Medical Marijuana: Congress should make exception to drug laws

June 08, 2005

EDITORIAL, Dallas Morning News

Life is about choices, and far too often, the choices aren't easy ones.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled this week that the federal government can prosecute people who use marijuana for medicinal reasons, even if state laws permit it.

It's the proper ruling based on existing federal drug laws and the constitutional principle embodied in its interstate commerce clause.

The ruling, however, spotlights a pressing need for Congress to carve out a medical exception to the drug laws.

Various studies have found that marijuana helps some cancer and other seriously ill patients relieve chronic pain and control nausea and vomiting. At the time of the court's decision, 10 states – Texas not among them – had laws on the books protecting from arrest or jail those patients who possess and grow their own medical marijuana with a doctor's approval.

A few states even register doctors and patients and provide ID cards so police officers can determine who uses marijuana for medical reasons.

The American Medical Association supports research to determine the benefits of marijuana. A statewide poll last year found that 75 percent of Texans favored legislation that would allow people with cancer and other serious illnesses to use their own marijuana for medical purposes as long as their physician approves.

But under the high court's ruling, no doctor anywhere in the country can legally prescribe medical marijuana, no patient can legally obtain or use it, and no state laws protect doctors or patients. Period.

Trafficking drugs and using drugs for a legitimate medical purpose aren't the same thing.

Congress needs to recognize the difference.



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