Reduction Center, a medical marijuana club in San Francisco.

The agents arrested three employees of the club, issued a warrant for the 
arrest of a fourth and closed down the clinic,  The clinic supplied medical 
marijuana for approximately 200 cancer and AIDS patients daily.

Bush's strategy calls for the creation of a new climate of "compassionate 
coercion" for drug users.  There's nothing compassionate about stripping 
the seriously ill of the relief provided by medical marijuana.

In October, 30 DEA agents raided and closed the Los Angeles Cannabis 
Resource Center, southern California's largest medical marijuana dispensary 
which served more than 1,000 patients.

More than five years ago, 70 percent of California's voters passed 
Proposition 215, the Compassionate Use Act, which allows for the use of 
medical cannabis to alleviate pain, to increast appetite, and to control 
vomiting, in patients suffering from serious illnesses.

Porposition 215, was passed in order to ensure that "seriously ill 
Californians have the right to obtain and use marijuana for medical 
purposes where that medical use is deemed appropriate and has been 
recommended by a physician who has determined that the person's health 
would benefit from the use of marijuana in the treatment of cancer, 
anorexia, AIDS, chronic pain, spasticity, glaucoma, arthritis, migraine, or 
any other illness for which marijuana provides relief".

The act was to "encourage the federal and state governments to implement a 
plan to provide for the safe and affordable distribution of marijuana to 
all patients in medical need of marijuana."  The state did its part by 
creating cannabis clinics for its distribution to those under a doctor's 
care and had obtained a medical recommendation for the use of marijuana.

Proposition 215 does not legalize marijuana.  It simply allows the use of 
cannabis by those for whom it would provide medical relief, but only upon 
the recommendation of a doctor.

SInce 1996. eight other states have adopted laws that permit the use of 
marijuana for medical use; Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, 
Nevada, Oregon and Washington.

State, county and city officials are sworn to uphold state law.  And, for 
the most part, in California, elected and appointed officials have stood 
firm in upholding a law that a vast majority of voters passed.

According to news reports, San Francisco District Attorney Terence Hallinan 
drew cheers from the protesters who had gathered outside the San Francisco 
hall where the new DEA chief, Asa Hutchinson, spoke the evening after the 
raid.  "The voters should be outraged," said Hallinan.  "This is the 
federal government trying to make a point in opposition to the voters of 

City supervisor of San Francisco Mark Leno called the DEA action "a direct 
assault on the public health of San Francisco as well as a direct assault 
on the voters of California."

However, according to the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. marijuana is a 
Schedule One drug that has no currently accepted medical value and a high 
potential for abuse.  The act prohibits the use of Schedule One drugs, 
including heroin, LSD, cocaine, ecstasy and methaqualone.

In contrast to the 30 year old Controlled Substances Act, in 1999, the 
Nationa Academy of Sciences, Institute of Medicine issued a report that 
stated:  "Scientific data indicate the potential therapeutic value of 
cannabinoid drugs..for pain relief, control of nausea and vomiting, and 
appetite stimulation.  Except for the harms associated with smoking, the 
adverse effects of marijuana use are within the range tolerated for other 

States' rights is an issue here that will eventually be settled in the 
courts or if and when Congress has the collective wisdom to move marijuana 
from a Schedule One drug to a Schedule Two drug.  Schedule Two drugs are 
federally regulated, but their use can be authorized by physicians.

During the Clinto administraion, the DEA went directly after California 
patients, charging two AIDS sufferers, who are allowed to grow their own 
cannabis plants for personal use under Proposition 215, with conspiracy to 
distrbute marijuana,

One patient who had been doing will, author Peter McWilliams, died as a 
result of the government's action.  The DEA also threatened to revoke the 
medial licenses of physicians who recommended medical marijuana to patients.

Under Hutchinson, federal drug agents have continued the federal 
government's war against this specific and narrow use of cannabis and 
against state voters who have shown compassion for those suffering from 
painful terminal illnesses.

Cocaine, heroin and methamphetamines should be the target of the drug war, 
not the medical use of marijuana.  Using federal resources to withhold pain 
relief from those who are seriously ill is an ill-advised public policy.

Responding to her question about medical marijuana in an interview last 
year with Margaret Warner of NewsHour, Hutchinson said, "You know, we want 
to deal with this carefully and thoughtfully and so we're working out 
exactly how this should be dealt with from a law enforcement standpoint."

Unfortunately, there's nothing thoughtful about the approach the DEA chief 
has taken.  It is blunt force without regard to compassion---comparable to 
stealing water from dehydrated, dying people.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Alex