Pubdate: Fri, 24 Oct 2003
Source: Ventura County Star (CA)
Copyright: 2003, The E.W. Scripps Co.
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)
Bookmark: (Opinion)
Bookmark: (Walters v. Conant)


Federal, State Pot Laws Need To Jibe

Americans wondering if they still live in the land of liberty have
only to ponder the reinstatement of a right most probably didn't know
was threatened: the right to talk to one's doctor freely and openly,
about anything.

Even marijuana.

Last week, by declining to hear a Bush administration appeal, the U.S.
Supreme Court let stand a 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling
that doctors have a constitutional right to advise ill patients about
the benefits of marijuana.

Since 1997, doctors who recommended marijuana to patients -- or even
discussed its benefits -- have been threatened with the revocation of
federal licenses they need to prescribe medicine.

This, despite the fact that in 1996, 56 percent of California voters
approved Proposition 215, allowing sick people to use marijuana for
medical purposes when approved by a physician.

The federal government figured that by prohibiting doctors from
recommending marijuana, it solved the problem.

That ploy won't work anymore.

But the Supreme Court's decision not to hear the case does not resolve
the conflict between the federal and California governments over
Proposition 215. Under state law, sick people can use marijuana with
their doctor's permission, but the federal government still outlaws
it. That legal contradiction must be addressed.

California and eight other states -- Alaska, Arizona, Hawaii, Nevada,
Oregon, Washington, Colorado and Maine -- have all approved the
medical use of marijuana. Earlier this month, in fact, Gov. Gray Davis
signed a bill into law that creates a state-issued ID card for medical
marijuana patients and caregivers, spelling out how much marijuana
they can possess and grow. Among Senate Bill 40's backers was the
California District Attorneys Association.

It make no sense that patients can be prescribed controlled substances
such as morphine and cocaine -- Schedule II drugs -- but not marijuana
- -- a Schedule I drug -- especially when the government's own study
shows marijuana can be beneficial to some sick people.

A 1999 yearlong study by the Institute of Medicine at the National
Academy of Science -- ordered by former federal drug czar Barry
McCaffrey -- concluded marijuana may be effective in easing chronic
pain, nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy, poor appetite,
wasting caused by AIDS or advanced cancer, and muscular spasms
associated with multiple sclerosis.

It also rebutted arguments against medical marijuana that it would
lead to the use of other illegal drugs or encourage the public to use

We are glad the Supreme Court let the ruling against gagging doctors
stand. However, it matters little to a sick person that a doctor can
recommend marijuana, if that sick person can be prosecuted by the
federal government for using it.

It's time for sick people to be treated by their doctors, not treated
like criminals.
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MAP posted-by: Larry Seguin