Medical Marijuana Victory ...
By William Westmiller
The Institute of Medicine report on marijuana is welcome for the myths it destroys and the clinical objectivity of its findings. It's disappointing that the authors were precluded from destroying the horrendous myths about the efficacy and ethics of drug prohibition.
The National Institute of Health's advisory group roundly sacked the proposition that marijuana must be a "gateway" drug, finding no evidence that the drug's effects are "causally linked to the subsequent abuse of other illicit drugs." The assertion is purely a medical analysis and doesn't mitigate the fact that marijuana users are more likely than non-users to eventually use "harder" drugs. It simply asserts that the drug itself does not cause people to pursue other drugs. This is a very shallow assertion, which is true of any drug. There is no drug that causes a biologic necessity to consume some other drug. Every choice to use a particular drug is motivated by a wide variety of medical, psychological, and environmental factors which vary with every individual. Medically, there is no such thing as a "gateway" drug.
Outside the medical context, Marijuana is a "gateway" drug only because its possession and use crosses the threshold of legality. During prohibition, alcohol was beyond the legal threshold and served as a "gateway" to the outlaw production and distribution of all other drugs. If the use of nicotine is effectively banned by excessive taxes and restrictions on use, it will become the "gateway" drug to all other banned substances. No matter where the legal line is drawn, the least expensive, most efficacious, and most available drug will always be the "gateway" to other contraband substances. The argument that any drug should remain illegal because it is a "gateway" to other illegal substances is a circular argument with no validity.
The advisory report also contests the "sanction" argument, concluding that there is currently "no convincing data to support this concern." Which could be scientifically true, but is totally irrelevant. The threat of legal repercussions will certainly persuade some people to avoid any banned substance. However, to propose that the absence of a law constitutes a "sanction" for certain conduct ispreposterous. There is an infinite variety of human conduct which is unwise, discomforting or repugnant to someone. One of the hazards of living with other human beings is that we may not approve of their conduct. To imagine that we "sanction" it by forsaking legal penalties is silly. The law should be strictly confined to governing conduct which causes actual injury to others. Whether or not marijuana use is wise or unwise, the only legal intervention should be in cases where one person is harmed by another against their will. Otherwise, your approval, agreement or "sanction" should be irrelevant to the law. Condemn, berate or ostracize as you please, but don't recruit policemen to injure those whose conduct simply lacks your "sanction".
Most important, the advisory report finds that smoked marijuana has "potential therapeutic value," even though inhaling the smoke of "burning plant material" could cause some bronchial injury. As every fallible government commission is obliged to do, it called for more study. With extreme caution, it proposed "class of one" field studies that would allow individuals to use marijuana under a doctor's supervision, after government approval is granted. In this context, the report effectively endorses the state medical marijuana initiatives that other government agencies roundly condemn. The advisory board proposal is laudable, if it results in actual legislation allowing states to exercise discretion on medical marijuana laws. Nevertheless, the medical value of any particular drug ought to be a decision made by doctors and patients, not by government bureaucrats.
All of the conclusions found in the current study were reached by another government study a long time ago In 1967, the Canadian Commission on the Non-Medical Use of Drugs went several steps further, concluding that marijuana was no more "psychologically addictive" than peanut butter and that the primary injury to users was a consequence of the legal ban, not the drug. Yet, Canadian drug laws, thirty-two years later, are just as restrictive as United States law. If the current study is to be more consequential, it will require a persistent assault on the political viability of victimless crimes, not the passive hope that additional scientific tests will demonstrate medical efficacy.
If the encroachments of a paternalistic state are not challenged, it's only a matter of time before the use of caffeine, salt and sugar require a government application form. Yes, salt and sugar are drugs; isolated compounds with physiologic effects. They are probably more dangerous, and cause more deaths, than marijuana. But, good medicine isn't the point. The issue is whether prohibition of any substance is a principled and constitutional exercise of good government.
©1999, William Westmiller
California Coordinator of the Republican Liberty Caucus
Past Candidate for the Republican Nomination for (24 CA) Congress
Former National Secretary, California Chairman, Libertarian Party
medimari.c40 ~800 Words
Get New Columns via Email