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Micromanagement: DC’s Drug of Choice

Medical marijuana usa

Medical marijuana usa (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Copyright © 2005 by Stephen W. Potts. All rights reserved.

On June 6, 2005, the U. S. Supreme Court struck another blow in the federal government’s longest running campaign against American citizens. By a vote of 6 to 3, the Court ruled that the Feds could prosecute patients using cannabis, legalized in ten states to relieve medical conditions from the pain of multiple sclerosis to the crippling effects of chemotherapy.

The “criminals” in this particular case were two Californians, Angel Raich — a victim of brain cancer — and Diane Monson — a sufferer of chronic back pain. On the record, the majority of justices acknowledged that the quality of life of these women had improved under their prescriptions. They asserted, however, that Congress — not medical evidence, and certainly not the voters who had approved the use of this drug — had the ultimate say over what was a viable medical treatment. Only Congress determines what evidence will be accepted, ignored, or invented to control the use of cannabis.

In a surprising, all too rare demonstration of philosophical integrity, it was three court conservatives — Rehnquist, Thomas, and O’Connor — who dissented. In their view, the argument is preposterous that Congress has authority over herbs grown in someone’s back yard because that constitutes interstate commerce. They even dismissed the Bush administration’s contention that home-grown marijuana aids international terrorists. One would think the medical marijuana issue would ignite all genuine conservatives; after all, if prosecuting the sick and dying for trying to alleviate their symptoms is not an outrageous intrusion of government in the lives of individuals, what is?

Without further action by Congress, Washington’s seventy-year crusade against cannabis — its most enduring failed social engineering program — will continue. In the wake of the Supreme Court decision, Republican Representative Dana Rohrabacher of California joined Democrat Maurice Hinchey of New York in introducing yet another bill to exempt medical cannabis from federal oversight. On June 15, 2005, the bill was defeated 264-161.

Go ahead and inhale, however. The Court’s decree was a legal setback, but of course it will change very little in those ten states, and it will have absolutely no effect on the tens of millions of Americans who use or contact cannabis every day, whether for medical or recreational purposes. The glaring fact is that the so-called War on Drugs was lost decades ago. True to form, the federal bureaucracy simply cannot admit defeat, and its anti-druggernaut remains bogged down in a Vietnamesque quagmire into which millions of enforcement man-hours and billions of dollars — our tax money — disappear with a vacuous sucking sound.

The public has already left Washington way behind on this issue. So has the rest of the civilized world. We all know about the Netherlands, and the war on weed has been effectively ended in England, Spain, and Italy; in the view of these governments, the cost of enforcement and imprisonment is a waste of money. Canada has essentially legalized personal use of marijuana, although the Mounties still occasionally go after growers, with tragic results. In the foreseeable future, only the United States and Singapore will continue to lump getting high right up there with rape and felonious assault.

Here at home, of course, getting high has become a standard part of a young person’s rite of passage. Not everyone samples cannabis, nor should they, especially if too young. According to my informant at a suburban, upper-middle class high school a few years ago, only fifty percent of teens had tried it, while as many as seventy percent had some contact with the substance. The majority of them went on to college, graduated with satisfactory grades, and entered the work force. As had their toking Boomer parents, many looked ahead at careers in education, medicine, law, business, and government service.

And that is the best evidence for the widespread effects of marijuana and other socialized drugs, whether utilized for medicinal or recreational purposes. We have now seen at least two generations grow up with cannabis and other substances used as commonly as beer, and to similar personal and social effect. The current inhabitor of the White House is the second president in a row to have used marijuana as a college student, although he is probably a bad example, since he did go on to cocaine and alcohol abuse. Still, he did not become genuinely dangerous and start killing people until he got hooked on religion.

In the Seventies we used to believe that today’s Prohibition would end as soon as someone who smoked dope got elected president. We could not imagine that someone who had actually enjoyed marijuana and other social drugs, and not only survived but thrived, could support throwing others in prison for doing so. As cliché would have it, those were more innocent times, and we didn’t know then what we know now. We underestimated the deleterious effects of power addiction. Apparently cannabis did have an effect on their long-term memories; these users forgot that it had done them no harm.

In the face of such stubborn stupidity, all that the freedom-loving American citizen can do is stay the course. Sure — continue to push for easing legal proscriptions at the state and national levels, whenever possible. But don’t bother waiting for our legislators or courts to catch up with reality. This is the perfect cause for widespread civil disobedience, and that is exactly what is happening. Handwringers worry openly about what message would be conveyed to our youth by the legalization of marijuana for any purpose. The message they are getting right now from our drug laws is that the government is stupid and irrelevant.

With the June 6 decision, the High Court has admitted that our prosecution of drug users has little to do with real dangers to public health and safety, and everything to do with the pure exercise of legal authority. Thus, it acknowledged that, especially in the case of cannabis, drug crimes are purely political crimes, and the people serving time for them are political prisoners.

Much is made today of our ideologically divided nation. This issue, however, not about liberal versus conservative, left versus right. No — it pits the governing class against the rest of us.


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