Pubdate: Wed, 15 Oct 2003
Source: Chicago Sun-Times (IL)
Copyright: 2003 The Sun-Times Co.


There are so many reasons to decry the federal government's policy on
medical marijuana that one hardly knows where to begin. First is
medical science, which shows that marijuana provides unique comfort
for those suffering from glaucoma, the effects of chemotherapy, and
other ailments. On this alone, stubborn federal resistance to
permitting limited use of marijuana would seem irrational, even cruel.

But that is only the beginning. Nine states, from conservative Arizona
to liberal Alaska, have passed laws permitting the use of marijuana
with a doctor's prescription, and another 35 states approved of
legislation acknowledging marijuana's medical value. Thus to have the
federal government so vigorously fighting to undermine the states in
an area -- the oversight of medical practice -- that is otherwise left
to local discretion, seems an inexplicable encroachment of Washington
into the rights of states.

And now, as if more support were necessary, the U.S. Supreme Court has
turned down a Bush administration request that the federal government
be able to harass doctors merely for describing the benefits of
medical marijuana to their patients. This was perhaps the most
invidious government intrusion of all, since it went beyond the
expected control of illicit substances into the control of ideas, of
speech. Unable to counteract the evidence that proves the value of
medical marijuana, the administration cravenly sought to control the
communication of that evidence.

Most of the nation has lost patience waiting for the White House and
Congress to wake up about this. We are not talking about selling pot
in supermarkets. We are not talking about making it legal to light up
joints in public parks. We are talking about people dying of cancer
alleviating their suffering. We are talking about glaucoma patients
reducing the pressure in their eyes. The argument that allowing this
would somehow pave the way for acceptance of drug abuse in everyday
life holds no merit. There are many reasons for heroin addiction, but
the use of morphine in hospitals is not one of them.

We know why the Bush administration and Congress are opposed to
medical marijuana --part habit, part political cowardice, part
ignorance, part indifference, part pandering to the most extreme
conservative elements. This must end.

It is tragic that law-abiding citizens are forced to break the law to
get medical treatment. The United States risks isolating itself; other
enlightened countries do not stand in the way of this proven practice.

The federal government has lost this fight. It is only harming ill
American citizens, responsible doctors, and its own estimation in the
hearts of the public by continuing to press a mistaken, cruel and
repressive policy. Medical marijuana will become an accepted part of
our society, and the sooner, the better.
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