Pubdate: Wed, 23 Dec 1998
Date: 12/23/1998
Source: Detroit Free Press (MI)
Author: Tim O'Brian
Note: Tim O'Brien is chairman of the Libertarian Party of Michigan. Write
to him in care of the Free Press, Editorial Page, 600 W. Fort St., Detroit,
Mich. 48226.

I have long suspected that the marriage of convenience between
religious-right and nanny-state conservatives must inevitably end in a
messy divorce.

Other than a desire to achieve political power in order to compel the
rest of us to follow their vision (by force, if necessary), these two
groups actually have no more in common than, say, environmentalists
and feminists -- strange bedfellows from the other wing of the bird.

Now, it appears the catalyst for the final breakup may have appeared
on the scene in the person of Jack Kevorkian.

Right to Life, the Roman Catholic Church and their fellow travelers
are well aware that their successful campaign to defeat Proposal B
last month (which would have permitted physician-assisted suicide
under strictly regulated conditions) is ultimately only a holding action.

The scare tactics about granny being brow-beaten into submission by
greedy heirs -- and, ironically, the appeal to libertarian objections
about the proposed bureaucracy's intrusiveness -- will give way to the
sensible notion that human beings are entitled to at least the same
level of compassion society has for its suffering pets.

Kevorkian made this point rather forcefully a few weeks ago on network

That's why some of the Citizens for Compassionate Care who fought
Proposal B are now calling for a significant overhaul of state laws
regarding pain management.

This, of course, means adopting a new attitude about and approach to
the use of drugs -- the ultimate bugaboo of their erstwhile allies in
the conservative movement.

Now there is little dispute in the scientific community that the most
efficacious treatment for intractable pain would be the refined
version of morphine, the best drug currently available.

Not surprisingly, the more potent form provides better pain relief at
lower doses and with fewer side-effects. Indeed, this drug was
originally developed more than a century ago for precisely those
reasons. Prior to being made completely illegal, it was marketed in
the United States by the Bayer company under the trade name: Heroin.

We can probably gauge the reaction of the nanny-state conservatives to
a proposal to make heroin available for medical use by their response
to similar recent proposals with regard to marijuana (a drug so mild
that there has never been so much a single recorded instance of a
fatal overdose).

In 1996, medical marijuana proposals appeared on ballots in California
and Arizona. They passed in both states.

Federal government officials promptly went ballistic. A furious Gen.
Barry McCaffrey, White House drug czar, threatened to pull the
prescription writing privileges of any doctor who dared recommend
marijuana to a patient (the drug has proven effective in ameliorating
the side-effects of cancer and AIDS treatments as well as relieving
the symptoms of glaucoma, multiple sclerosis and other chronic maladies.)

This year similar measures appeared on ballots in Washington, Nevada,
Oregon, Alaska and the District of Columbia. Also, the legislature in
Arizona put a referendum on the ballot asking its citizens if they
didn't want to reconsider their 1996 vote.

The results were that laws allowing medical marijuana use passed in
all four additional states.

Furthermore, the good folks in Arizona said they were not interested
in rescinding the approval they had given previously.

However, the results of the vote in Washington, D.C. remain unknown.
It seems that Rep. Bob Barr, R-Ga., managed to insert a provision in
the District's budget authorization bill last October that prohibited
the local government from expending any funds whatever on any vote for
any measure that would reduce the penalties for marijuana possession.
Too late to amend the already printed ballots, the vote went ahead.
The results were simply withheld.

The American Civil Liberties Union promptly filed a lawsuit demanding
that the results be released under the Freedom of Information Act and
alleging that the measure attempting to prohibit the vote was an
unconstitutional "viewpoint-based restriction" in violation of First
Amendment in any case.

The Libertarian Party has filed a friend-of-the-court brief and joined
the complaint, which was heard by U.S. District Judge Richard W.
Roberts on Dec. 18. A ruling is expected by year's end.

Whatever the outcome, one thing recent events have made manifest about
the nanny-state branch of conservatism -- is that their drug jihad
hysteria has reached truly astonishing proportions. They not only no
longer care about the wishes of the people, but refuse to even
recognize that in a democratic system citizens have a right to make
their wishes known.

Of course, the religious-right zealots who want to stop Kevorkian at
all costs are a pretty determined bunch themselves.

It's definitely going to be messy divorce.