Pubdate: Mon, 11 Oct 2010
Source: News Journal, The (Wilmington, DE)
Copyright: 2010 The News Journal
Author: Robert Robb
Note: Robert Robb is a columnist for The Arizona Republic.
Bookmark: (Opinion)
Cited: Proposition 203
Bookmark: (Proposition 203)
Cited: Proposition 19
Bookmark: (Proposition 19)


I have always been a supporter of medical marijuana. There are two 
reasons for this.

The first is a personal experience many years ago.

A son in a family very close to ours came down with cancer. He was 
having a real tough time with the treatments. A doctor told his 
parents that marijuana would provide the most effective amelioration 
for his extreme side effects.

His father was in law enforcement. Nevertheless, he secured some pot 
for his son. The son died from the cancer, but substantially more 
peaceably than otherwise would have been the case.

Ever since, I've turned a deaf ear to claims that marijuana doesn't 
have medical benefits. And I've supported medical marijuana laws 
because I didn't believe parents or people should be put in that position.

The second reason is a belief, for a whole host of reasons principled 
and pragmatic, that marijuana should be legal or at least 
decriminalized. Medical marijuana seemed a societal move in that 
direction. And in the past, medical marijuana proposals usually came 
with provisions softening the criminal treatment of recreational use.

Despite this background, I find myself leaning against Proposition 
203, this election's medical marijuana ballot measure.

Times have changed since the searing memory of the law enforcement 
father having to scurry to secure some illegal pot to provide some 
modicum of comfort to his anguished and dying son.

Cancer treatments have improved considerably. Side effects are 
dramatically less.

Synthetic marijuana, Marinol, is now available by prescription. Other 
significantly better antiemetics have been developed.

I know that medical marijuana advocates believe that it has medical 
benefits beyond those imitated by Marinol, and that smoking has some 
medical advantages over ingesting pills.

But to me, given the substantial improvements in cancer treatments 
and alternative ameliorations, this is a discussion that should now 
take place within the ordinary drug approval process, as legitimately 
subject to criticism as that process might be.

The critics of medical marijuana have always had some good points. 
Medical marijuana has a unique status, without the ordinary 
requirements and regulations regarding dosages and potency of 
prescribed medicines.

And then there is the fact that medical marijuana remains illegal 
under federal law. So, states that approve it are entering legal limbo land.

The Obama administration says it won't enforce federal drug laws 
against the state-approved cultivation, distribution, sale and use of 
medical marijuana. A different administration might take a different position.

Entering legal limbo land seemed worth it when the alternative was 
giving good people the choice of breaking the law or watching loved 
ones endure relievable suffering. That choice arguably still exists 
for some people. But medical improvements have reduced their number 
and increased their legal options. The balance has shifted.

I still support legalizing or decriminalizing marijuana. If I were in 
California, I would readily vote for Proposition 19, which legalizes 
marijuana for home use.

That, of course, would render the question of medical marijuana moot. 
It could be ingested for whatever reason.

Unfortunately, however, Proposition 19 isn't on the ballot in 
Arizona. Proposition 203 is, and unlike past medical marijuana 
initiatives in Arizona, this one doesn't soften or address criminal 
penalties for non-medical uses at all. It's a pure medical marijuana proposal.

And it's a sound one, as such measures go. It copies the Colorado 
law, which sharply restricts the presence of marijuana dispensaries, 
rather than California's almost-anything-goes approach.

Still, medical marijuana seems like an outdated controversy, a 1970s 
solution that doesn't fit today's medical environment. If we're going 
to fight about marijuana, let's fight about the main event, treating 
it as a public health rather than a criminal matter.
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake