Human Exceptionalism

Life and dignity with Wesley J. Smith.

Permit Marijuana to be Prescribed


This column in today's San Francisco Chronicle is a bit of a change of pace for me. I urge that marijuana be removed from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act--meaning no legitimate use--and changed to Schedule II or III--which would permit doctors to prescribe it. (I didn't have space to get into this, but it wouldn't necessarily be for smoking or eating. I am told that liquid medicines are now being made from the whole plant that can be sprayed under the tongue.)

I wrote the column because, on one hand, I was sick of presidential candidates promising. if elected, to violate their oath of office by not enforcing a valid law and because I think the pot club distribution scheme is chaotic and rife with abuses. On the other hand, the current classification is dead wrong because marijuana is clearly a palliative agent. In any event, here are a few excerpts. I discuss the federal law and note that candidates for president are being asked to stop DEA raids on medical marijuana users and distributors:
But this is both the wrong question and the wrong solution to the controversy. The problem isn't the DEA raids. They are a symptom... Because marijuana is listed under Schedule I, doctors may not legally prescribe it, and the federal government can ignore state medical marijuana laws.

People can debate marijuana's potential for abuse, but it is increasingly clear that cannabis has definite medicinal benefits. Studies and abundant anecdotal evidence demonstrate that marijuana can stimulate the appetites of people with AIDS and cancer, reduce nausea in chemotherapy patients, and help people with such debilitating conditions as multiple sclerosis, diabetes and glaucoma. And the American people know it: Polls show support in the 70 percent range for medical marijuana.

I call for reclassification to permit doctors to prescribe the drug and proper testing to see what it is and is not good for:

This would hardly be a radical move. It would merely allow doctors to prescribe cannabis according to the same rules currently permitted for far stronger and addicting drugs such as morphine, opium and cocaine.
I point out that even though most candidates who have supported calling off the raids are in the Congress, none has introduced reclassification legislation. I also note that opponents are not heartless but worry about drug abuse.

But it is the Schedule I listing that actually forces medical marijuana to be distributed through a semi-anarchic system in which doctors write notes, instead of properly regulated prescriptions, and patients pick up their drug from pot "clubs" instead of pharmacies...

This much is sure: Marijuana's Schedule I status breeds disrespect for government, forces the DEA to waste resources raiding the homes of sick people, leads to chaotic distribution schemes, and prevents reasonable medical testing to see which maladies benefit--and which do not--from marijuana use. Worse, the stigma of federal illegality deters some sick people from seeking a drug that could help them feel better.

I guess I am just sick of the garbage that passes for public policy debate. Let's get to the real issue.


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