Pubdate: Sat, 25 Oct 2003
Source: Reflector, The (MI Edu Mississippi State Univ)
Copyright: 2003 The Reflector Online
Author: Katherine Story
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)
Bookmark: (Ashcroft, John)
Bookmark: (Walters v. Conant)
Bookmark: (Opinion)


On Tuesday, Oct. 14, the Supreme Court ruled that doctors who discuss
or recommend the medical use of marijuana to their patients could not
be punished under federal law.

This disappointed Bush administration officials, especially Attorney
General John Ashcroft, who sought to deter such advice by means of
revocation of federal licenses to prescribe drugs to patients.

According to ABC News, a host of concerned parties ranging from cancer
patients and health organizations to the American Civil Liberties
Union acclaimed the ruling as a victory in their push for the
legalization of medical marijuana. However, the ruling did little to
change the federal laws that are already in place against marijuana.

The problem is that the federal law continues to prohibit marijuana
from being grown and distributed for any reason, including medical
purposes. Therefore, patients whose doctors have recommended them
marijuana have no legal outlet from which to purchase it.

If patients are still denied access to drugs that have been repeatedly
recommended by doctors, the struggle is far from complete. Doctors
support the use of these drugs because they relieve pain and stimulate
the appetite, functions that are much needed in patients with serious,
long-term conditions such as cancer and AIDS.

These patients rely on marijuana for relief of the excruciating pain
that develops from their medical conditions. Some of them have
terminal illnesses and would like to spend their last days enjoying
the added comfort that marijuana can provide them.

Arguments such as possible addiction or dependency are irrelevant and
insensitive in these cases.

Even for patients who do not have terminal illnesses but need
temporary prescriptions, the risk of addiction is low.

Besides, there are already painkillers on the market that are just as
addictive. Just ask Rush Limbaugh, who is addicted to painkillers that
were originally prescribed after he had back surgery.

The Bush administration opposes medical marijuana in its blanket
rejection of the legalization of marijuana. This attitude ignores the
evidence of the herb's medical benefits.

The administration displays a contempt for doctors' ability to
determine what is best for their patients. It also disregards the
needs of the patients.

In other words, the administration is so concerned with the "war on
drugs" that they don't care if ailing citizens are suffering as a
result. Bush needs to re-evaluate his administration's position. The
federal government should not further antagonize these people who are
already suffering by failing to prioritize its values.

The Oct. 14 ruling came as a surprise to many advocates for the
legalization of marijuana, given the previous conservatism of the
Supreme Court on the issue of medical marijuana.

In 2001, it ruled against medical marijuana clubs, admitting no
exception to federal law prohibiting marijuana. Its refusal to punish
doctors for discussing marijuana with their patients could therefore
be interpreted merely as protection for the privacy between doctors
and their patients.

The battle for the legalization of marijuana for medical purposes has
won greater victories at the state level. Nine states legalized the
use of medical marijuana for patients whose doctors have prescribed or
recommended its use in their treatment. And, according to CNN, 35
other states passed some form of "legislation recognizing marijuana's
medicinal value."

The Bush administration is not representing the will of the people in
its stance against medical marijuana. Most of states have taken
measures to show at least some level of support for it.

Yet the federal government does not take into account popular
consensus. It continues to deny hundreds, if not thousands, of
patients the medical treatment their doctors recommend.

Katherine Story is a junior history and Spanish major.
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