Pubdate: Wed, 01 Aug 2007
Source: New York Post (NY)
Copyright: 2007 N.Y.P. Holdings, Inc.
Author: Jacob Sullum
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)


LAST week, the Los Angeles City Council voted for a measure that asked
the federal government to stop harassing medical-marijuana users in
California. Minutes later, the Drug Enforcement Administration raided
10 medical-marijuana dispensaries in Los Angeles County.

The disrespect for local judgments on local matters could not have
been starker. Determined to maintain anti-drug orthodoxy, the DEA is
running wild in the laboratories of democracy, smashing experiments in
reform and injuring innocent bystanders.

The U.S. Supreme Court has allowed this cruel crusade to continue
based on the premise that a cancer or AIDS patient who grows a few
marijuana plants to relieve his pain or nausea is engaged in
interstate commerce and therefore subject to federal regulation. As
for Congress, on the day of the L.A. raids, the House again rejected a
measure aimed at restraining the DEA.

Because the two other branches of the federal government have failed
to protect medical-marijuana patients, their most plausible hope lies
in electing a president who is less intent on snatching their
medicine. At this point, the Democrats look decidedly more promising
than the Republicans in this respect.

According to Granite Staters for Medical Marijuana, seven of the eight
declared candidates for the Democratic nomination have promised to
call off the DEA's medical marijuana raids if elected. The eighth,
Sen. Barack Obama, has said such raids "probably shouldn't be a high

Three of the nine remaining Republican candidates - Rep. Ron Paul,
Rep. Tom Tancredo and Gov. Tommy Thompson - oppose the DEA raids. But
the rest of the Republicans, including the leading contenders, either
have taken no position (Mitt Romney) or have said they would continue
the current policy.

When he was asked about medical marijuana in April, the
straight-talking Sen. 
McCain said, "I will let states decide the issue." Less than three
months later, asked whether he would end the DEA's interference with
medicalmarijuana use in the 12 states where it's legal, he already had
changed his mind, saying, "Right now my answer to you is no." And in
five minutes?

McCain's initial position on medical marijuana was reminiscent of
George W. Bush's during his first presidential campaign, when he said,
"I believe each state can choose that decision as they so choose." At
least Bush waited until after he was elected to renege on his promise.

The Republicans also look worse than the Democrats in votes on this
issue. It's true that Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) repeatedly has
joined Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-N.Y.), in cosponsoring an
appropriations bill amendment that would prohibit the DEA from
spending money on busting medical-marijuana patients and their
caregivers. But Democrats have been far more likely than Republicans
to back the Hinchey-Rohrabacher amendment, which last week was
supported by 66 percent of the Democrats who voted but opposed by 92
percent of the Republicans.

These partisan tendencies don't mean Democrats have greater respect
for the division of powers between the federal government and the
states. When it suits them, they're happy to support federal
involvement in policy areas the Constitution leaves to the states.
It's just that Democrats are, by and large, more comfortable with the
therapeutic use of cannabis than Republicans are.

It's hard to find a logical explanation for this split. Republicans,
conservatives especially, are traditionally critical of overly
cautious regulators who prevent people from using drugs that could
relieve their suffering safely and effectively. They have a record of
supporting the freedom to use herbal home remedies without
unreasonable bureaucratic interference.

The prevailing GOP stance on medical marijuana, which is at odds with
what most Americans tell pollsters they think about the issue, can be
understood only in light of the connotation cannabis acquired as a
result of its accidental association with the 1960s counterculture. In
fighting a symbol of their opponents' principles, conservatives have
sacrificed their own.
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MAP posted-by: Steve Heath