Pubdate: Mon, 04 Dec 2006
Source: Michigan Daily (U of MI, Edu)
Copyright: 2006 The Michigan Daily
Bookmark: (Marijuana - Medicinal)

The Moral High Ground


The fight to reverse Michigan's ban on medicinal marijuana is 
understandable given that the drug has been used as such for 
thousands of years. Eleven states have already legalized its use for 
the treatment of serious medical conditions - and with good reason.

It is widely accepted that marijuana may prevent blindness in 
glaucoma patients and can ease appetite loss among patients suffering 
from AIDS or undergoing chemotherapy. It is also a cheap, safe and 
risk-free painkiller. The state and federal governments need to 
recognize what many already do - medicinal marijuana can be a 
legitimate alternative to more addictive and risky drugs.

It is disappointing that a recent bill proposing to legalize the use 
of marijuana in Michigan by those with debilitating medical 
conditions failed in a state House committee. Despite its lack of 
mainstream acceptance, there is no reason to criminalize marijuana 
use for chronically ill patients seeking pain. How can the state 
government callously deny it to elderly cancer patients? How can the 
state deny patients a drug that can lessen the effects of 
chemotherapy and diminish the violent nausea that some pills can 
induce? Marijuana is hardly different from the vast number of legally 
prescribed drugs, like morphine and Vicodin, that are routinely 
abused. It is time for our state government to look past the stigma 
surrounding marijuana and recognize its possibilities.

The Food and Drug Administration argues that there is no sound 
evidence to support the safety and effectiveness of medicinal 
marijuana. But the lack of scientific studies is the fault of strict 
federal guidelines that force researchers to jump through years of 
hurdles to obtain a small amount of marijuana from the one legal 
marijuana farm in the country for research. And it's not even good 
marijuana - a 2005 New York Times guest editorial piece described it 
as "notoriously weak and poorly manicured."

It is no surprise that conducting research is so hard. A victory for 
medicinal marijuana would look like a loss for the federal 
government's misguided war on drugs. And more important, it would 
deal a blow to the pharmaceutical companies that are no doubt 
pressuring the federal and state governments against legalization. 
But don't be misled. These drug companies aren't taking the moral 
high ground; they're responding to a real fear that if medicinal 
marijuana is legalized, their profit margins could fall as patiens 
and doctors flock to the cheaper and safer alternative.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled last year that Congress can supersede 
state governments to enforce the federal ban on marijuana. However, 
legalizing medicinal marijuana on the state level will undoubtedly 
lower the priority placed on medicinal marijuana by local law 
enforcement and legitimize its use as a medical treatment for the 
sick. In addition, as more states legalize the medicinal use of 
marijuana, the federal government would be forced to review its 
position - and maybe even more generally its costly and 
counterproductive war on drugs. Come January, the state Legislature 
should re-examine this issue and lift the ban. 
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake