The Stupidity of Federal Drug Policy

June 22, 2003

Jim Hightower, AlterNet, jimhightower.com

Let's hear it for Ed Rosenthal! He's a marijuana grower - but before you can say "drug dealer," let me say that he grows his marijuana to be sold for medical purposes, supplying patients under doctor supervision and who need the medicine to treat severe and chronic pain, cancer-induced nausea, and other ailments. Providing medical marijuana for these patients, many of whom are terminally ill and have no other medicine to ease their agonies, is not only humane and medically sound, but it's also perfectly legal - in 1996, the people of California voted to OK this use of the cannabis plant. In 2001, however, George W chose John "Mad Dog" Ashcroft to be the U.S. attorney general, and this super-pious, right-wing extremist has zero respect for the will of the people. Asserting his personal bias over states' rights and democratic choice, the authoritarian Ashcroft is on a prosecutorial crusade against California and the eight other states that have passed medical marijuana laws. Saying that his views and the federal law pre-empt state law, Ashcroft's agents have been going after people like Rosenthal with a vengeance. In a perverse, Orwellian twist of justice, the Feds convicted Ed by refusing to allow him to tell jurors that he was operating within state law. Jurors later angrily said they would've acquitted him had they known his. Now the good news: Instead of 100 years in prison and a $4.5 million fine, as the absurd federal law allows, the judge only assessed a thousand dollar fine and one day in prison for Ed. Rosenthal will now appeal the silly conviction itself, and his case has become a rallying point for all of us who think this federal law is an anti-American assault on our basic liberties. Yet Ashcroft is as arrogant and autocratic as ever - as one of his agents said of Ed and us supporters of common sense: "We are not listening to them." And that's exactly what's wrong with national drug policy.

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