Pubdate: Wed, 01 Apr 2009
Source: Foster's Daily Democrat (Dover, NH)
Copyright: 2009 Geo. J. Foster Co.
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)


It Is Time To Allow The Use Of Marijuana For Medical Purposes.

Now illegal under federal law, there is sufficient  evidence to show 
the drug has value in treating  illnesses. At the same time, let's be 
sure reform is  undertaken in an orderly manner.

A bill before the New Hampshire Senate determines,  "Modern medical 
research has discovered beneficial uses  for marijuana in treating or 
alleviating the pain,  nausea and other symptoms associated with a 
variety of  debilitating medical conditions, as found by 
the  National Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medicine in  1999." 
The legislative findings also conclude, "State  law should make a 
distinction between the medical and  non-medical use of marijuana. 
Hence the purpose of this  act is to protect patients with 
debilitating medical conditions, as well as their physicians and 
designated  caregiver, from arrest and prosecution, criminal 
and  other penalties, and property forfeiture if such  patients 
engage in the medical use of marijuana."

The measure is a sensible one -- one that probably  should have been 
enacted before this, but standing in  the way has been federal law 
prohibiting such medical  use.

The present law gets its support from the Commerce  Clause of the 
U.S. Constitution, along with the  Fourteenth Amendment and the 
spending power of Congress  that allows it to do things that affect 
states. Federal  law regarding marijuana had its genesis in the 1937 
Marijuana Tax Act and the Controlled Substance Act was  upheld by the 
U.S. Supreme Court in 2005.

A broader marijuana debate has been burning for decades  and it is 
one in which we choose to not engage at this  time. It is the 
narrower discussion -- the medical use  of marijuana -- that occupies 
our attention.

The federal law places a barrier in the way of  marijuana's 
prescribed medical use, but has allowed the  use of opium derivatives 
for generations. Morphine and  codeine have become staples in the 
control of pain --  controls administered under professional and 
regulatory standards.

Marijuana has been found to be useful in treating  patients suffering 
from cancer and other debilitating  diseases, as well as relieving 
such symptoms as pain,  inflammation and nausea in many cases.

There are 13 states, including Maine, Vermont and Rhode  Island, that 
allow the medical use of marijuana with a  doctor's approval or certification.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said last week the  Justice 
Department will no longer go after small  dispensaries that sell 
cannabis for medical use -- not  as long as those dispensaries comply 
with state laws.  Holder's position is one that uncomplicates the 
ability  of states to take a direction in which they have been 
reluctant to move.

Despite Holder's stance, the federal law prohibiting  the use of 
marijuana for medical purposes does not go  away. It's simply a law 
the Justice Department will not  enforce.

A bad law may be a law that should not be enforced. But  to ignore 
laws is not the way to bring about reform.

The Obama Administration will have a lot on its plate  during the 
next several months -- maybe during the next  few years. Medical 
marijuana reform is unlikely to  occupy a high position, nor, 
probably, should it.

If any water is going to be carried in support of  repealing the 
federal law, it will have to come from a  prominent member of 
Congress -- and someone not  associated with a host of liberal causes.

Meanwhile, the state Senate should delay action on HB  648 -- act in 
a manner that will ensure it is being  sent to a committee of 
conference and held over at  least until the Legislature reconvenes 
in January 2010,  thus avoiding a hasty remedy to a bad law.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom