Source: Kalamazoo Gazette (MI)
Author: Kalamazoo Gazette Editorial
Published: Friday, December 24, 2004
Copyright: 2004 Kalamazoo Gazette
Contact: [email protected]
The issue of legalizing the medical use of marijuana is now where it
belongs -- in the U.S. Supreme Court. The nation should know sometime
next year whether states can operate outside federal law by permitting
the therapeutic use of marijuana.
Last month, both sides presented their arguments before the high court
justices. And, at first blush, the marijuana proponents appear to be
underdogs in the super-charged case.
For example, Justices David H. Souter and Stephen Breyer, considered
among the court's liberal-moderate wing, seemed skeptical.
Souter noted that about 10 percent of Americans use illegal drugs, and
that states which now allow marijuana for medical use might not be able
to prevent recreational users from taking advantage.
It should be noted however, according to provisions of the law in states
where it is legal, the use of marijuana of for medical reasons would
have to be prescribed by a physician.
Breyer remarked, "Everybody will say mine is medical."
The issue made its way to the Supreme Court in a lawsuit brought by two
California women, Angel Raich and Diane Monsoon, after federal agents
confiscated marijuana from Monsoon's yard. Both women are seriously ill.
Raich has a brain tumor, and has used marijuana to help ease the pain.
California is among 11 states, Michigan not included, that have passed
medical marijuana laws since 1996. The others are Alaska, Arizona,
Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont and
One might conclude that with justices such as Souter and Breyer
expressing reservations, the federal prohibition against marijuana use
will prevail. However, it's no slam-dunk. Justices Clarence Thomas and
Antonin Scalia -- the two most conservative members of the tribunal --
are known for their strong support of states' rights. Also, Chief
Justice William Rehnquist, another conservative, is suffering from
thyroid cancer. Raich expressed the hope that the 80-year-old justice's
chemotherapy treatments "would soften his heart about the issue."
We read with interest earlier this week that, according to an AARP poll,
nearly 75 percent of Americans middle age and older support legalizing
marijuana for medical use.
Our view is that this is a states' rights issue. If the people of a
state vote to legalize the use of marijuana for medical purposes, the
U.S. Justice Department should not have the power to overrule them.
People in great pain -- especially those with terminal illnesses -- and
their doctors ought to be given latitude to ease the suffering. As to
the danger of addiction, we would point out that doctors already
prescribe powerful opiates to critically ill patients. It has been shown
that most of those who survive such treatments do not become addicted.
What justices say from the bench while hearing oral arguments in a
highly visible case does not always indicate how they will vote. Indeed,
this case seems likely to become one that will not be decided strictly
along ideological lines.
Related Articles & Web Site:
Angel Raich v. Ashcroft News
Off The Interstate - Cato Institute
Cannabis and The Constitution
High Court -- High Anxiety