Thursday, January 18, 2007

Medical Marijuana

Among the things that I frequently criticize the Bush administration for is their dogged determination to continue the WOD (War on Drugs), despite the paucity of evidence for its effectiveness. Add to that fault the flagrant disdain for "states' rights" shown by much of this federal anti-drug action and you've got a federal government that worries me.

On Wednesday, the federal government rode down on 11 legal medical marijuana distributors in Los Angeles. They confiscated the product and detained several people present, though did not make any arrests. It would be reasonable to assume they also confiscated customer data, as well. Hat tip to Radley Balko and his The Agitator blog for this news and for all of the excellent information he presents with such wit and accuracy.

Unlike most people in this country, I believe all drugs should be legal for adults. I am aware that the consequences this might have but am certain the overall effect would be preferable to our current practice of prohibition. But even if though this view may be a minority view, the support for decriminalization of marijuana-or the legalization of it for medical purposes-is far more widespread. I know several people who've told me that marijuana is the only drug they used that had an affect on their appetite, while going through chemotherapy. Other drugs were either ineffective or had unacceptable side-effects.

As a law enforcement officer for over twenty years, I have seen the adverse effects of drugs on people and society. The fact is, though, that the adverse effects of the prohibition of drugs has been even worse. Many other law enforcement officers are aware of the problems with drug prohibition and are speaking out on the subject more and more frequently.It has become common practice for police agencies to perform even routine warrant services with the support of a full SWAT team, resulting in several unnecessary deaths and "wrong house" disasters. The current law in Michigan has changed significantly over the years as a direct result of the war on drugs, to the point now, that a person can be stopped for a driving infraction (or the appearance of a driving infraction), deemed by a police officer to be under the influence (by a series of extremely subjective "sobriety tests", of dubious validity), and forced to submit to a blood test at the risk of arrest and drivers license restriction. If the blood test shows any concentration of marijuana, the charge is Driving Under the Influence of drugs. This result does not depend upon the driver's actual sobriety but on the presence of a prohibited substance in his blood; one that may have ceased affecting his driving skills as long ago as one month!

The prison population is surging in this country, due partly to the tough enforcement of drug laws. While only about one percent of the prisoners in this country are serving time for only the use and distribution of marijuana, nearly ten percent of the probationers are serving probation for it. When you add in those who were sent back to prison for marijuana use, the numbers become rather high, indeed(pardon the pun). Far more marijuana-users are dealt with in the kangaroo-like misdemeanor courts, paying the very beast that works so hard at destroying their lives. For example, when a person is charged with these drug misdemeanors, they are most likely to be offered a plea, which they will most often accept, guilty or not, because the cost of fighting it is more severe than accepting the punishment. The result? Probation and continuous drug testing supplied by a private corporation that makes millions off these miserable marijuana smokers (yeah, they pay the their right to be pulled into a drug testing facility at some bureaucrat's whim!). Add to that numerous other fees and fines and you see the individual is swamped by the government practice of prohibiting a simple plant. Sure the business is good for criminal attorneys and the county and state prosecutors' offices but the money is supplied by low-wage earning people who broke a very minor law. Usually the treatment they receive makes it more difficult for them to get a job and be more productive, causing further criminal activity. It is a cottage industry that supplies its own customers!

But what of the trouble this drug causes, you might ask. Have you recently seen any marauding bands of marijuana smokers rioting in the streets? How about a marijuana smoker who must rob the local liquor store to pay for the drug? Nah. The fact is that marijuana smokers do not normally engage in criminal activity, other than their pot use. Now, you might see a few breaking New York's ban on the consumption of trans fats, but that's about the extent of the marijuana-users' threat to society.

Finally, the fact is that the people of California have voted to allow the use of medical marijuana in their state. It is certainly their prerogative to regulate this practice as they see fit but it is unconscionable for the federal government to arrest California residents for an act that is legal under California law! What's next for the federal golem? Ignore the recent laws in several states outlawing the seizure of private property, for another private person's gain, via eminent domain? How about asserting federal law over state law for the criminal sanctions applied to certain crimes such as Criminal Sexual Conduct? Some states' have far more restrictive penalties for the sex abuse of children than the federal laws prescribe. This slippery slope is more than apparent.

It is apparent this administration (and the federal government, in general) is expanding the power of the federal government in more than one way. This exercise in federalism should be denounced by all right-thinking Americans. Let the states and the localities decide what their own laws should be and insist the federal government leave them alone to live as they want!

5 comments:

Hawkeye® said...

OOOOHH! Controversial indeed!

I have no problem with "medical marijuana" under the following circumstances...

1) It must be prescribed by a licensed physician (It cannot be sold "over-the-counter" under any circumstances.
2) The doctors who prescribe it must be registered and permitted to do so (subject to inspection of their records, etc).
3) The doctors who prescribe it must be regulated to prescribe it only for very specific diseases or symptoms... otherwise they are subject to prosecution (none of this fake prescription stuff for "unspecified ailments", just so potheads can get high legally).
4) The marijuana must be grown, harvested, processed, tested, dosed, and packaged under strict FDA-regulated conditions (i.e., read "drug companies").
5) Marijuana must remain a "controlled substance" just like Valium, Prozac, alcohol, etc. subject to DEA regulation and enforcement.
6) Stealing or selling "medical marijuana" remains a crime just like that of any other controlled substance (subject to harsh penalties).
7) It remains a crime to operate automobiles or other transportation vehicles while under the influence of marijuana (even if we have to establish better tests for "intoxication"). I don't want the pilot of MY airplane flying after taking a few tokes.

Sorry if that sounds way too governmentally-controlled for you, but the government is there for a reason... that is, to protect the citizens of the United States. We can't just say "Hey everybody, it's OK now to start using marijuana" in an unregulated environment. "Go out and get some from your local drug dealer".

After all, marijuana IS an intoxicant which affects motor skills, response time, and causes drowsiness.

Try getting into an auto accident after taking Benadryl and see if you don't have problems with the Police suggesting that you are intoxicated (like my sister did).

I'm not in favor of prohibition... I'm just NOT in favor of unregulated supply and distribution. If indeed we are talking about "MEDICAL" marijuana, then it needs to be controlled just like Morphine or syringes, etc.

(:D) Regards...

Billy The Blogging Poet said...

On a similar note.

camojack said...

I guess if alcohol is going to be legal, marijuana (etc.) may as well be, too...and think of the tax revenues it could generate!

Beerme said...

Hawkeye®,
Wow! You got alot of restrictions there, homey! But just for the record, I think California's laws apply about the same restrictions for medical marijuana users.

As for driving or flying a plane on pot, I don't know how the sobriety of the user could be determined, but-as has been shown with the complete overreaction against drunk driving-where there's a will there's a way. The government will figure out how to determine if a pot smoker is impaired or not.

I have a different view than you on the subject, though, as I think it should be legal for all who want it. It causes very few real problems is exponentially safer to use while driving than alcohol and would provide a substantial tax income (good point camojack!).

The most beneficial result, though would be the removal of the criminal component. If marijuana were legal, the money going to buy pot would be taxed as all other purchases are. The profit taken by pot sellers would be taxed, as well. Oh, and all those scurvy drug dealers would have to go out and get a job!

Beerme said...

Billy,

A sad affair! All part of the WOD, though: sleazy behavior by the police, unfair treatment for low-level users, more grist for the WOD money mill, and so on.

Thanks for the link! I posted a rather conflicted comment on her website. I really hope for the best for her. She sounds like a nice person. Maybe too nice...