Misplaced priorities

July 07, 2003

, San Francisco Chronicle

Editorial WITH ALL the Bush administration has on its plate -- the aftermath in Iraq, Israeli-Palestinian discord, homeland security, economic woes -- one might think it has no time to pick on doctors who prescribe medical marijuana. Yet the administration continues to escalate its war on medical marijuana -- and Proposition 215 in particular -- by intimidating physicians who are doing what they think is best for their patients. The White House has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to allow federal authorities to punish California doctors who merely recommend marijuana. President Bush wants the authority to revoke doctors' licenses to prescribe drugs if they tell patients that pot might be helpful. A ruling in the White House's favor would overturn the U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco that said penalizing doctors for just consulting with patients violates free-speech guarantees. But Bush's motive may be to uproot Proposition 215. Ever since voters approved the law in 1996, raids by federal drug agents have disrupted the state's medical marijuana operations. Marijuana does appear to offer a benefit for some medical conditions. Of course, the clinical proof of such benefits remains elusive, especially since the federal government has resisted funding definitive clinical studies. "What we're asserting here is the basic, fundamental right of local government . . . to control the health and safety of its citizens," is how Santa Clara University law professor Gerald Uelmen put it. The Supreme Court should dismiss the appeal, and Bush should attend to far more pressing matters.

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