Twenty years ago, on Sept. 6, 1988, the U.S. Drug Enforcement
Administration's chief administrative law judge issued a landmark
ruling, but don't expect any celebrations or commemorations in
Washington, D.C. Our government has ignored this historic decision
since the day it was issued, inflicting needless misery on millions.
Indeed, most Americans don't know it ever happened.
In response to a petition asking that marijuana be moved from
Schedule I of the federal Controlled Substances Act, which bars
medical use, to a lower schedule that would permit physician
prescriptions, Judge Francis Young held extensive hearings that began
in the summer of 1986. He heard from an impressive array of expert
witnesses, resulting in thousands of pages of documentation.
Young laid out his findings in a detailed, 69-page ruling, walking
readers through the scientific evidence. He concluded that the law
didn't just permit moving marijuana to Schedule II, but required it.
"Marijuana, in its natural form, is one of the safest therapeutically
active substances known to man," he wrote. "By any measure of
rational analysis marijuana can be safely used within a supervised
routine of medical care. ... The evidence in this record clearly
shows that marijuana has been accepted as capable of relieving the
distress of great numbers of very ill people, and doing so with
safety under medical supervision. It would be unreasonable, arbitrary
and capricious for DEA to continue to stand between those sufferers
and the benefits of this substance in light of the evidence in this record."
Remember, this was no pot-addled "legalizer" writing. It was the
chief administrative law judge within the top federal agency
responsible for enforcing our drug laws. Unfortunately, the ruling
had no legal force. In legal terms, it was a recommendation, not an
order that had to be followed.
And the DEA chose not to follow it. Six years after top DEA officials
rejected Young's recommendation, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the
D.C. circuit ruled that the agency did have the right to ignore its
own administrative law judge.
Because the federal government chose to disregard the results of its
own investigation, the medical marijuana controversy continues to
rage today. Losing patience with the feds, 12 states have acted to
permit medical use of marijuana under their state laws. If Michigan
passes the medical marijuana initiative on its November ballot, that
number will increase to 13, comprising roughly 1 in 4 Americans.
But while those state laws provide considerable protection for
medical marijuana patients, states cannot provide an exemption from
federal law. Even in the 12 states that have medical marijuana laws,
patients and caregivers have been arrested, terrorized and even had
their children taken away.
Meanwhile, the medical evidence continues to mount. Another federally
commissioned study, this time by the Institute of Medicine, confirmed
in 1999 that marijuana has legitimate medical uses.
More recently, newly published clinical trials have found that
marijuana effectively relieves certain types of hard-to-treat pain,
including the nerve pain that often accompanies multiple sclerosis,
HIV/AIDS and other diseases. Other research suggests that by
relieving the nausea and vomiting often caused by the harsh drugs
used to treat hepatitis C and HIV, medical marijuana can help
patients stick to these challenging drug regimens -- and live.
Because our government has ignored science, needless suffering has
been inflicted on millions of Americans who have benefited or could
benefit from medical marijuana. In 2009, we will have a new president
and a new Congress, and they should move quickly to end this sorry
record of federal stonewalling.
Newshawk: Medical Marijuana www.drugwarfacts.org/medicalm.htm
Pubdate: Mon, 8 Sep 2008
Source: AlterNet (US Web)
Copyright: 2008 Independent Media Institute
Author: Rob Kampia
Note: Rob Kampia is executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project.