The Real Victims in The Government's War on Drugs

The Real Victims in The Government's War on Drugs
Posted by CN Staff on March 31, 2005 at 07:08:07 PT
By Alex Koppelman 
Source: Daily Pennsylvanian
Despite the fact that Angel McClary Raich has committed no crime, former Attorney General John Ashcroft, as the representative of the Bush administration, wants to kill the 38-year-old mother of two. And so, in a landmark case whose outcome is expected to be decided by the Supreme Court within the next few weeks, she is suing him. Raich won't be strapped down in an electric chair or on a gurney for lethal injection; she won't be facing a firing squad if the administration has its way. But she will have medicine that her doctors have testified is the only thing keeping her alive -- testimony that government lawyers do not dispute -- taken away from her.
Raich has an inoperable brain tumor. According to an affidavit written by her primary care physician, Dr. Frank Lucido, voted 1993's "Best Doctor in Berkeley" by The Daily Californian, she suffers from life-threatening weight loss and nausea, as well as severe chronic pain caused by scoliosis, joint dysfunction, endometriosis and uterine fibroid tumors, among other things. Without her medicine, he says, she could suffer "imminent harm" and die. She has tried over 35 different medicines; only one has worked without potentially fatal side effects. And because Angel Raich's medicine is marijuana, the Bush administration wants to take it away. Eleven states allow some form of medical marijuana use, but the federal government argues that all those laws are superseded by the federal Controlled Substances Act, which prohibits any use or possession of marijuana except in federal research studies. Previously, medical marijuana users have sued on the basis of medical necessity, but Raich and her co-plaintiff, Diane Monson, tried a different approach. Raich and Monson are arguing that any application of the Controlled Substances Act to their case is unconstitutional. Congress' power to regulate things like the medical use of marijuana is limited, they say, by the Commerce Clause of the Constitution, which gives Congress power over interstate trade. The two argue that because their marijuana is used in California and grown in California -- Raich's marijuana is donated by two growers who use only Californian seeds, soil and water and Monson's is homegrown -- the federal government has no constitutional authority to intercede. In December of 2003, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed. Raich and Monson stand a fair chance of winning their case, but the debate over medical marijuana should not be limited to constitutional power. What this country should be debating instead is the rationality, the efficiency and above all the humanity of its marijuana laws. In the fall of 2003, for 34th Street Magazine, I interviewed a man named George McMahon who is alive today solely because of marijuana that, for the past 13 years, has been provided to him by the federal government. In fact, McMahon is one of a handful of people who, over the years, have been able to argue medical necessity to obtain federally grown marijuana through a Compassionate Investigational New Drug program. Shut to new patients by the first Bush administration, the program was a victim not of failure but of its own success: The government worried that the sight of so many patients successfully treated with marijuana might send a message to the country that the drug could be a real medicine. But the truth is that marijuana has at least the potential to be a real medicine. The American Medical Association said as much when it opposed the 1937 Marijuana Tax Act, which effectively banned the drug, writing in a letter to Congress that "the prevention of the use of the drug for medicinal purposes can accomplish no good end whatsoever." In his 1993 book Marihuana: the Forbidden Medicine, Dr. Lester Grinspoon, a professor emeritus of psychiatry at Harvard, argued that marijuana could be a "miracle drug," suitable for treating glaucoma, epileptic seizures, asthma attacks, migraine headaches, chronic pain and the nausea which often accompanies chemotherapy. And then there is the experience of the hundreds of people who, like Raich and McMahon, would not be alive today if not for marijuana. But that hasn't mattered to the Bush administration or the administrations that preceded it. The War on Drugs has never been based on good science. It has never been effective in stopping the problem of drug use and abuse in this country, and it has hurt countless individuals who might otherwise have benefited from medical treatment with drugs like marijuana. It's time for our government to admit that -- to step back from its untenable position and allow Angel Raich to live. Alex Koppelman is a senior individualized major in the College from Baltimore and former editor-in-chief of 34th Street Magazine. Rock the Casbah appears on Thursdays. Complete Title: The Wrong Fight: Meet The Real Victims in The Government's War on Drugs Source: Daily Pennsylvanian, The (PA Edu)Author: Alex Koppelman Published: March 31, 2005Copyright: 2005 The Daily PennsylvanianContact: letters dailypennsylvanian.comWebsite: Articles & Web Sites:Dr. Lester Grinspoon McMahon's Home Page Raich v. Ashcroft News Marijuana on Trial Really Consider Cannabis My Miracle
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Comment #3 posted by ngeo on April 01, 2005 at 09:03:49 PT:
with access to the mainstream media ought to ask the question. At least it may cause the 'religious right' prohibitionists to examine their positions.
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Comment #2 posted by FoM on March 31, 2005 at 21:07:18 PT
That would be wonderful but I don't think they really care. 
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Comment #1 posted by ALM on March 31, 2005 at 21:02:51 PT
Terri and Angel
I wonder if all the Christians who rallied around Terri Schiavo will show up to support Angel if the federal government pulls the plug on her. I doubt it.
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