Human Exceptionalism

Obama Continues Irrational Policy on Medical Marijuana

Gil Kerlikowske, President Obama’s drug czar, like those of Clinton and Bush before him, claims that marijuana has no medicinal value. From the story:

“Legalization is not in the president’s vocabulary, and it’s not in mine,” he said. Kerlikowske said he can understand why legislators are talking about taxing marijuana cultivation to help cash-strapped government agencies in California. But the federal government views marijuana as a harmful and addictive drug, he said. “Marijuana is dangerous and has no medicinal benefit,” Kerlikowske said in downtown Fresno while discussing Operation SOS — Save Our Sierra — a multiagency effort to eradicate marijuana in eastern Fresno County.

Everyone knows that isn’t true. Unfortunately, “no medicinal benefit” is the law under the Controlled Substances Act. Yet, while Obama said during the campaign that he would not enforce federal law against medical marijuana in states where it is legalin essence a promise to violate his oath of office–he is apparently unwilling to handle this matter in the correct manner by changing the law to permit marijuana to be tested for medical efficacy and prescribed like other strong drugs.

I urged this very course of action in the San Francisco Chronicle in 2007.  From my column:

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.

The good news is that just because marijuana is currently on Schedule I [e.g.,no medical uses], doesn’t mean that it has to stay on Schedule I. The classification can be changed in two ways: Either by the DEA – a highly unlikely course – or by legislation. Indeed, Congress could pass a law tomorrow listing marijuana under Schedule II of the controlled substances law. This means that marijuana would still be considered a drug with “a high potential for abuse” but one that also “has a currently accepted medical use.” 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 find this amazingly ironic: Obama is following many of the policies for which Bush was castigated.  That point aside, I don’t want pot legalized recreationally–and let’s not get into that debate here.  But I do want to see the current chaos of state medical marijuana laws ended and federal law changed to permit marijuana to be used like other drugs that can be abused, but which there are also medically efficacious uses.