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The Federal Government and Medicinal Marijuana

The American Medical Association’s Council on Scientific Affairs should be commended for its report, “Marijuana: Its HealthHazards and Therapeutic Potential.” Not only does the report outline evidence of marijuana’s potential harms, but it distinguishes this concern from the legitimate issue of marijuana’s important medical benefits. All too often the hysteria that attends public debate over marijuana’s social abuse compromises a clear appreciation for this critical distinction.

Since 1978, 32 states have abandoned the federal prohibition to recognize legislatively marijuana’s important medical properties. Federal law, however, continues to define marijuana as a drug “with no accepted medical use,” and federal agencies continue to prohibit physician-patient access to marijuana. This outdated federal prohibition is corrupting the intent of the state laws and depriving thousands of glaucoma and cancer patients of the medical care promised them by their state legislatures.

This is an excerpt from a letter written in 1982 to the editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association. Its author was a citizen concerned about the complete lack of rationality exhibited time and time again in the Federal Government’s attempts to justify its ban on the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes. It was no burnt-out ex-hippie who penned the letter. The concerned citizen was none other than the current Speaker of the House of Representatives, Newt Gingrich. He was co-sponsoring a bill intended to end the Federal prohibition on marijuana as medicine. He has since abandoned support for such initiatives and begun to deal in the sort of hypocrisy and misinformation that is typical of the federal government’s policy toward medicinal marijuana.

Gingrich’s bill failed despite overwhelming support from both the public and the facts. Legislators, pandering to a vocal minority, struck it down. Fourteen years later, the silent majority spoke. In a move that must have had Nixon spinning in his gr ave, the silent majority, it turns out, supports this drug use. In the Fall of 1996, two states passed referendums legalizing marijuana. Both California’s “Compassionate Use Act” and Arizona’s “Drug Medicalization, Prevention and Control Act” passed wit h convincing margins despite well-funded opposition. Support for medical marijuana extends far beyond the traditionally libertarian Southwest. A recent survey of the American public by the American Civil Liberties Union showed that 85% of the American p ublic favors making marijuana legally available to the seriously ill.

Unwilling to let the people have the final say, the Clinton Administration quickly moved to impose a de facto veto on these referendums.

War on Drugs is War on Democracy

The voters of California succeeded in passing a proposition to legalize the medicinal use of marijuana as prescribed by doctors. The passing of Proposition 215 seemed to symbolize a promising trend toward knowledge of the substance. However, after reading an article by Eric Schlosser in the April issue of Atlantic Monthly, I have been shocked with the reality of what is occurring elsewhere.

Many of us are aware of the idiocy of our legal system treating marijuana offenders worse than violent criminals. I doubt, however, that many Americans are truly conscious of how some peoples’ lives have been shattered because of current practices in the so-called “drug war.” Now, about 15 years since its beginning, the “war on drugs” has become a war on personal freedom and toes the line of authoritarianism. On the brink of the 21st century, this is not a good sign for preserving our future, nor that of democracy.

In 1989, a small business owner and Vietnam veteran, Douglas Lamar Gray, who had only petty crimes on his record was sentenced to life in prison without parole after buying one pound of weed for himself and friends. He made the purchase from a convicted felon working as an informant for a local Alabama task force. Gray’s wife, left with a 2-year-old son and no source of income, unsuccessfully attempted suicide. The informant was paid $100.

Life sentences for non-violent marijuana offenses exist in 15 states . In Montana, the sentence can be imposed for growing a single plant or selling a single joint. But such martial law is not nearly as horrific as that on the federal level.

Stiff federal policies against drugs arose in 1982 under President Reagan. The largest leap forward came in 1986 with the Anti-Drug Abuse Act w…

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…king away privileges, which laws like the Anti-Drug Abuse Act do not. (FREEDOM is not a privilege; It is an inalienable right!)

I see no choice but for further solutions to embrace the decriminalization of marijuana. I shall not debate the ethics of casual use of the drug. I will merely state that it has never been linked as the sole cause of a single death and no long-term detrimental effects beyond depression have ever been proved. Furthermore, no proof has been found that law enforcement discourages use. (For evidence of the contrary one need only take the examples of the Netherlands and Sweden.) The facilitating of phenomenal business profits among dealers and state and federal organizations, pooled with deprivation of citizens’ constitutional rights, is the evil which must be targeted and struck down. This is only made possible when marijuana is legalized.

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