Amongst the greatest of the many stupidities of the asinine ‘war on drugs’ is the government’s crusade against ‘medical marijuana’. In the latest chapter of this endless, and depressing, saga, federal prosecutors have now distinguished themselves by securing the conviction of one Ed Rosenthal for growing marijuana – marijuana that was going to be used to treat the sick. The judge who heard the case ruled that the jury could not be told that Rosenthal’s crop was part of Oakland’s medical marijuana program, a plan developed by the city in the wake of the California vote ‘legalizing’ the medical use of the normally prohibited plant. Mr. Rosenthal now faces years in jail and some members of the jury that convicted him are said to be appalled that they were denied the right to hear the full facts before they came to their verdict.
It’s a case that has, understandably, infuriated many (check out Instapundit for more), but the truth is that, while the Justice Department team can – and should – be criticized for wasting government resources in choosing to prioritize the prosecution of a case like this, they were only doing their job. Equally, the judge who excluded any discussion of the ‘medical’ defense was technically quite correct. This seems like a clear case where federal law overrides a state’s jurisdiction and federal law simply does not recognize the defense of medical necessity. What’s more, as Jacob Sullum points out over at Reason, it appears that the jurors did know why the defendant was growing marijuana, even if the poor man was not allowed to talk about it in court.
No, it’s no use blaming the Justice Department, the trial judge or the jury. They all did what they were meant to do. The system worked. And when the system is used to enforce an unjust law, the result will be injustice – as the luckless Mr. Rosenthal has now discovered.
The only solution is to change the law at the federal level. Hoping for a retreat from prohibition is, alas, too much to hope for, but a small, faltering step in the direction of sanity and compassion would be the legalization of medical marijuana.
How about it, Doctor Frist?