Drug Warriors: U.S.'s Internal Taliban

Discussion in 'Marijuana News' started by Superjoint, Jan 28, 2002.

  1. By Salim Muwakkil
    Source: Chicago Tribune

    The Bush administration's war on drugs is a fundamentalist crusade so irrational it resembles the failed jihad of Afghanistan's Taliban. Just as the Taliban forbid music, kite flying, close shaving and female education purely in the service of religious fanaticism, America adheres to an anti-drug dogma that similarly defies logic.
    The U.S. and the Taliban may be mortal enemies in the war on terrorism. But in the war on reason, they are soul mates. American policies demonizing marijuana are nothing if not an attack on reason.

    What else explains the fanatical prohibition of a substance that not only has proven to be less harmful than most legal drugs, but also has a wealth of medical benefits?

    Contemporary research has shown marijuana (also known as cannabis) to be valuable in the treatment of a wide range of ailments. According to the book, "Marijuana as Medicine: The Science Beyond the Controversy," by Allison Mack and Janet Joy, the substance offers relief for pain, nausea, spasticity, glaucoma and movement disorders like multiple sclerosis.The book, which is an expanded version of a 1999 study conducted by the Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medicine, found that marijuana is a powerful appetite stimulant that provides unique relief for patients suffering from the HIV/AIDS wasting syndrome.

    The authors' note new research that suggests marijuana's medicinal properties may protect the body against some types of malignant tumors and shield the neurological system against various toxins.

    Although most researchers agree that there are some minor respiratory risks involved in inhaling smoke from burning cannabis, the study concluded that for most patients the substance's short-term medical benefits outweigh any smoking-related harm.

    The Institute of Medicine report found no reported deaths associated with the ingestion of marijuana, although nearly 8,000 deaths resulted from the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin. Legal drugs like tobacco and alcohol account for the deaths of tens of thousands a year, according to the U.S. Centers for Health statistics.

    Marijuana's benefits are so wide-ranging and its damage so minuscule, the federal government would avidly be proclaiming the drug's virtue were science and rationality the motivating factor. Instead, we are held captive by a fundamentalist mindset that refuses to acknowledge data that threatens its dogma.

    Rather than hailing the drug as a cornucopia of pharmaceutical wonders, we demonize it relentlessly. The FBI's Uniform Crime Reports for 2000 revealed that 734,497 people were arrested for marijuana trafficking and possession.

    A marijuana arrest can result in imprisonment and a criminal record that could mean a loss of employment or welfare benefits, denial of student financial aid, suspension of driving privileges and expulsion from school, or public housing, regardless of whether it was for medical use.

    In October, Drug Enforcement Administration agents raided the Los Angeles Cannabis Resource Center, which distributed medical marijuana to nearly 1,000 seriously ill people with doctor's prescriptions, most of whom have AIDS.

    California is one of eight states that permit medical marijuana use, although the practice remains illegal under federal law.

    As a society, we remain oddly addicted to prohibitionist drug policies. Despite the wealth of information detailing the folly of our ways, we trudge ahead helter-skelter, spoiling thousands of lives and extending the miseries of the gravely ill.

    When I say "we," I'm talking primarily about the federal government, because national polls consistently show the American people favor the use of medical marijuana. A Pew Research Center Gallup poll in March found that 73 percent of Americans favored the medical use of marijuana with a doctor's prescription.

    In addition to California, the people of Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Nevada, Oregon, Washington and the District of Columbia also have passed laws allowing marijuana's use as medicine. The Wisconsin Legislature also is considering a bill that would permit the use of medical marijuana. If the bill is passed, Wisconsin would become the second state in the nation to pass a medical-marijuana bill through the legislature instead of the ballot-initiative process.

    New Mexico is considering an even more radical bill that would decriminalize the possession of 1 ounce or less of marijuana. Pushed by Gary Johnson, the state's maverick governor, the measure would deal a heavy blow to the dogma of prohibition.

    These heretical challenges to our anti-drug theology may save us all from federal damnation.

    Salim Muwakkil is a senior editor at In These Times

    Source: Chicago Tribune (IL)
    Author: Salim Muwakkil
    Published: January 28, 2002
    Copyright: 2002 Chicago Tribune Company
    Contact: ctc-TribLetter@Tribune.com
    Website: http://www.chicagotribune.com/

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