Lay off medical marijuana users
July 15, 2004
EDITORIAL, The Bellingham Herald
It's difficult to see what good could come from federal prosecution of an emaciated cancer patient who needs a pot brownie to keep her dinner down. It's equally difficult to see why the U.S. House of Representatives is seeking to limit states' rights by overriding laws that allow the use of medical marijuana.
A 268-148 House vote July 7 approved a measure to allow the federal government to continue prosecuting people who use medical marijuana where it is allowed by state law.
Washington state voters approved a citizen initiative allowing for the use of medical marijuana by more than a 2-to-1 margin percent in 1998. It gave people with serious medical conditions like HIV, cancer and multiple sclerosis the right to possess and use marijuana with a doctor's approval. It does not allow for the sale of the drug.
Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Nevada, Oregon and Vermont also have laws allowing people to use marijuana if recommended by a doctor.
Our system of government clearly allows federal laws to take precedence over state laws, however, this crusade led by Republicans, the party dedicated to limited government and states' rights, seems both hypocritical and out of step with the people's larger concerns.
At a time when the Bush administration should be focused on its cornerstone issue of national security and Congress should be giving as much attention as possible to the American public's concerns about the economy, whether or not a few people with AIDS are lighting joints is a minor concern at best.
Critics of medical marijuana laws argue that they encourage drug use, yet they cannot offer proof of the claim. Representatives on both sides of the issue have argued that medical marijuana prosecution should not be a national priority.
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, a conservative Republican from Orange County, Calif., told The Associated Press, 'The Justice Department is working overtime to put sick people and those who would help them in jail.'
Last year, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled that the federal law outlawing marijuana should not apply to people using it on a doctor's recommendation. The Bush administration appealed and the U.S. Supreme Court agreed last week to hear the case.
The high court refused to hear a case brought by the Justice Department that would have punished doctors who discussed with their patients the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes.
This is not only a matter of states' rights, it's a matter of national priorities and personal freedom.