Pubdate: Sun, 19 Oct 2003
Source: Redding Record Searchlight (CA)
Copyright: 2003 Record Searchlight - The E.W. Scripps Co.
Bookmark: (Cannabis - California)


A Supreme Court ruling and a bill signed by Gov. Gray Davis last week go a 
step toward legitimizing and regulating the use of medical marijuana, but 
they leave in place a fundamental clash between federal and state laws that 
has sick users still feeling a justifiable paranoia.

Thanks to the Supreme Court's refusal to reconsider lower court decisions, 
doctors cannot be persecuted by the federal Drug Enforcement Agency for 
discussing the possible benefits of marijuana use with their patients. 
Thanks to Senate Bill 420, which Davis signed, a patient with a doctor's 
recommendation for marijuana can sign up for a state ID card and have clear 
rules to follow to avoid arrest.

So is everybody happy now? Hardly. That patient is still violating federal 
law. If she grows some plants with the help of her sister or members of her 
support group, that amounts to a criminal conspiracy. If the DEA comes 
knocking and this cancer patient faces federal charges, medical necessity 
is no defense (thanks, as it happens, to the same Supreme Court).

A fanciful scenario? Perhaps. The DEA doesn't have the resources to chase 
down every medical marijuana user and is unlikely to pursue a discreet home 
grower. But the gravely ill are least able to supply themselves, and the 
federal authorities have zealously shut down cannabis clubs, even those 
encouraged by city governments in California's more liberal locales. Thus 
the photos of mayors picketing at the sites of federal raids and stories of 
jurors outraged when they discover only after convicting a defendant that 
the "drug ring" was a medical co-op.

These aren't to be casually dismissed as "only in California" tales. Voters 
in nine states -- including Republican-leaning places like Alaska, Arizona, 
Colorado and Nevada -- have made clear that they support allowing the use 
of the drug by patients under a doctor's advice. In some states, in 
separate votes, they have also made clear that they do not support 
wholesale legalization.

Because marijuana has long been used recreationally, law enforcement 
officers and moral-minded conservatives object to the mixed message that 
comes from touting its potential medical benefits while telling kids to 
abstain. But prescription medicines, as Rush Limbaugh listeners now know, 
are certainly prone to abuse as well. That OxyContin can be addictive -- 
and is even used recreationally in some quarters -- is not considered 
sufficient reason to ban the painkiller. That some cold medicines are used 
to make methamphetamine has led them to be more closely regulated but not 
pulled from the market.

Just as laws and law enforcement have evolved to deal with methamphetamine 
and prescription drug abuse, it's time for some rational federal rules 
dealing with medical marijuana. It's time for Congress to make federal law 
conform with the repeatedly expressed desire of the voters.

It's about sick people seeking relief, not about hippies sparking up in 
public parks, but still, the Republican majority in Congress these days is 
unlikely to favor of any loosening of the drug laws. That's a shame. In the 
case of medical marijuana, it seems that conservative lawmakers would be 
able to make common cause with the San Francisco Bay area liberals more 
commonly associated with the movement.

It seems, after all, as if conservative lawmakers would be interested in 
making sure federal law enforcement resources are used wisely -- for 
example, in trying to reverse the dangerous spread of illegal drug growing 
in national forests and on other public lands. It seems as if conservatives 
would want to avoid squandering taxpayers' money feuding with states. It 
seems as if conservatives would want to promote states' rights and popular 
sovereignty in the face of an overbearing federal government.

When the matter involves the Endangered Species Act, for example, the north 
state's Rep. Wally Herger tirelessly denounces the federal government for 
trampling individual freedoms. Surely the liberty of the sick to choose 
their path to better health is equally worth championing. Are you 
listening, Congressman?
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom