It seems the long-standing war on a segment of the U.S. populace, waged by corrupt bureaucrats and self-aggrandizing law enforcement agencies throughout the country, has hit a wall.
I refer to the national effort to retain, and even strengthen, an institutional campaign to criminalize those who prefer marijuana as their drug of choice, rather than the patent medicines and nostrums pumped out by the pharmaceutical industry, or the booze that flows so freely through the commercial veins of the world, or any of the numerous other legally sanctioned substances used to blot out pain, anxiety or simple discomfort at the end of a tough day.
The wall that this nasty war has collided with has a name: President Barack Obama, who has made good on a campaign pledge to stop harassment and prosecution of medical marijuana patients in the 13 states with medical marijuana statutes on their books.
The Obama administration's directives to the Justice Department, the Drug Enforcement Administration and other long arms of the law is soon to be bolstered by legislation designed to eliminate a discrepancy that, in spite of state laws permitting medical marijuana use, enables federal prosecutors to continue their war.
A national advocacy organization, the Marijuana Policy Project, was a key player in getting Obama to live up to his campaign promise. According to the organization, in all 13 states that now permit medical marijuana use, patients are barred from telling a federal jury that their use of pot was for medical purposes, despite the fact that state law permits such use. This kind of Byzantine legal chicanery keeps the anti-drug cartel in business, busting people who have legitimate medicinal needs for a relatively benign drug.
Well, according to the MPP, a California congressman, Sam Farr, will introduce legislation next week to codify the Obama directive into the federal statute books.
Now, those who may not need medical marijuana, or who continue to feel it is the “gateway drug” that has been the bogeyman of federal anti-drug efforts for decades, may think Farr's legislation is a waste of time.
But consider that thousands of people end up in prison every year for smoking pot, and many of them would qualify for certification as medical marijuana users. To eliminate these cases from the criminal justice backlog would reduce the costs of our nation's overcrowded and burgeoning prison system. Plus, it has been argued that if these patients were allowed access to their medicine of choice rather than being forced to depend on the expensive and often counterproductive products of the pharmaceutical industry, it might actually help cut medical costs nationwide.
Not to mention the fact that, as a taxable product in the commercial market, medical marijuana could help ease our nation's chronic shortage of public funds.
So Farr's proposal makes sense in a variety of ways, and I urge anyone reading this to contact their representatives in Washington and recommend they support the bill.
Why should federal, state and local resources be wasted on investigating, prosecuting and imprisoning this subset of our population?
Don't our law enforcement and regulatory agencies have better things to do, such as identifying the villains who nearly sent the world in a great depression and, if not punishing them, at least making sure they don't do this kind of damage again?
The voters have agreed that using pot to cure pain, anxiety and other ailments is not a crime. It's time the feds got their heads out of the sand and did the same.
October 25, 2009
The Aspen Times