Marijuana as medicine a decision for doctors

March 22, 2007

EDITORIAL, The Republican (MA)

Angel Raich, a California mother of two, has an inoperable brain tumor and other serious ailments so painful that she needs drugs every two or three hours.

Her doctor prescribed nearly three dozen drugs before he found a drug that actually relieves her pain and stimulates her appetite - the only medicine that is keeping her alive.

It's marijuana.

Is her doctor undermining this nation's war on drugs by prescribing marijuana to her?

That's a ridiculous question.

A three-judge appeals panel ruled last week, however, that Raich is not immune from federal prosecution if she uses the drug.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit sympathized with Raich, indicating that if she is arrested and prosecuted for a drug offense, she might be able to use a "medical necessity defense." Judge Harry Pregerson wrote in the ruling, "For now, federal law is blind to the wisdom of a future day when the right to use medical marijuana to alleviate excruciating pain may be deemed fundamental."

This ruling should be posted at the entrance to Congress so that the nation's lawmakers will be shamed into amending the federal Controlled Substances Act, which bans the use of marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug. According to the 1970 legislation, marijuana is an illegal controlled substance with no medical value. That's so 1970s.

Under the supervision of a physician, with adequate controls to prevent its abuse or improper use, marijuana is a proven, effective treatment for some seriously ill patients.

Gov. Bill Richardson, a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, signed legislation last week making New Mexico the 12th state to legalize medical marijuana. Yet the Supreme Court ruled in 2005 that the federal government has the authority to prosecute the use of marijuana for medical use. Congress can change that.

The nation's lawmakers should look in their own medicine cabinets where they might find prescription drugs far more toxic and dangerous than marijuana.

And, in the meantime, Angel Raich faces arrest if she takes her medicine.


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