Pubdate: Thu, 13 May 2004
Source: San Diego Union Tribune (CA)
Copyright: 2004 Union-Tribune Publishing Co.
Author: Doug Bandow
Note: Bandow is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute and James Madison 
Scholar with the American Legislative Exchange Council.
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Popular)


The war on drugs is going badly.

The current and previous presidents of the United States used marijuana. So 
has presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry.

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has admitted to drug use. Radio host 
Rush Limbaugh, who once beat the drums for jailing white junkies, has been 
through drug treatment.

Some 75,000 Californians now use marijuana under a doctor's care. The U.S. 
Supreme Court let stand a 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling barring 
Uncle Sam from punishing doctors who prescribe medical marijuana under 
state law.

The same 9th Circuit Court in California has allowed defendants to 
introduce evidence that they were growing marijuana for medical purposes. 
San Francisco is considering creating nonprofit marijuana cooperatives.

Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich, a Republican, signed legislation slashing 
the punishment for medical use of marijuana. Connecticut is moving to 
legalize medical pot.

A state court recently affirmed the constitutional right of Alaskans to 
grow marijuana at home. Alaskans will vote this year on an initiative to 
legalize personal pot use.

The Netherlands allows personal possession and cannabis coffee shops. Spain 
no longer arrests recreational users; Portugal and Luxembourg have 
decriminalized marijuana consumption.

Belgium permits the medical use of marijuana and is considering allowing 
citizens to grow small amounts of pot. Local authorities in France and 
Germany decide whether to arrest cannabis users.

In Britain, most pot users are now warned rather than arrested. A police 
chief has called for legalizing heroin. The British Department of Health is 
nearing final approval of a marijuana inhaler for medical purposes.

Australia, New Zealand, and Switzerland all are debating relaxing their 
marijuana laws. Canada provides marijuana through its health-care program, 
plans to make pot available in pharmacies and has proposed to decriminalize 
pot consumption.

Why toss pot smokers in jail while tolerating use of alcohol and 
cigarettes? People should abstain from all of them, but they should not be 
imprisoned if they do not.

Some of Limbaugh's conservative defenders argued that an addiction arising 
from an illness deserved special dispensation. If so, people using 
marijuana as medicine also warrant compassionate treatment.

For instance, Angel McClary Raich of Oakland smokes marijuana to combat 
nausea resulting from her treatment for brain cancer.

"The alternatives have been ineffective or result in intolerable side 
effects," says her physician, Dr. Frank Lucido.

Teddy Hiteman of Henderson, Nev., suffers from multiple sclerosis.

"Medicinal pot has been a godsend," she says.

Michael Ferrucci of Livermore has lung and testicular cancer. Marijuana 
"has been far more beneficial to me than other medications they have 
recommended to me," he says.

The American Medical Association Council on Scientific Affairs has reported 
that "anecdotal, survey, and clinical data" demonstrate marijuana's medical 
usefulness. The National Institutes of Health stated that "Marijuana looks 
promising enough to recommend that there be new controlled studies done."

Groups ranging from the American Cancer Society to Kaiser Permanente 
support access to or research on medical marijuana.

In one survey, more than 70 percent of American cancer specialists said 
they would prescribe marijuana if it was legal. A poll of the British 
Medical Association yielded similar results.

The New England Journal of Medicine has backed access to medical marijuana. 
Last year, the British medical magazine Lancet Neurology pointed out that 
marijuana had proved effective against pain in lab tests and could become 
"the aspirin of the 21st century." A recent issue of The Harvard Brain 
journal reported: "Cannabis may also slow down the neurodegenerative 
processes that ultimately lead to chronic disability in multiple sclerosis 
and probably other diseases."

Allowing the medical use of marijuana doesn't even prevent the government 
from punishing recreational users. The General Accounting Office concluded 
"that medical marijuana laws have had little impact on their law 
enforcement activities."

Candidate George W. Bush said, "I believe each state can choose" what to do 
about medical marijuana. But under President Bush, reports Dean Murphy of 
The New York Times: "Federal agents have raided farms where medicinal 
marijuana is grown, closed cooperatives where it is distributed and 
threatened to punish doctors who discussed it with their patients."

Sadly, drug warriors are more interested in punishing drug users who 
threaten no one than in aiding the sick and dying.

The drug war has failed. The drug laws pose a far greater threat to public 
health and safety than does drug abuse. Drug use should be treated as a 
medical and moral issue, not a criminal one.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Richard Lake