Pubdate: Wed, 28 Dec 2011
Source: Times, The (Trenton, NJ)
Copyright: 2011 The Times
Author: Ken Wolski
Note: Ken Wolski, R.N., MPA, is executive director of the Coalition 
for Medical Marijuana New Jersey Inc. (


The Upper Freehold Township Committee adopted an ordinance this month 
that is designed to ban medical marijuana facilities in its township 
("Construction of pot greenhouses put on hold - Upper Freehold vote 
prevents town from violating federal law," Dec. 17). The committee 
said that it would not permit any facility that was engaged in an 
activity that is against federal law. The ordinance is designed to 
thwart the New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act in 
favor of the federal law, the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).

The federal law is deeply flawed, ineffective and unjust, however.

The CSA was hastily passed by Congress in 1970, after the previous 
federal ban on marijuana, the Marijuana Tax Act, was declared 
unconstitutional in 1969. The CSA established five "schedules," or 
categories, for all drugs, supposedly based on the relative dangers 
of the drugs. Marijuana was placed in the most restrictive schedule 
of all - Schedule I - along with heroin and LSD. Schedule I drugs:

Have no accepted medical uses in the U.S.;

Are unsafe for use even under medical supervision; and

Have a high potential for abuse.

In 1972, the Shafer Commission, appointed by President Nixon to 
determine whether marijuana was properly classified, issued its 
report. The commission determined that marijuana should not be a 
scheduled drug at all, but that it should be decriminalized for adult 
use. The Shafer Commission said, "The actual and potential harm of 
use of the drug is not great enough to justify intrusion by the 
criminal law into private behavior." President Nixon nonetheless 
ignored the results of the commission he himself had appointed.

In 1986, federal hearings began on a petition to reschedule marijuana 
in order to make it available for physicians to prescribe. U.S. 
Department of Justice Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) 
Administrative Law Judge Francis L. Young handed down the decision 
Sept. 6, 1988. He said:

"The evidence in this record clearly shows that marijuana has been 
accepted as capable of relieving the distress of great numbers of 
very ill people, and doing so with safety under medical supervision. 
It would be unreasoning, arbitrary and capricious for DEA to continue 
to stand between these sufferers and the benefit of this substance in 
light of the evidence in this record."

The administrator of the DEA overturned the judge's decision and kept 
marijuana listed as a Schedule I drug, where it remains today. As 
recently as July, the DEA rejected yet another petition to reschedule 
marijuana. And last month, the governors of Rhode Island and 
Washington state submitted a new petition to the DEA to reschedule the drug.

Clearly, marijuana has recognized medical uses in the United States. 
So far, 16 states have removed statewide penalties for patients who 
use medical marijuana. These states have well-defined medical uses 
for marijuana within their borders. In these states, an estimated 1 
million patients are using marijuana with their physicians' 
recommendation. Additionally, scores of national medical 
organizations are urging immediate legal access to marijuana for 
patients who would otherwise suffer needlessly or be forced, by 
medical necessity, to become lawbreakers.

The DEA's Judge Young also said, "Marijuana, in its natural form, is 
one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man." 
Not a single death has ever been recorded due to a marijuana overdose 
or allergic reaction. Non-prescription drugs such as aspirin and 
acetaminophen, by contrast, kill many Americans every year. Doctors 
routinely prescribe, and nurses routinely give, far more dangerous 
drugs than aspirin every day. To say that marijuana is unsafe for use 
even under medical supervision is an absurd embarrassment.

What does it mean to say that marijuana has a high potential for 
abuse? According to the federal government, any "unauthorized use" of 
marijuana is abuse. But the federal government does not authorize any 
use for marijuana, except in rare and very small clinical trials. 
Certainly, marijuana has a high potential for use; can the cancer 
patient, using marijuana with a doctor's recommendation, be said to 
be abusing marijuana simply because it is against federal law?

About 100 million Americans - one in three - have used marijuana 
despite the draconian penalties imposed by the CSA and the state laws 
that are modeled on it. The latest government survey shows that about 
one in 15 high school seniors uses marijuana daily.

The CSA does not have, and does not deserve, the respect of 
Americans. Finally, the CSA is enforced unjustly. Between 1999 and 
2007, there were about 10 million adult marijuana arrests in the 
U.S., 80 percent for possession alone. Blacks and whites use drugs at 
about the same rate, but Human Rights Watch reports that blacks are 
arrested and incarcerated at a far greater rate than whites for drug 
violations. And when legitimate patients are prosecuted under the 
CSA, they are forbidden to explain their medical needs for marijuana 
to the jury.

The CSA is the law the Upper Freehold Township Committee supports in 
its efforts to keep a marijuana production facility outside its 
borders - a law that is fundamentally flawed, ineffective and unjust.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom