More MS news articles for Nov 2001

Medical marijuana a necessity for society

Updated: Tue, Nov 27 12:00 PM EST
Staff Editorial
Daily Bruin
U. California-Los Angeles

(U-WIRE) LOS ANGELES -- Until 1937, the use of marijuana was legal in the United States. This was when the Marijuana Tax Act declared the drug a dangerous substance and banned it from use. But for patients who need the drug for medical purposes, the battle to bring cannabis back may soon be won.

The Americans for Medical Rights group will challenge the legality of medical marijuana at the federal level by introducing a measure in the November 2002 ballot. The new measure would charge the state with the responsibility of distributing medically prescribed marijuana, hence making it an issue of state rights.

The Santa Monica-based group also promoted California's medicinal marijuana initiative in 1996, which allowed cannabis clubs to distribute marijuana for medical purposes. The Supreme Court struck down this measure, stating cannabis clubs are not the appropriate means of distributing marijuana.

Should the issue make its way before the court, we can only hope that the justices will show more allegiance to their state's rights agenda than they did in the 2000 presidential election when they reversed Florida's federal court decision to hold a recount. If conservative politics are allowed to outweigh objective judgement again, patients with legitimate medical claims will be left to suffer.

The medicinal value of marijuana has been proven time and again. The Institute of Medicine's report, commissioned by the government in 1997, declared that marijuana helps patients deal with the symptoms of AIDS, glaucoma, cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. It also alleviates the pain of arthritis, migraines, menstrual cramps, alcohol and opiate addiction, depression, and debilitating mood disorders. Each of these claims has been upheld as a legitimate need for marijuana by a court of law in the United States, according to the Institute of Medicine. Yet the outdated Controlled Substance Act of 1970 maintains marijuana has no currently accepted medical use and is unsafe even when used under medical supervision. Americans don't seem to agree: according to a 1999 Gallup poll, 73 percent of Americans support legalizing marijuana for medical usage.

But opponents of medical marijuana are afraid of possible abuse for non-medical related purposes. They claim legalizing the drug, even for medical use, will validate its recreational use, and will in fact lead to an increase in use.

But keeping marijuana illegal has caused more problems than it's worth. According to the FBI's Annual Uniform Crime report, it cost approximately $10 billion in 2000 to fight marijuana use -- much of it stemming from the price of jailing 5.9 million people who have been arrested for non-violent marijuana related offenses since 1990. All of this costs money that's being extracted from worthier sectors such as education, health care and other social programs.

It's imperative that the government make marijuana legal for both medical and recreational purposes. Legalizing it does not mean making all drugs legal, nor does it lead down a slippery slope. Marijuana is different from other drugs because we can clearly see its consequences and we can pinpoint the areas of society it's damaging. A rational approach should be taken toward legalizing drugs as we learn what effects such actions would have.

When the court gets its chance to decide the legality of marijuana in the next couple of years, it should turn to history, where trying to control a popular drug happened before; it was called Prohibition. And the government lost.

(C) 2001 Daily Bruin via U-WIRE