Thursday, March 15, 2007

Medical Marijuana

Let me start this entry by stating a fact of my life. I have never used any illegal drugs. I say this not to pat myself on the back, but because it plays into the subject of this post. Certainly, coming of age in the early 1970s meant I had opportunity to partake. I knew people who did. However I don't like putting substances into my body, plus I truly never had any desire to try them. So my opinion about what is going on with a San Francisco woman in the news is not based on my desire to use marijuana. If it were totally legal, it is still something that I would not choose to use for recreation.

The problem lies in the case of 41-year-old Angel Raich of San Francisco. She is suffering from multiple, life-threatening conditions, including scoliosis, a tumor in her brain, chronic nausea, among others. Raich lives in California, a state that has legalized the use of marijuana for legitimate medical reasons. Raich claims her use of marijuana is what is keeping her alive.

The problem is that two years ago, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that regardless of state law, use of medical marijuana is illegal under federal law, and that users of the drug, along with their suppliers, can be prosecuted. Now, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has rejected Raich's case based on the right to life argument; the idea that people have a right to use marijuana to save their lives when legal treatments have failed to help.

Raich says she will not let them kill her, and that she will continue to use marijuana to treat her condition. Who can blame her, short of the federal court system, that is. First of all, I see no benefit for the government to deny the legitimate use of a drug that helps people with dire health conditions. Many drugs are derived from plants, and just because it is commonly used as a recreational drug, doesn't mean that marijuana doesn't have legitimate medical uses. Marijuana is a drug with no known lethal dose, no evidence that it is physically addictive, and apparently has the capacity to alleviate much suffering. Putting aside the libertarian view that the government has no business regulating what people do with their own bodies for a moment, where is any compelling interest by the government to deny medicine to someone whose suffering it alleviates? I see none.

As I said, I am certainly no stoner, and have not once smoked marijuana, nor used any other illegal substance. Yet I am appalled at the repressed and puritanical attitudes displayed by our outdated laws about this matter. Sometimes I think I am living in a weird parallel universe where no one sees the obvious.

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