Pubdate: Sun, 11 Jul 2004
Source: Ventura County Star (CA)
Copyright: 2004 The E.W. Scripps Co.
Cited: Raich v. Ashcroft
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)


High Court Should OK Patient Use.

Eight years ago, 56 percent of California voters approved Proposition 215, 
allowing sick people to use marijuana for medical purposes when approved by 
a physician. In all, 35 states have approved similar legislation.

The only problem is that the federal government still outlaws the use of 
marijuana, for any reason, which has created enormous legal headaches for 
sick individuals, doctors and law enforcement.

Fortunately, the legal Catch-22 will be addressed this winter when the U.S. 
Supreme Court at last considers whether the federal government can 
prosecute sick people who use marijuana on the advice of their doctor.

The Star supported Proposition 215 and hopes the Supreme Court rules for 
common sense.

There is no reason that doctors can legally prescribe controlled substances 
such as cocaine and morphine -- Schedule II drugs -- but not marijuana -- a 
Schedule I drug.

The Controlled Substances Act of 1970 -- the government's legal foundation 
in its fight against drug abuse -- places all substances into one of five 
schedules, based on the substance's medical use, potential for abuse, and 
safety or dependence liability. A Schedule I drug is defined as having a 
high potential for abuse, no accepted medical use in treatment in the 
United States, or lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision.

A Schedule II drug also has a high potential for abuse, but has an accepted 
medical use.

Marijuana does, in fact, have an accepted medical use, as confirmed by a 
1999 yearlong study by the Institute of Medicine at the National Academy of 
Science, ordered by none other than former federal drug czar Barry 
McCaffrey. That study concluded that 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.

The study also rebutted arguments that allowing the medicinal use of 
marijuana would lead to the use of other illegal drugs or encourage the 
public to use it.

Sadly, the discussion of how marijuana is categorized is not based on 
science, but on the federal government's illogical, "just-say-no" mind-set.

The U.S. government has gone to extreme lengths to thwart the will of 
residents in 35 states who have authorized the medical use of marijuana.

 From 1997 until October 2003, for example, doctors who even discussed 
marijuana with their patients were threatened with the revocation of 
federal licenses they need to prescribe medicine.

However, in October, the 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.

Now, the Bush administration is appealing a case it lost last year 
involving two California women who say they need marijuana for their 
health. One plaintiff, Angel Reich, 38, of Oakland, suffers from a brain 
tumor, scoliosis and chronic nausea, and her doctor has recommended 
marijuana for her treatment.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in their favor in December 
saying that the federal law outlawing marijuana does not apply to people 
who are using marijuana upon the recommendation of their doctor.

Most Americans don't like the idea of sick people being prosecuted for 
using something their doctors recommend and which the government's own 
study has admitted has a valid medicinal use.

It is time for the Supreme Court to square state and federal laws and to 
get the U.S. government to stop harassing sick people. 
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