Medical Marijuana: A debate half baked

Februrary 12, 2010 – If like me you consider the war on drugs futile and destructive, don’t be fooled by Colorado’s new marijuana dispensary boom. It’s bad news. And this bad news begins with a dishonest debate.

Pot advocates — many of whom I have written glowingly about in the past — have no misgivings about claiming that ganja will alleviate suffering and sickness, scare away bedbugs and mow your lawn. The fact is there is little evidence proving pot has any real medicinal value — outside, perhaps, of helping with nausea or decoding the plot of “Battlestar Galactica.” Pretending we know otherwise may elicit empathy from the public, but it is a flimsy way to build policy.

What happens if in the near future an exhaustive Harvard medical study uncovers proof that the medicinal qualities of pot are piddling or even damaging? (As of now, the Drug Enforcement Administration refuses to allow much exhaustive research on the topic.)

After examining the existing science, in fact, The New York Times recently concluded, “There is no good scientific evidence that legalizing marijuana’s use provides any benefits over current therapies.”

Would overwhelming proof of pot’s therapeutic impotence change my mind about an individual’s right to seek the kind of treatment (even imaginary) he or she deems helpful and necessary?

Of course not. I would argue that this should be a debate about the role of government in our private lives, not a case that is contingent on the vagaries of public perception, emotion and evolving evidence.

It is equally grating — not to mention a full-scale assault on reality — for pot advocates to pretend that every one (or even most) of the thousands of Coloradans on the list for medical marijuana is in frantic need of Skunk Weed to ease grave physical suffering.

Few believe it — nor should they. Many of those who voted for the 2000 Colorado constitutional amendment legalizing medical marijuana for people with serious ailments, in fact, might feel like their compassion has been betrayed.

Though I sympathize with some incremental form of legalization, the transparently insincere debate and the anarchy of the present situation has allowed drug warriors like Colorado Attorney General John Suthers to scaremonger about “de facto” legalization and lawmakers to craft ridiculously intrusive legislation.

The medical marijuana bill sponsored by state Rep. Tom Massey and Sen. Chris Romer will not only create economic incentives to continue the drug war (as dispensaries will now have cause to oppose legalization) but it also would set a number of harmful regulatory precedents.

On the dispensary side, everything is regulated. Everything. Logo. Signage. Placement. Crop size. On the government side, nearly everything is subjective — left to the good graces and moral sensibilities of a government official. (Ironically enough, the law includes a “good moral character” component, which should induce legislators to recuse themselves from the process immediately.)

In a political sense, this deal does nothing to further the case against the war on drugs, though it may help with the opposite. What it will surely do is enrich a few dispensary owners by creating mini-government-backed-and-taxed monopolies.

As it stands, perhaps going back to the decentralized caregiver model would be the best course of action for everyone involved. The fight for something more constructive, and more honest, can be fought another day. By David Harsanyi. Source.

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