Pubdate: Mon, 19 Mar 2007
Source: San Francisco Chronicle (CA)
Page: E - 8
Copyright: 2007 Hearst Communications Inc.
Author: Jon Carroll
Note: title by newshawk
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)
Bookmark: (Angel Raich)


So today we have the case of Angel Raich, who has been using medical 
marijuana since 1997 to cope with the pain of scoliosis, 
endometriosis, seizures and a serious wasting disease. She says 
marijuana is the only thing that relieves her pain. She uses 
marijuana every day, even though it is against federal law. Her 
doctor says that if she stops using marijuana, she will die in agony.

She is not fond of being a lawbreaker. She is not fond of waiting for 
the feds to confiscate her stash and bring her up for arraignment on 
felony charges. So she has sued the government, contesting the ban on 
medical marijuana. Her case went all the way to the U.S. Supreme 
Court, where her petition was denied.

Her very last constitutional challenge was denied last week, when a 
three-judge panel of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court "reluctantly" 
agreed that she had no case. Actually, the reluctance part was only a 
2-1 decision, because Judge Arlen Beam, visiting from St. Louis, said 
that he wasn't reluctant at all and that bad people should be 
punished. Here I paraphrase.

So on one side: seriously ill woman in excruciating pain. On the 
other side: comfortable judges expressing tasteful reluctance. I 
know, if we ignore the laws we rip the fabric of society, and we 
can't break a law just because we don't agree with it, and we 
certainly can't interpret laws in order to get a desirable outcome. 
Oh yes, and that never happens.

Except, say, for Bush vs. Gore, where the Supreme Court, citing 
nothing at all that made any sense, made George Bush president 
because it wanted him to be president. And then it said: This ruling 
is not a precedent, it's just a thing we felt like doing. Again I 
paraphrase. So it's OK to bend the rules to get a Republican in the 
White House, but it's not OK to bend the rules to allow a woman to 
avoid agony. Yeah, those are values I can live with.

Come on, judges, take a chance. You're lawyers; you can figure out a 
way. Do the right thing. End your careers by bringing succor to the 
sick. There are worse ways to be remembered.

The laws against marijuana are stupid. Everyone knows they're stupid, 
even the politicians who cravenly refuse to counteract them. The 
distinction between legal drugs and illegal drugs is meaningless; the 
law stands as written because powerful corporations want it that way. 
God forbid we should interrupt the cash flow at Merck or Seagram in 
order to make sick people feel better. Start doing that, and soon 
well people will want to feel better too, and society as we know it 
will collapse.

Of course, the illegality of marijuana has not stopped its 
considerable consumption in the United States; it's just raised the 
price of the product and sent the profits over to criminal 
enterprises even more loathsome than Merck and Seagram. The laws are 
not protecting society against marijuana; they're just turning cancer 
patients into criminals.

This is not new. I have typed these words, or ones very like them, 
before. This is the "hammering my tiny fists against the large iron 
door" part of the job.

But here's what I think: I think the federal government, in this 
case, is no better than a thug. I think that prosecutors who go after 
medical marijuana cases are criminals, morally if not actually. I 
think all the people who have participated in giving people 
ridiculous three-strike prison sentences for marijuana-related crimes 
are hypocrites and fools. It's an obvious and complete injustice. 
They all know it. They should all be ashamed of themselves.

I'm thinking about one of those old-time movies. I've never actually 
seen one of them, but the basic plot has so saturated the culture I 
feel I know it intimately. Our hero has failed to sell his ranch to 
the railroad company, and the company sends out a villainous fellow 
with a black cape and waxed mustache to get the land any way he can. 
So the villain kidnaps our hero's girlfriend and puts her in some 
sort of peril, perhaps tied to a railroad track. And then the villain 
laughs "ha ha ha" as the woman struggles against the inevitable.

I am thinking that Angel Raich is that woman. I am thinking that the 
federal prosecutor is the sinister malefactor. Neither villain really 
cares about the woman in peril; he just wants to make sure he gets 
his way. If people have to suffer to ensure that the powerful stay 
powerful, well, in the words of evildoers everywhere, ha ha ha. And I 
think it's a disgrace, and I wish some guy on a white horse would 
come and rescue our heroine. But, alas, this is real life. OK, maybe 
it's a bit of a rant. Sometimes the circumstances demand ranting, and 
I can do that.

I plopped down in my easy chair and turned on Channel 2, a bad 
gunslinger called Salty Sam was chasin' poor Sweet Sue. He trapped 
her in the old sawmill and said with an evil laugh, "If you don't 
give me the deed to your ranch, I'll saw you all in half!" And then 
he grabbed her (and then), he tied her up (and then), he turned on 
the bandsaw (and then, and then): And then along came  ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom