Just where is the humanity?

June 07, 2005

EDITORIAL, Santa Maria Times

Angel Raich has a laundry list of wasting diseases and lives in Oakland, which has some blight issues of its own. But, unlike Oakland, Angel knows how to deal with her medical problems.

She smokes marijuana.

 
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Angel is lucky in that she lives in California, whose voters overwhelmingly approved the Compassionate Use Act of 1996, which legalized the use of marijuana for legitimate medical reasons, and after being prescribed by a physician.

That's about the extent of Angel's good fortune, however, because California is, as of the deadline for this editorial, still a part of the United States of America, whose highest court has decided that medical uses of marijuana are not legal, thus trumping laws in nearly a dozen states that say it is.

The U.S. Supreme Court was divided 6-3 on this issue. The majority ruling was based primarily on the reasoning that, in general, marijuana use is against federal law, and that legalizing the medicinal use of the drug would only encourage more of its use, and would hamper the efforts in the federal government's war on drugs, a multi-billion-dollar boon-doggle that has put thousands of hapless dope smokers in prison - but has not stopped illegal drug use in this country.

This is an obvious states'-rights case, but once again the high court has revealed its schizophrenic nature on a guiding philosophy for states' rights, which are derived from the 'Commerce Clause' of the U.S. Constitution.

We rarely find ourselves in agreement with the conservative inclinations of Justice Clarence Thomas, but a comment in his dissent from Monday's ruling is right on target:

'If Congress can regulate this under the Commerce Clause, then it can regulate virtually anything - and the federal government is no longer one of limited and enumerated powers.'

So the court can't decide between a strict interpretation of the Constitution and the federal government's overpowering need to control every aspect of life in the United States. Instead, justices seem content to relinquish the high court's authority to the executive branch, doing the Bush administration's bidding on the medical marijuana issue. Aren't states' rights a characteristically conservative mantra?

Meanwhile, Angel Raich and others like her probably will continue to smoke their marijuana, just as millions of Americans have been doing for years. We don't have a lot of sympathy for people busted for smoking pot purely for pleasure - the drug is, after all, illegal - but we wonder about an administration and Supreme Court that seem to show not one shred of humanity in their treatment of ailing Americans.



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