Monday, June 06, 2005

Supreme Court Ruling on Medical Marijuana

Supreme Court Says Federal Drug Law Trumps State Medical Pot Laws

SAN FRANCISCO (June 6) - The two plaintiffs in the medical marijuana case decided by the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday say they will defy the ruling and continue to smoke pot, even at the risk of arrest by federal authorities.

''I'm going to have to be prepared to be arrested,'' said Diane Monson, who smokes marijuana several times a day to relieve back pain.

The Supreme Court ruled that federal authorities may arrest and prosecute people whose doctors recommend marijuana to ease pain, concluding that state laws do not protect users from a federal ban on the drug.

The Bush administration had argued that states, even the 10 states with medical marijuana laws, could not defy the federal Controlled Substances Act, which declares marijuana to be not only illegal, but of no medical value.

Justice John Paul Stevens, writing the 6-3 decision, said that Congress could change the law to allow medical use of marijuana.

Monson, 48, of Oroville, was prescribed marijuana by her doctor in 1997 after standard prescription drugs didn't work or made her sleepy. She is battling degenerative spine disease.

''I'm way disappointed. There are so many people that need cannabis,'' Monson said.

Fifty-six percent of California voters approved the nation's first so-called medical marijuana law in 1996, allowing patients to smoke and grow marijuana with a doctor's recommendation.

Even though the state law was on the books, Monson's backyard crop of six marijuana plants was seized by federal agents in 2002. She and Angel Raich, the other plaintiff, sued then-Attorney General John Ashcroft.

''If I stop using cannabis, unfortunately, I would die,'' said Raich, who estimates her marijuana intake to be about nine pounds a year.

Raich, 39, suffers from scoliosis, a brain tumor, chronic nausea and other problems. She said she uses marijuana every few waking hours, on the advice of her doctor, who said dozens of other medications were of little help.

Many other cannabis clubs still operate openly in California and other states, but have taken measures - such as not keeping client lists - to protect their customers from arrest.

California Attorney General Bill Lockyer said he was disappointed with the ruling, but not surprised, and that ''people shouldn't panic ... there aren't going to be many changes.''

Local and state officers handle nearly all marijuana prosecutions and must still follow any state laws that protect patients.

''Nothing is different today than it was two days ago, in terms of real world impact,'' Lockyer said. ''There's a California law which conflicts with the federal law. Federal law treats heroin and marijuana the same, which is illogical.''


I am extremely disappointed by the Court's ruling. I live in one of the ten states where state law allows medical marijuana...and as a person struggling with multiple sclerosis and trigeminal neuralgia, I voted for it twice and would happily do so again. I do truly believe that it is only a matter of time before medical marijuana is legal throughout the US...especially as the Baby Boomers age and face a world where chronic pain and other symptoms aren't someone else's problems, but realities in their own lives. I'm also of the opinion that marijuana in general should be decriminalized, but I don't think that is going to happen prior to the decriminalization of medical marijuana.

Now, before we go any further, let me make it crystal-clear that I do NOT use medical marijuana at this time, nor have I in the past. In the past, my pain and nausea were controlled by prescription drugs, and it was simply not an issue. In the present, I am still breastfeeding Eden, so it is out of the question entirely. That said, in the past six months my pain issues have worsened in ways I could not have foreseen. I no longer respond to preventively measures, and only (legally prescribed)narcotics give me any relief--and that, not much at all. To make matters worse, said narcotics make my stomach issues much worse...and when you live with nearly constant nausea, it's tough in ways that are very hard to explain to those who haven't been there, I'm afraid. For the first time in my life, I am considering using medical marijuana in the future. I do not know if it will help. It may be of no use to me; I know that not everyone responds to it. But I'm quickly coming to the conclusion that it might be worth a try. However, it is simply NOT an option so long as I am breastfeeding. And since the breastfeeding is keeping many of the more unpleasant aspects of MS at bay, as well as providing the best possible healthy start for my child...I'm not willing to give it up yet (I may go into more detail about why I nurse, and my experiences, in another post. But that's for another day).

Until recently, my personal experience with medical marijuana was limited to my mother. During her lifetime, she would have been embarrassed for me to speak of this, and as far as I know, I am the only person outside of my husband and hers who knew about her using marijuana. My mother fought breast cancer for many years...and the chemotherapy made her very, very sick. So sick, she could not work...and she loved her job. It broke her heart. Nothing the doctor prescribed made her feel any better, and she was becoming despondent. That's when I broke the law. I bought my mother marijuana, and urged her to try it. She did, and it helped. I continued to buy her marijuana during her chemotherapy. When the nausea was gone, she stopped smoking. Sadly, she lost her battle with cancer in 1998.

I am not ashamed of what I did. I made her life easier. It's regrettable that I had to break the law to do so. It's not right that a person who is suffering should have to chose between relief and prison. It's shameful that I had to sneak around and purchase drugs secretly so that my mother could work again, and so that she did not spend all day, every day, vomiting her guts up. Marijuana WORKED for her. It made her life bearable. It is cruel beyond words that people like that fucknut Bush and his asshole administration want to deny people like my mother that relief, based only on some antiquated morality that says you can drink like a fish but marijuana is the devil. It's a shame people actually BELIEVE that, and that as a result, dying and chronically-ill people suffer. Your morality should end where my suffering begins...I'm a firm believer in that.

The reality of the situation is, however, that people are NOT going to stop buying marijuana for medicinal or no law, Supreme Court decision or no Supreme Court decision. Chronic pain makes a person desperate. Desperate for any kind of relief. Sadly, some choose suicide because they can't get that relief. I'd rather have them killing a few brain cells with a joint than killing themselves any day. And if a person with chronic pain can get relief with marijuana...they are going to buy it, and they are going to smoke it. Breaking the law is such a minor thing compared to having just a few hours of freedom from unrelenting, mind-numbing pain.

So as it stands, we can either legalize it already...or turn sick and dying people into criminals. I know in many areas of the country, the cops simply won't arrest those smoking for medical reasons. DAs won't prosecute. They turn a blind eye to it, because no one wants to put Grandma Betty with end-stage ovarian cancer in handcuffs. No one wants to fingerprint Joe Blow for buying a quarter bag for his partner dying of AIDS. And no one wants to throw Jane down the street in prison because she grew a few plants in her closet to help treat her MS.

Good laws should be upheld; bad laws should be challenged and destroyed. The Supreme Court, for reasons unknown, still thinks treating the sick and dying like criminals constitutes a good law.

I wonder what THEY'RE smoking.

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At 7:01 AM, Blogger Jim said...

Thanks for a very eloquently presented argument!

I don't indulge either, but I want to have the option to at least try it if other meds do not help my MS symptoms.

Since I live in Canada, I DO have that option....

At 8:45 AM, Anonymous Synesthesia said...

I think they should just legalize it, especially if it helps many people who are sick and need it.
I am tired of these people's pseudo-morality.

At 2:15 PM, Blogger Angel said...

Angel, you are an amazing woman, and I couldn't agree more with you. It is truly a privilege to read this blog.

I hope you find a solution to your pain that is right for *you* (((Hugs))).

At 2:20 AM, Blogger Zen Angel said...

Jim: I agree. I also want to have the option. And good for Canada! Hopefully, we'll soon follow suit...

Syn: I agree 100%.

Angel: You're making me blush! Thank you for your kind words.


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