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One Giant Leap Nowhere

Pot Plant Normally, Heroin Helper has little to say about cannabis and even less to say about medical cannabis. Most people think that medical cannabis has something to do with drug law reform. It doesn't. Drug law reform is about freedom, and medical cannabis does not.

Ninth Circuit Court Distracts Everyone

When the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals found that doctors had a right to discuss cannabis with their patients, people throughout the drug law reform movement were happy. All this excitement just shows how ignorant people are about these issues. Even DRCnet, which agrees with Heroin Helper regarding the best drug policy, spends more time reporting on medical cannabis than any other issue. This week was no exception; The Week Online starts with two articles about the Ninth Circuit Court and medical cannabis: an editorial, "The Space Between the Lines" and an over-view of this week's Ninth Circuit Court ruling, "Ninth Circuit Appeals Court Says Feds Can't Punish Doctors for Recommending Medical Marijuana". These articles are worth reading because they show just how far we have to go.

As the Drug War gets more and more intense, the arguments used against it become harder and harder to understand. This itself is easy to understand, however: no court will listen to reasonable, clear-headed arguments. For example, no court will listen to a defense of possession on the grounds that the law is unconstitutional--even though it clearly is. In this week's case, the Ninth Circuit Court couldn't even agree on why they agreed. They published two opinions which are radically different, but which come to the same conclusion.

Opinion One: Begging the Question

One of the opinions seems as though it would be easily over-turned because it basically states cannabis should not be a Schedule I drug. This begs the whole point. If cannabis weren't Schedule I, the matter would be solved--doctors could prescribe it. However, there is something I like about this opinion: it points out the critical flaw in the Schedule I definition. The only thing that distinguishes a Schedule I drug from a Schedule II drug is that a Schedule I drug has "no currently accepted medical use". The fact that enough doctors are prescribing cannabis to cause the Feds to worry must de facto indicate that cannabis has some currently accepted medical use.

Ah! There in lies the lie, of course. It is not doctors who decide what has medical use, but rather politicians. If the law were to be honest, the phrase "no currently accepted medical use" should be changed to "no currently accepted political use".

Opinion Two: Missing the Point

The other opinion touches on two issues: freedom of speech and states' rights. Neither make much sense. The Feds are not interfering with doctors' freedom of speech. The medical profession has been in an unholy alliance with the Feds for the last 100 years. The Feds grant them a monopoly. Should we be surprised that the Feds would expect something in return? Something like, say, adherence to their laws (regardless of how ridiculous)?

It would by an infringement of the doctors' freedom of speech if the Feds said they could not tell their patients about medical cannabis. But they aren't saying that. They are saying, "Tell patients about medical cannabis and we will exclude you from the medical monopoly on prescribing drugs". As anyone who has read much of my writing knows, I am firmly in Thomas Szasz's camp: the doctors are as big a part of the problem as the government.

The "states' rights" issue is ugly. Many people seem to think that just because a state legalizes cannabis, the federal government should bend to it. This issue was dealt with conclusively in the Civil War. In this case it is even clearer than the slavery issue, however. Here we are talking about laws. The states have drug laws and the Feds have drug laws (a good case can be made that the Feds shouldn't be involved in the matter, however). If the state laws are repealed, the federal laws still exist.

Of course, the Court is not making such naive arguments. The Court is claiming the states are the primary regulators of professional licensing. Although this seems a pretty easy idea to defeat, it may win out in the long run. But to what end? To the end of giving doctors slightly more power and the federal government slightly less. Not one tiny step will have been taken to increase the power of individuals to self-determination.

One Giant Leap Nowhere

And that is where it stands, and that is why we don't support medical cannabis laws. They do not move us toward more freedom--they simply change the details of our repression. That's one small step forward for the government, and one giant leap nowhere for the people.

by Dr. H
© 16 April 2001
Last Modified: 21 Jul 10


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