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Medical marijuana fiasco

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Medical marijuana fiasco

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September 15, 2002

POT BUST:

Thereís a big difference between the recreational use and the medical use of marijuana.
Federal drug policy has failed those who are suffering from grave illnesses and need medical marijuana. When bad law fails people, people in turn take the law into their own hands. Thatís what has happened with medical marijuana, and now federal agents have created an uproar by raiding a small pot farm near Davenport and arresting the owners.
Those arrested were Valerie and Michael Corral, and they grow marijuana in order to provide it to those who are sick. Some patients get medical benefits from the drug, and a big majority of Californians have approved the idea of legalizing the medical use of marijuana. Medical marijuana use has been approved both in Santa Cruz County and in California, and in some other states.
But pot remains illegal on the federal level, and agents arrested the Corrals and cut down the marijuana plants more than a week ago.
The arrests have prompted outrage locally, to the point that the Santa Cruz City Council has declared its support of an open distribution of medical marijuana on Tuesday.
The issue of medical marijuana has its subtleties. Some supporters of medical marijuana also support the legalization of marijuana, and sometimes the two issues become confused. Certainly federal agents make no distinction between users. Drug Enforcement Administration spokesman Richard Meyer made that clear last week when he expressed shock at the upcoming city-approved event: ďThatís illegal,Ē he said. ďIím shocked that city leaders would promote the use of marijuana that way. What is that saying to our youth?Ē
His words will infuriate local advocates of relaxed marijuana laws. Our reaction is somewhat different, because we agree with those experts who say that recreational marijuana use is a lot more harmful than its supporters say. Longterm use can lead to a variety of physical and psychological damage, and the tolerance of marijuana use locally has had a negative impact on our areaís drug problems.
But outlawing medical marijuana is as bad as outlawing perfectly acceptable medical treatments of other painkillers. Federal law and its enforcing agents make no distinction between recreational users and medical patients in need of relief.
Not only have voters in California made clear that they support medical marijuana, but local law-enforcement officers have made their peace with those getting the drug to those who need it.
The DEA raid was done without the support or even the knowledge of local law enforcement. After all, law enforcement is an exercise in judgment, and local officials from Sheriff Mark Tracy on down have been cooperative in allowing medical marijuana to get to the patients.
Obviously, the system in place in Santa Cruz is hardly the best system. It would be far better for medical marijuana to be prescribed by doctors and purchased legally, even by federal standards. But this countryís inability to establish meaningful laws has given birth to a system of distribution that isnít great but it works.
We donít support the overall legalization of marijuana. However, we do approve of the distribution of pot or any other substance to people who are suffering and in need of relief.
Our information is that the Corrals are interested only in bringing relief to those who are sick. Their arrest doesnít help the common good; it only helps federal authorities who want to make a point.
Interestingly, many California public officials, including state Attorney General Bill Lockyer, have expressed strong support for the Corrals and for the Wo/Menís Alliance for Medical Marijuana, the organization they operate. The organization sells marijuana only to those with a doctorís prescription.
Obviously, there must be a better way. For medical marijuana to be recognized as legal by the state but not by the federal government makes for a bizarre situation such as the one that the Corrals and many of their patients are facing.
The only good that comes of the situation would be if it leads to change on the federal level. But thatís small comfort to those like the Corrals whose very freedom now depends on the vagaries of federal officials. Itís an outrage that some innocent people including the Corrals could suffer. Itís long past the time that our society comes to grips with the complexity of the abuses and the benefits of marijuana.
 
 


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