George Will gets it wrong: Cannabis laws make a mockery of justice.

George Will

George Will

This writer knew something was wrong when conservative pundit George Will wrote two opinion pieces with which I could agree. The first was regarding Afghanistan where, regrettably, Will makes more sense for leaving than Obama does for escalating. The other was for his recent criticism of the war on drugs. However, in a November 29 Washington Post column, Rocky Mountain high, Will returns to his authoritarian, neocon roots with criticisms of Colorado’s medical marijuana program.

Those wishing to disdain the medical value of marijuana typically put the term “medical” in quotation marks when the word is followed by marijuana. George Will goes further, when belittling the conditions for which medical cannabis may be used, he includes “chronic pain” (quotation marks his). It may be news to George, but pain is the primary reason people go to the doctor, and indeed was the core reason the medical profession came into being! Yes George, pain, especially chronic pain, is a good reason for seeking medical care and medication.

Cannabis has been used for pain relief for at least 5,000 years and is proving in new studies to be highly effective in lessening many types of pain. It is also the least toxic of any pain relieving substance. Indeed, cannabis is the safer choice for pain relief, far safer than Oxycontin, far safer than Vicodin, safer even than aspirin. Aspirin causes several hundred deaths each year, marijuana causes zero deaths. Typically, use of dangerous, mind-altering opioid pain relievers is greatly reduced when cannabis is added as an adjunct analgesic.

Yet George Will and the authoritarian wing of the Republican party would deny Americans their personal freedom of medical choice for pain relief, if that choice happened to be marijuana.

  • How did the Republican party, supposedly the party of small government, transform itself into a tyranny that controls and punishes American citizens needlessly?
  • How did the Republican party, supposed for keeping the government out of people’s lives, still seeks to deny Americans the freedom to make their own safer medical choices?

Will gets off on the wrong foot by lauding prohibitionist Colorado attorney general, John Suthers, calling him honest and thoughtful. Actually he is a bureaucrat protecting his turf, a law enforcement official extending his domain over the medical choices of his fellow Coloradans. Because of his prohibitionist efforts, Coloradans may be forced to give up the right to choose safer, cheaper medications. Hopefully, Colorado citizen Mason Tvert of SAFER will educate the authoritarian George Will on the “thoughtfulness” of the hardline AG.

Americans should rightly bristle when self-serving bureaucrats deny them medical choices. The police should not be lobbying against the medical freedoms and choices of their fellow citizens, just because costs them enforcement turf, as is the case with medical cannabis. George Will allowed Suthers to feed him age-old platitudes about current marijuana being “seven, eight times as concentrated” as pot used to be. Even if this old saw were true, it would only make it “seven, eight” times safer, requiring less consumption for equal medical benefit.

George almost misted up when revealing that Suthers claimed that in a recent survey, “non-using young people revealed that health concerns did not explain nonuse. The main explanation was the law: We underestimate the number of people who care that something is illegal.” Great rationale for continuing the current marijuana laws devastate the lives of the 800,000 people arrested each year in the USA! Such reasoning is contradicted by the Dutch who have a much higher level of “nonuse” of cannabis than Americans, but have much more lenient laws against the plant substance.

Will concludes, “by mocking the idea of lawful behavior, legalization of medical marijuana may be more socially destructive than full legalization.” Gee, George, the arbitrary, unreasonable and capricious laws against marijuana have been dissed and disobeyed for more than 40 years now by Americans who knew the restrictions were unjust. These laws have been willfully broken by tens of millions of Americans for decades, mocking the law, flaunting legislators who passed them and viewing as enemies the police that enforced them. Respect for the law demands laws deserving respect.

As far as legalization of marijuana being socially destructive? Not in the least. The recent experience of Portugal proves that. The social destruction of the last 40 years of failed drug war has been the 20 million cannabis arrest casulties inflicted upon Americans by their government. The unneeded, counterproductive and failed war on marijuana users has produced maximum harm and is the mockery of American justice George Will should be protesting.

Excellent video on cannabis and cannabinoids with Michael Pollan.

This material is from Michael Pollan’s new DVD of his book, The Botany of Desire.  Pollan narrates how cannabis has flourished by making itself useful to humankind. The DVD provides an excellent, graphic review of THC and anandamide and the endocannabinoid system. It features legendary cannabis/cannabinoid researcher, Dr. Raphael Mechoulam.

Dr. Raphael Mechoulam

Dr. Raphael Mechoulam

Crack in Schedule I status for cannabis? AMA reconsiders.

Huge reductions of harm will be gained when cannabis is rescheduled down from the current draconian status, Schedule I. Legal and social harms inflicted upon users of marijuana by their government is by far the greatest source of harm associated with the plant substance.

  • Physically, to the user and socially, to the community, cannabis is far SAFER than alcohol. Unlike alcohol, its use is not associated with violent crime. Or any crime, aside from the “crime” of use of cannabis.
  • Legally, however, cannabis is a mine field of harm. Marijuana is deemed among the most dangerous of all substances, Schedule I, demanding draconian punishment, often years or decades of mandatory imprisonment.
  • Drug warriors in the USA, especially the DEA, have resisted all efforts to reschedule cannabis, as such as step would lessen the very need for the Drug Enforcement Administration. The agency has profited greatly and grown cancerously during the four decades of the war on drugs.

Any medical usefulness of cannabis belies the drug’s Schedule I status that specifically stipulates that the substance is of no medical use. All efforts to down schedule cannabis have been rebuffed, usually by including reference to the lack of support by the American Medical Association, the AMA.

History shows that the AMA protested the criminalization of cannabis by the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937. But congress drug warrior mentality was at work and the legislators wanted to hear nothing of cannabis’ medical utility, and the protestations of the AMA were dismissed.

For the next 72 years, the medical use of cannabis was forgotten by the AMA. Appeals to the group concerning increasing evidence of medical utility and the poor fit with Schedule I went unheeded.  Finally, in 2009, the AMA is changing its stance, and will argue against continued Schedule I status and to promote cannabinoid research.

This move, though long overdue, is of great importance. Prohibitionists seeking to maintain the most restrictive (and harmful) schedule will now find their position ad odds with the country’s major association of physicians.

Cannabis should really be moved out of the responsibility of the DEA altogether, as that agency has only lied and shown great self-interest in keeping cannabis illegal and preventing medical studies. If the drug remains scheduled, it should be Schedule V, the least restrictive. But even moving it to Schedule II would provide harm reduction by decoupling from the harshest enforcement and provide health promotion by opening the floodgates of medical research.