IN 1978, 32 states have abandoned the federal prohibition to recognize legislatively marijuana's important medical properties. Federal law, however, continues to define marijuana as a drug "with no accepted medical use," and federal agencies continue to prohibit physician-patient access to marijuana. This outdated federal prohibition is corrupting the intent of the state laws and depriving thousands of glaucoma and cancer patients of the medical care promised them by their state legislatures.
This is an excerpt from a letter written in 1982 to the editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association. Its author was a citizen concerned about the complete lack of rationality exhibited time and time again in the Federal Government's attempts to justify its ban on the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes. It was no burnt-out ex-hippie who penned the letter. The concerned citizen was none other than the current Speaker of the House of Representatives, Newt Gingrich. He was co-sponsoring a bill intended to end the Federal prohibition on marijuana as medicine. He has since abandoned support for such initiatives and begun to deal in the sort of hypocrisy and misinformation that is typical of the federal government's policy toward medicinal marijuana.
Gingrich's bill failed despite overwhelming support from both the public and the facts. Legislators, pandering to a vocal minority, struck it down. Fourteen years later, the silent majority spoke. In a move that must have had Nixon spinning in his gr ave, the silent majority, it turns out, supports this drug use. In the fall of 1996, two states passed referendums legalizing marijuana. California’s "Compassionate Use Act" and Arizona's "Drug Medicalization, Prevention and Control Act" passed with convincing margins despite well-funded opposition. Support for medical marijuana extends far beyond the traditionally libertarian Southwest. A recent survey of the American public by the American Civil Liberties Union showed that 85% of the American public favors making marijuana legally available to the seriously ill.
Unwilling to let the people have the final say, the Clinton Administration quickly moved to impose a de facto veto on these referendums. The five-part plan announced in December by President Clinton and Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala, both former pot smokers, includes threats to strip doctors of their licenses if they prescribed the drug and to deny federal housing to those using the drug for medical reasons on a compassionate "one strike and you're out" basis. Many had hoped that the Clinton Administration would be the long-awaited voice of reason on this issue but the President has turned tail and run after his public relations "inhalation" debacle. (For the record, he did not smoke the weed because of his asthma, not, ostensibly, from lack of desire.)
The Administration's attempt to justify its stymieing of the vox populi sounded hauntingly familiar. Donna Shalala reaffirmed the federal position that marijuana has a "high potential for abuse" and "no currently accepted medical use." Most American citizens have come to accept that the federal government can do pretty much whatever it wants despite the apparently superfluous constraints placed upon it as a government of enumerated powers limited by the Bill of Rights. However, the Federal Government should at least attempt to not use outright falsehoods to justify its position. It has long been proven that