Vice Squad
Tuesday, February 17, 2004
More in Sorrow than in Anger

Today's Trib brings us an opinion piece by "a deputy director at the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy and a past president of the American Society of Addiction Medicine." She is concerned that discussion of the medicinal properties of marijuana is undermining our message to children that marijuana is harmful and keeping us from "creating an environment of prohibition." I guess those 700,000 Americans arrested each year for marijuana don't constitute an environment of prohibition. How many more arrests will that take?

We further learn that you shouldn't be taken in by appeals to compassion:

"Organizations seeking to construe marijuana as medicine appeal to the compassion of America. They cite testimonials that only marijuana can provide relief to patients suffering from AIDS, cancer and other painful diseases. In reality, smoked marijuana is not a Federal Drug Administration-approved medicine. As a crude plant, marijuana is so complex, unstable, and harmful that sensible physicians and researchers consider it unethical to expose individuals to the risks associated with smoking it."

Quite a non-sequitur, that "In reality, smoked marijuana is not a Federal Drug Administration-approved medicine." So much for those testimonials, I guess! (It reminds me of Groucho Marx, "who are you going to believe, me or your own eyes?") And it is good of the author to keep us posted on the ethical views of "sensible physicians and researchers." But it makes me worried about all the unethical medical practitioners out there. Like the respondents to that survey in 1990 of members of the American Society of Clinical Oncology -- more than 44% of whom reported "recommending the (illegal) use of marijuana for the control of emesis to at least one cancer chemotherapy patient." (From the abstract to "Marijuana as Antiemetic Medicine: A Survey of Oncologists' Experiences and Attitudes," by Richard Doblin and Mark A. R. Kleiman.) But drug prohibitionists make a habit of knowing better than physicians what is good for patients.

Why more in sorrow than in anger? Because I don't doubt the sincerity of the author's beliefs that marijuana is dangerous, and that kids should avoid it. I even agree. But it doesn't follow that therefore marijuana should be prohibited for adults, just as it doesn't follow for alcohol, tobacco, gambling, or unprotected sex.

Update: Drug WarRant provides a more pointed rejoinder to the Trib op-ed, and concludes in a manner that makes me want to rethink my "more in sorrow" stance: "And don't forget. We pay her salary."

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