Last modified: 7:58 AM Saturday, 14 January 2017

Medical marijuana and DoJ policy: a matter of consistency

Below is a copy of the “personalized message” I added to this petition to Attorney General Eric Holder. This pertains to recent Department of Justice actions in which federal attorneys have sent letters to state officials discouraging them from adopting medical-marijuana policies.

In 2009, the Department of Justice issued the Ogden memo, advising department lawyers that it was not the policy of the Obama administration to investigate or prosecute users of medical cannabis. I do understand that the memo referred to users under “existing law,” and that what U.S. Attorneys are now doing in sending warning letters to states with such laws pending is technically excluded from it.

Medical marijuana

Medical marijuana: Will the Obama administration keep its promise to America?
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But this isn’t about technicalities; it’s about precedent and legal principles. Either medical marijuana is valid, as a growing body of clinical evidence would seem to indicate, or it is not.

If your department is unsure about this issue, I believe that further impartial examination of the question is in order.

Before constraining personal liberties in any way — but especially liberties pertaining to supporting health in a nation where runaway health-care costs are financially imperiling people already under economic pressure, inducing more bankruptcies than any other single cause, and undermining your administration’s laudable economic initiatives — one ought, I think, to be very sure of what one is doing. Certainly, in such cases, the burden of proof must fall on those arguing for such constraints. Before forbidding an act on grounds of public safety or health, they must first demonstrate that the act really is harmful.

Here, decades-old studies known to be heavily biased are being progressively refuted, as new and more objective studies find, again and again, that marijuana not only doesn’t cause diseases once attributed to it, but has proven to have properties protective against such diseases. This does not support an argument for continuing prohibition; more, it suggests that the rationale for marijuana’s inclusion in Schedule 1 is demonstrably false.

Further, in this case we also find that states, referring to this evidence as well as the trend of public opinion across America, are increasingly approving of marijuana as medicine, in some cases by legislation, in others by voter initiative.

The Obama administration, much to its credit, has rejected the specious reasoning of its predecessor and unequivocally declined to override such state laws.

Is it not therefore inconsistent with your administration’s principled policy to seek to discourage states from passing similar laws?

And given the irrefragable evidence that medical marijuana can, for far lower costs and to much better effect than conventional alternatives, save lives and ease the sufferings of millions of Americans whose conditions have been shown to respond well to such treatment, is it not also inconsistent with the dictates of empathy and morality?

Please reconsider your position and refrain from contravening policies, overwhelmingly supported by voters across the political spectrum, that institute a measure of reason and compassion in our nation’s drug laws and health-care policies.

Originally published as a review of a petition asking Attorney General Eric Holder not to deter states from enacting medical marijuana laws.

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