Posted by: Lisa Pampuch | March 20, 2007

Let’s be reasonable about medical marijuana

Inanimate objects are not inherently good or evil; what matters is how they’re used.

That statement is so patently obvious that it seems silly to utter it. But bear with me.

Take, for example, the automobile. There’s no such thing as an evil automobile or a good automobile; what matters is how an automobile is used.

An automobile can be used for good. It can deliver children to school, patients to doctors, workers to employment, the hungry to food. The manufacture, maintenance, repair and sale of automobiles create jobs.

An automobile can be used for evil. Inattentive or impaired drivers cause property damage, injury and death. Terrorists use automobiles to deliver bombs that kill scores of people at a time. Our nation’s dependence on foreign oil, caused in part by our love of automobiles, feeds terrorism. Dangerous climate changes are caused in part by emissions from our beloved vehicles.

Clearly, inanimate objects are not inherently good or evil; what matters is how they’re used. It follows that marijuana is not inherently good or evil; what matters is how it’s used.

The federal government’s Controlled Substances Act, enacted in 1970, lists marijuana on Schedule I, the most restricted category. The law says that any substance classified as Schedule I has high potential for abuse, no currently accepted medical use, and no standards for safe use under medical supervision.

Despite ample evidence contradicting all of these assertions about marijuana, it remains a Schedule I controlled substance.

Despite the ease with which one could make cases that tobacco and alcohol fit the Controlled Substances Act’s Schedule I criteria, they remain legal.

The federal government is hypocritical and inconsistent about the substances it controls for recreational and medical use.

But let’s put aside the issue of whether or not marijuana should be available for recreational use like cigarettes and alcohol, and instead focus on the much more narrow issue of the medical use of marijuana.

Numerous studies demonstrate that marijuana is a safe, effective drug for many symptoms and conditions. The American Public Health Association says that marijuana treats nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy, reduces eye pressure in glaucoma patients, alleviates the wasting syndrome associated with AIDS, reduces chronic pain, and more.

The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws has been trying since 1972 to convince the federal government to move marijuana to Schedule II so that doctors can prescribe it. It has refused for 25 long years.

Eleven states are so frustrated by the federal government’s intransigence on this issue that voters or legislatures passed laws allowing the medical use of marijuana. This includes California, where voters approved Proposition 215 in 1996. Governor Bill Richardson is about to make it an even dozen states, promising to sign a bill legalizing medical marijuana in New Mexico.

Now Morgan Hill faces this issue because of a proposal to open a medical marijuana dispensary in town.

City Council imposed a 45-day moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries so it can study the issue. Officials are concerned about reports that medical marijuana dispensaries are associated with crimes like burglary and loitering by drug dealers and people under the influence of controlled substances.

A short moratorium is fair enough. This is a new kind of business for Morgan Hill. Let’s see if the reports are true, and if so, what mitigations might be necessary. (Reporter Tony Burchyns interviewed a councilman from the city of Santa Cruz, which has opened two medical marijuana dispensaries in the last 18 months, who reported no problems.)

But I hope, as we research these reports and debate this proposal, that we don’t repeat the federal government’s hypocrisy and inconsistency. Instead, let’s hold medical marijuana dispensaries to the same standards to which we hold other businesses.

Retail stores are associated with shoplifting. Pharmacies distribute controlled substances from OxyContin to Vicodin to Ritalin. Bars and liquor stores sell alcohol, the major factor, along with motor vehicles, in drunk driving. Morgan Hill has numerous retailers, pharmacies, motor vehicle dealerships, wineries, bars and liquor stores.

Above all, let’s remember that no inanimate object, including marijuana, is inherently good or evil. What matters is how it’s used.

I’m hard pressed to find a use that better defines good than relieving the suffering of sick people. Denying them that relief? It comes awfully close to evil.

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Responses

  1. You will be interested in an activism opportunity at http://mendocinocountry.com/independent/mjpages/KELLYPROJECT.html

  2. […] I’ve written about the idiocy of our laws that arbitrarily prevent the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes. I won’t recap the arguments, but you can find them here. […]

  3. […] for safe use under medical supervision. This is simply not true about marijuana, as I’ve detailed in previous […]


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