Pot is not the enemy

That medical marijuana eases the symptoms of as many illnesses as its users claim is questionable, unless you consider the desire to alter one’s consciousness as an illness. But as long as there are patients for whom marijuana does indeed ease pain and suffering, medical marijuana should be legal in states such as California, where voters have approved it, and the federal government should back off.

It is time to take pot off the enemies list in the never-ending war on drugs. Now the U.S. Supreme Court has a chance to do so, as it considers the cases of two women who use marijuana for medical reasons. They are Angel Raich, a mother from Oakland with a brain tumor and other illnesses, and Oroville’s Diane Monson, who was busted by federal agents for the six plants she was growing to treat her degenerative spinal disease.

The 9th District Court of Appeals ruled the feds were out of their jurisdiction in both cases. So U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft took them to the Supreme Court, which began hearing arguments this week but most likely won’t rule until next spring. However, early indications from the court’s conservative majority are not encouraging. Justices have said a ruling in favor of the women could open the floodgates to recreational use. Others have suggested the plant’s medicinal properties are greatly overstated.

Regardless, it seems that, unless a pharmaceutical giant like Merck or Lilly is awarded the exclusive rights to market it, marijuana will never be recognized in this country as a legitimate drug. Still, the 1970s are long gone, and society no longer views marijuana as especially dangerous. It is time the federal government joined the rest of the country.

The irony here is that Chief Justice William Rehnquist is currently absent from the bench as he undergoes treatment for thyroid cancer, the symptoms of which could well be eased by marijuana. Maybe he should try some before next spring.