Wed, 15 Oct 2003
There are so many reasons to decry the federal government's policy on medical marijuana that one hardly knows where to begin. First is medical science, which shows that marijuana provides unique comfort for those suffering from glaucoma, the effects of chemotherapy, and other ailments. On this alone, stubborn federal resistance to permitting limited use of marijuana would seem irrational, even cruel.
But that is only the beginning. Nine states, from conservative Arizona to liberal Alaska, have passed laws permitting the use of marijuana with a doctor's prescription, and another 35 states approved of legislation acknowledging marijuana's medical value. Thus to have the federal government so vigorously fighting to undermine the states in an area -- the oversight of medical practice -- that is otherwise left to local discretion, seems an inexplicable encroachment of Washington into the rights of states.
And now, as if more support were necessary, the U.S. Supreme Court has turned down a Bush administration request that the federal government be able to harass doctors merely for describing the benefits of medical marijuana to their patients. This was perhaps the most invidious government intrusion of all, since it went beyond the expected control of illicit substances into the control of ideas, of speech. Unable to counteract the evidence that proves the value of medical marijuana, the administration cravenly sought to control the communication of that evidence.
Most of the nation has lost patience waiting for the White House and Congress to wake up about this. We are not talking about selling pot in supermarkets. We are not talking about making it legal to light up joints in public parks. We are talking about people dying of cancer alleviating their suffering. We are talking about glaucoma patients reducing the pressure in their eyes. The argument that allowing this would somehow pave the way for acceptance of drug abuse in everyday life holds no merit. There are many reasons for heroin addiction, but the use of morphine in hospitals is not one of them.
We know why the Bush administration and Congress are opposed to medical marijuana --part habit, part political cowardice, part ignorance, part indifference, part pandering to the most extreme conservative elements. This must end.
It is tragic that law-abiding citizens are forced to break the law to get medical treatment. The United States risks isolating itself; other enlightened countries do not stand in the way of this proven practice.
The federal government has lost this fight. It is only harming
ill American citizens, responsible doctors, and its own estimation in the
hearts of the public by continuing to press a mistaken, cruel and repressive
policy. Medical marijuana will become an accepted part of our society,
and the sooner, the better.
Copyright © 2003, Chicago Sun-Times