First Posted: 1/15/2009
It's a debate not even worthy of taking place, but the U.S. Supreme Court is hearing it anyway.
At issue is whether patients who have been prescribed the use of marijuana for medicinal reasons - typically to relieve pain and nausea associated with the treatment of cancer - can be prosecuted federally for using the drug. Since 1996, 11 states have passed laws allowing physicians to prescribe marijuana. (Doctors, of course, prescribe much stronger narcotics routinely.)
Anyone who opposes the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes should have to hear Angel Raich's story. Raich, a mother of two who lives in Oakland, Calif., has suffered from a brain tumor since 1989. She tried dozens of prescription medicines to ease the pain without success, and some caused debilitating side effects.
Then she was prescribed marijuana, which she smokes frequently. It has eased the pain and helped her regain an appetite that had been lost to chemotherapy. She looks remarkably healthy for a woman who is so ill.
She and another California woman, Diane Monson, filed a lawsuit against the federal government to protect their access to the drug after federal agents confiscated marijuana plants from Monson's yard.
California's law allows people to grow, smoke or obtain marijuana for medical needs with a doctor's recommendation. Other states with such laws are: Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont and Washington.
There are valid arguments against allowing marijuana, primarily the worry that the law will be exploited by people who will use the drug recreationally. Also, there is an enforcement issue. A recreational user could tell the arresting officer he had a migraine that just wouldn't go away.
But these concerns are easily set aside for a drug such as marijuana, whose use has been decriminalized as society finally figured out that it isn't the “gateway drug” or threat that the government's propaganda campaigns portrayed it as in the 1960s.
If 99 people use a doctor to illegally obtain marijuana for recreational purposes, and a 100th person is able to use the drug to relieve chronic and debilitating pain, then the good has easily outweighed the bad.