Cultivating Compassion

April 24, 2004

EDITORIAL, Salt Lake Tribune

Whenever folks over at the U.S. Justice Department were feeling blue about anti-American terrorists, uppity librarians or naked statues standing behind the attorney general, they could always take a deep drag on the anti-drug drug by busting a few terminal cancer patients in California.     But now some derned activist federal judge has taken that simple pleasure away from them. Some days it just doesn't pay to be a jack-booted thug. 

    It will be of great comfort to a few people, at least for awhile, to be members of the Wo/Men's Alliance for Medical Marijuana in Santa Cruz, Calif. That's because a federal judge Wednesday ordered the feds to stay away while the dispute over California's medical marijuana law plays out in the courts. 

    The co-op's garden was shut down 18 months ago by a federal raid, surely one of the ugliest acts of governmental bullying on record. 

    But U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel, echoing an earlier appeals court ruling, found that the Wo/Men's Alliance was protected by a state law that allows people with a doctor's recommendation to use marijuana to ease the suffering attendant to cancer, cancer treatment, glaucoma or other ills that, many believe, are eased by the drug. 

    The case is wending its way up to the Supreme Court. But, for now, California co-ops run on volunteer labor and donated funds that do not engage in anything resembling interstate commerce, may grow and distribute free pot to suffering people. 

   Even if the medicinal benefits are oversold, medical marijuana laws in California and eight other states are clearly motivated by the desire to ease human suffering. 

    The administration's actions seem motivated by baser instincts including, perhaps, fear that someone might win relief from a substance they can grow themselves rather than being at the mercy of the price-gouging pharmaceutical industry. 

    The Wo/Men's Alliance grows the marijuana, but the Justice Department is full of weeds.

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