October 10, 2007
Amanda Lowry, Indiana Daily studentI personally believe that there should be a requirement that every politician who runs for public office must have smoked pot at some point. Even if that experience doesn’t make the politician want to legalize it, he or she will at least realize how dangerous it isn’t.
My position on this issue was only strengthened this week after watching a CNN video of Mitt Romney, in typical 2008 Republican front-runner style, dismiss a multiple sclerosis sufferer advocating that medical marijuana arrests be stopped. The MS sufferer caught Romney on camera and explained to him that, although he is against legalizing marijuana, the smoked form of the drug is the only pain reliever for his lifelong illness that he can use without getting sick.
His question, then, was “Will you arrest me and my doctors if I get medical marijuana prescribed to me?”
Romney dodged the question, answering, “I’m not in favor of medical marijuana being legal.” After that, he returned to his mission of shaking hands with as many rally attendees as possible, ignoring journalists who pressed him to answer the man’s question.
Romney’s attitude toward the MS patient exemplifies the 2008 Republican front-running presidential candidates’ chronic dodging of the issue of medical marijuana arrests and raids on medical marijuana dispensaries, which have been common since the U.S. Supreme Court decided Raich v. Vernon in 2005. The verdict allowed federal officers to arrest sellers and users of medical marijuana, regardless of individual state laws.
Determined to at least appear concerned for everyone’s well-being, the candidates have tried to make their anti-medical marijuana stance appear justified through pointing out the drug’s safety issues, health risks and its potential to proliferate recreational drug use.
But that appearance falls apart when someone brings up the topic of medical marijuana arrests and dispensary raids. Standing firm in the belief that cancer patients and well-meaning doctors should be tossed in the slammer doesn’t exude that same sense of compassion about public health.
So to avoid the hypocrisy, the candidates draw attention away from the arrests and toward the drug’s risks.
When a woman at a New Hampshire conference last week asked John McCain whether he would legally allow her use of medical marijuana, he replied:
“You may be one of the unique cases in America that only medical marijuana can relieve pain from ... Every medical expert I know of, including the (American Medical Association), says there are much more effective and much more, uh, better treatments for pain.”
And last week at another conference, when a woman asked Rudy Giuliani about his position on the raids, he, too, avoided the topic and talked about the FDA’s evaluation of cannabis alternatives.
The health and safety issues medical marijuana presents are important topics for political discussion. But the discussion that needs to come first is the one about people who are getting arrested for trying to put themselves out of agony while hurting no one else – and how to stop those arrests.