I am a member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. LEAP is a wonderful group composed of ex and current law enforcement professional working to end the drug war.
My stint as a prosecutor made me eligible. However, unlike many LEAPers I was never a true believer in Prohibition. Many LEAP members have a conversion of sorts. Years of experience eventually lead them to realize the War on Drugs is a perpetual failure. Me, not so much.
My libertarian beliefs, combined with my economics degree from UTA, and my criminal law classes at Tech taught me that prohibition would always fail and always cause the same predictable externalities every time (death, corruption, violence, mass incarceration.) As a prosecutor my beliefs were sadly confirmed.
However, I have been writing some Op-Eds for LEAP. Recently I penned this article on Medical Marijuana for a Minnesota paper. It was in response to this column by a Minnesota DA. Enjoy-
A Minnesotan suffering from MS finds out that smoking marijuana gives her relief. Her doctor agrees that marijuana is a safe and effective treatment. This same woman is then pulled over by police, searched, and found with marijuana on her person. Should she be arrested, prosecuted, and incarcerated?
That is the question with medical marijuana. Do Minnesotans want to use limited law enforcement resources arresting the sick, the suffering, and the dying? Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom does.
The length to which supporters of marijuana prohibition will advocate bringing the weight of the criminal justice system down on the infirm amazes me. A quote by CS Lewis helps explain this cruelty.
“Of all tyrannies a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victim may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated, but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”
Marijuana prohibition is a tyranny of good intentions. Proponents sincerely believe that the government should prohibit all use of marijuana regardless of circumstance. James Backstrom is not paid to question the law. His writing merely parrots federal “just say no” propaganda. Mr. Backstrom lacks either the ability or desire to question government policy, even it means arresting the dying.
I speak from experience. I was a prosecutor on many marijuana cases. I used some cheap rationalizations to justify the arrest and harassment of marijuana consumers. “I don’t write these laws,” I told myself. Having defending medical marijuana patients I can now attest to the cruelty of their prosecution.
The truth is that federal marijuana law is not divinely inspired. The fact that marijuana is a Schedule 1 substance (like crack and black tar heroin) is a political decision with no basis in reality, or science. Richard Nixon is to blame for making ignorance federal law. Under Nixon’s administration marijuana was arbitrarily labeled as having no medical use.
The truth is marijuana has many beneficial medicinal uses. Three FDA approved medicines have been derived directly from marijuana-Nabilone, Sativex, and Marinol. These medicines are used to treat MS patients who suffer from debilitating pain and spasms, as well as cancer patients who are suffering through chemotherapy.
Several patients actually receive rolled marijuana cigarettes directly from the federal government. During the 70’s and 80’s these patients proved in court they had a “medical necessity” that required smoking marijuana. The same federal government that claims marijuana has no medical use actually grows pot (at the University of Mississippi) and delivers it to patients across America!
If the federal schedule 1 designation for marijuana had any basis in fact, these drugs and patients would not exist. The American College of Physicians, Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, American Academy of Family Physicians, American Public Health Association, American Psychiatric Association, American Nurses Association, British Medical Association, AIDS Action American Academy of HIV Medicine, Lymphoma Foundation of America and Health Canada all advocate using marijuana as medicine. 13 States have programs that allow the sick to access medical marijuana without fear of arrest and incarceration.
It is time to reject failed Nixon-era policies and embrace the compassion, science, and common sense behind medical marijuana.