“It would be unreasonable, arbitrary and capricious for DEA to continue to stand between those sufferers and the benefits of this substance” -DEA Judge Francis Young
Many in this country are in an uproar over the recent arrest and prosecution, though delayed, of Dr. Charles C. Lynch, a California doctor who provided patients with safe access to medical marijuana. They have every reason to be; in fact it is a pity that more media professionals are not alongside them in this outrage, rather than tarnishing a man’s reputation by calling him a “drug trafficker and money launderer”. Then again, politicians should also not be overturning the medical community’s discoveries about the medicinal benefits of marijuana simply to further their own agendas. Perhaps we should allow doctors and health professional’s reign over medicine, rather than leave it to political analysts, advisors and speech-writers.
However, this is not the first time that something like this has occurred. We need look no further than our own backyard to see examples of those who use medical marijuana to alleviate their pain being preyed upon by the state. Consider, for example, last year in Seattle, when the police seized the records of nearly 600 medical marijuana patients. The raid of the headquarters of a patient support group, where these records were located, occurred because a bicycle police officer claimed to have “smelled marijuana” coming from the building. There were no marijuana plants growing there, however the police seized 12 ounces of medical marijuana, along with patient files. Attorney Douglas Hiatt was quoted by the Seattle Times as reminding us of something the authorities really ought to know; “Those records are protected under federal privacy laws. If you’re a medical marijuana patient, you don’t want the police to know who you are or where you live, and this is why – because you don’t get treated very well.” Yet the state seemed to have no qualms in taking these protected private records. In their defense, marijuana was made illegal because it is a very dangerous drug, wasn’t it?
In order to understand why marijuana is illegal, one must go a little further back than last year. Back to a time before medical marijuana patients were being harassed, before doctors trying to help their patients were being arrested, before states voted to legalize marijuana in certain instances, before congress outlawed it at all, back to the 1930s. During this decade marijuana was still legal and unregulated, that was until a man by the name of William Randolph Hearst went before congress to testify about the “evils” of marijuana, stating that it made people insane and caused them to become cannibals. As most laypeople did not know what marijuana did and did not do, congress decided to air on the side of caution and make the plant illegal due to these ridiculous, yet effectively terrifying, claims.
Just who was William Randolph Hearst and why did he start this campaign of fear against cannabis? The answer is simple, and unfortunately not at all uncommon in politics, he was a man enlisting politicians to help him further his corporate agenda of greed. Hearst had a large financial stake in the timber industry. At the time, many paper manufacturers were thinking of switching from the use of timber for their products to something that was cheaper, easier to grow and better for the environment; hemp. Now, had this happened, Hearst and others in the timber industry stood to lose millions of dollars. So, in 1937, he used his influence and money, as well as the country’s ignorance about the properties of marijuana, in order to stop this from happening. It’s as simple as that, marijuana is illegal because one industry did not want to adhere to our free-market society, and preferred instead to perform an act of corporate sabotage.
As time went on, many doctors and scientists debunked Hearst’s crazy myths. They also found many benefits to the medicinal use of marijuana. Not only can it alleviate the ongoing pain of cancer patients and those suffering other ailments by treating their nausea and assisting them in holding down food, it has also been proven to stop the pressure glaucoma patients feel behind their eyes, slow the spreading of Alzheimer’s disease, and cure migraines. Marijuana having such value was by no means a recent discovery; in fact, doctors had been using it to help patients long before Hearst’s 1930s anti-cannabis campaign. As far back as 1860, doctors prescribed the drug for its antiseptic and analgesic effects to treat burns and aid in pain relief.
Let us put aside for a moment the fact that federal legalization of marijuana and other drugs would benefit the environment, by way of providing a cheap alternative to timber; benefit the economy, as the state could tax marijuana sales the same way they tax alcohol and tobacco sales and stop tax payer spending being put towards the millions incarcerated for drug charges and violent crimes which occur because use and possession of marijuana (and other barred substances) is illegal; decrease crime rates, not only because those who smoke marijuana will not be locked up, but also because criminal organizations and gangs would not exist without the money provided them by way of illegal drug sales. Forget the fact that countries which have decriminalized or legalized marijuana and other narcotics have seen a marked decrease in not only their crime rates, but also the usage of the drugs and the deaths and injuries related to that usage. Forget that by decriminalizing drugs the government and FDA can regulate them and properly advise people how to use them by detailing which combinations and doses will be lethal or dangerous. Forget the fact that our deadliest and most addictive drugs (alcohol and tobacco) are legal and fairly unregulated and still more destructive drugs (such as oxycontin and oxymorphone) are legal and prescribed. Forget also the fact that in a free society, one should at the very least have freedom over one’s own body and what one chooses to put into it, especially as drugs affect perception, and you should most certainly have freedom over your own mind and thoughts.
The bottom line is that marijuana is beneficial to patients who suffer from various ailments, including cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, glaucoma, tetanus, convulsions from rabies, epilepsy, depression, anxiety and bulimia to name but a few. Who are politicians to trump trained medical professionals in deciding whether or not medication, which has been proven effective, can be prescribed? Is an MD part of police academy training now, or for that matter part of political science class requirements? Politicians and courts should leave medical decisions to the medical community. They should not be punishing a California doctor for helping his patients, nor should they be bucking privacy laws in order to harass patients here. Washington, like California, allows for the recommendation by doctors of medical marijuana. Federally, it is still, for no particular reason other than a “tough on crime” façade employed by politicians in office, illegal. But this is America, at least pretend to allow voters the courtesy of having their vote count for something. In states, such as this one, where we have voted that medical professionals are allowed to recommend marijuana use, let patients take heed of those recommendations. Let our voices count for something and let doctor’s do their jobs.
By Alexandra de Scheel