Pubdate: Thu, 28 Oct 2004
Source: Missoula Independent (MT)
Copyright: 2004 Missoula Independent
Note: Item excerpted from longer editorial
Cited: Initiative 148
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)
Bookmark: (Opinion)


Don't Blame Us. We're Voting

On Tuesday, Nov. 2, you--participating citizen--will be called upon to
exercise your knowledge and judgment in electing your governmental
representatives, fine-tuning your state Constitution and
green-lighting or nay-saying your fellow citizens' initiatives. We're
here to help.

You may notice that we have not endorsed in every race that you'll see
on your ballot come Nov. 2, and here's why: We simply couldn't. With
more than 55 citizens running for city and county review commissions
alone, we were stymied by the sheer numbers, as many voters will
surely be. Add in state legislative races in all the districts
encompassed by this paper's coverage area, from the Bitterroot to the
Flathead, and the task was simply more than we could digest.

Our criteria for choosing which candidates and issues to endorse this
year were that the race or issue had to be important, and we had to be
able to tell you a lot about he/she/it. We called these "bright-line"
races, and without diminishing the relative importance of the races we
haven't covered here, we think they're the ones with the most at
stake; they're also the ones we've been able to follow most closely.

You may notice that we're not endorsing for president. That's because
we figure you've got plenty of information on which to base that
decision without us piping in (please god not four more years). Not
that you'd be surprised or anything.

Please vote on Nov. 2 for someone or something you care


Ballot Initiative 148: FOR or AGAINST allowing the limited use of
marijuana, under medical supervision, by patients with debilitating
medical conditions to alleviate the symptoms of their conditions.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) still classifies
marijuana more stringently than it does cocaine and methamphetamine.
In 1988, a DEA judge ruled that the medical benefits of marijuana
should be grounds for its reclassification (from Schedule I to
Schedule II). "Placement in Schedule II would mean, essentially, that
physicians in the United States would not violate Federal law by
prescribing marijuana for their patients for legitimate therapeutic
purposes," wrote DEA Administrative Law Judge Francis L. Young.
Ultimately, the DEA did not act on Young's ruling. Possession of
marijuana for medicinal use remains illegal in much of the country.

The Medical Marijuana Act, if passed, would allow for regulated and
limited use of the substance. It would allow patients with a
"debilitating medical condition" (defined in full in the initiative),
confirmed by their physicians' written certification, to be issued ID
cards by the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services
(MDPHHS). A cardholder would be allowed to legally possess up to six
marijuana plants and one ounce of useable marijuana. Cards would be
renewed annually. The MDPHHS would annually report details (also
specified in the initiative) to the Legislature. The initiative makes
provisions for minors and caregivers, for example precluding convicted
drug felons from serving in the role of caregiver and card-holder. In
addition to protecting patients, the initiative would protect
prescribing physicians from arrest or prosecution by the board of
medical examiners. It would also institute fines and jail time for
people misrepresenting their need for marijuana.

Since 1999, nine other states have decriminalized the medicinal use of
marijuana. The most vocal opposition still comes from law enforcement.
The Office of Drug Control Policy's Scott Burns paid a recent visit to
Montana to warn of the dangers of considering marijuana medicine:
confused and dope-happy youth. Even back in 1988, however, Francis
Young showed this argument to be ill-reasoned: "There are those who,
in all sincerity, argue that the transfer of marijuana to Schedule II
will 'send a signal' that marijuana is 'OK' generally for recreational
use. This argument is specious. It presents no valid reason for
refraining from taking an action required by law in light of the
evidence The evidence in this record clearly shows that marijuana
has been accepted as capable of relieving the distress of great
numbers of very ill people, and doing so with safety under medical
supervision. It would be unreasonable, arbitrary and capricious for
DEA to continue to stand between those sufferers and the benefits of
this substance "

That was 1988. It's still true. Vote FOR 148 to give physicians and
patients relief.
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake