Pubdate: Wed, 15 Oct 2003
Source: Palm Beach Post, The (FL)
Copyright: 2003 The Palm Beach Post


The Supreme Court has taken a belated but welcome step back from Reefer 
Madness. The decision should bring relief from unnecessary suffering to 
some Americans. It also should make the federal government butt out.

The Bush administration had asked the justices to decide whether Washington 
could take action against doctors who prescribe marijuana to patients with 
such serious illnesses as cancer or those who have the AIDS virus. Nine 
states allow physicians to prescribe the drug, usually for the relief of 
pain. Dating back to the Clinton administration, however, the feds have 
tried to block implementation of such voter-approved laws.

Nor has the high court been especially consistent. Two years ago, the 
justices ruled 8-0 that because marijuana is a Schedule 1 drug under the 
federal Controlled Substances Act, it has no accepted medical benefit. It 
was a technical ruling, one that kept alive the possibility of doctors 
prescribing marijuana, but federal regulators used it to move against 
collectives that were distributing the drug.

Similarly, Tuesday's case did not address the merits of marijuana as a 
prescription drug. The Bush administration argued that the government could 
prevent doctors even from suggesting to a patient that marijuana could be 
beneficial. Opponents correctly argued that on matters of public health, 
patients should be able to get as much information as possible.

These state laws do not condone abuse of marijuana. Nor do they encourage 
narco-trafficking. They recognize a potential benefit in limited instances. 
By making marijuana a Schedule 2 drug, like morphine, the government could 
look compassionate and sensible on the issue. At last.
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