Thursday, January 04, 2018

They're Coming For You, Man

So I've been giving it some thought over the past few months, and I have reached the conclusion that drug policy in the US is just stupid. Silly. Moronic. Woefully ineffective.

We've had a Great Big Scary And We Really Mean It War On Drugs since the early 1980s, and there have been efforts (of varying degrees of severity) to curb drug use for nearly one hundred years in the United States.These efforts have all been, almost without exception, abject failures (unless, of course, your metric for success is the number of people incarcerated for minor drug offenses. In that case these efforts have been fabulously effective).

Now ol' Cotton Hill -- I mean, Jeff Sessions -- has announced that he has rescinded Obama-era (yes, it's been long enough now that we can call it an “era”) directives discouraging prosecution of federal marijuana laws in states where it is legal.

In a statement, Sessions said “It is the mission of the Department of Justice to enforce the laws of the United States, and the previous issuance of guidance undermines the rule of law and the ability of our local, state, tribal, and federal law enforcement partners to carry out this mission.” This raises an interesting Constitutional question, as well as a separate ... well, I guess you could call it a “moral” one.

The Constitutional question is this: it is a generally accepted principle that, where federal and states laws conflict, federal law takes precedence. However, given the flaws in federal laws on this matter (classifying marijuana as a Schedule I drug even though it has medically advantageous properties, for example) and the fact that medical science has shown that it is actually beneficial to health in many cases (pain and anti-nausea for cancer patients, bringing Parkinson's symptoms under control, to name two examples), at what point do we declare that federal law is invalid due to being based on false premises?

As an FYI, drugs with a Schedule I classification are not even available legally by prescription. These drugs include heroin, LSD, MDMA, DMT, and peyote. However, other drugs -- cocaine, PCP, methamphetamine, and fentanyl, to name a few -- are classified as Schedule II and are thus allowed to be prescribed.

Got that? According to the Nixon administration (which was in office with the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 was enacted), marijuana is more dangerous that cocaine and crystal meth.

The entire manner in which marijuana legalization has been rolled out is faulty at its core. Let's consider medicinal marijuana. There is absolutely no other drug in use today that requires a person to get permission from the government to use it. In Pennsylvania, for example, residents can apply for a medical marijuana card to treat a very specific list of conditions. Prior to obtaining this card, weed cannot be used for anything.

If my doctor prescribes oxycodone (morphine and acetaminophen), I do not need to get permission from Pennsylvania to have that prescription filled. When I was in the hospital a couple of years ago to have my gall bladder removed, I was given dilaudid (an opiate that, quite frankly, makes heroin look like powdered sugar by comparison) ... again, no governmental permission needed. Yet if I want to take a toke at night to help me sleep due to restless leg syndrome and insomnia, then I am a hardened criminal ... and if I get caught three times, I could face life in prison.

To be fair to Sessions et al, he did announce that he is rescinding this recommendation only in the states where pot has been legalized for recreational use. This, however, begs another question: what right does the government have in scrutinizing my motives for doing something? Let's say that I had Parkinson's Disease, and I got the medical marijuana card, and I live in California (where smokeable weed is legal for medicinal purposes), and I am prescribed one hit every three hours as part of my treatment. Does that mean if I take two hits I am all of a sudden a hardened criminal? Or let's say that three hour interval is used for pain and nausea management after chemotherapy, and I move one up by an hour because the pain is so bad -- does that mean I should face prosecution for my intentions? It becomes an absurd game of thought policing at that point.

The moral question is directed at the GOP. Given that the Republican Party has historically come down on the side of states' rights, why is it okay to abandon that principle on a whim? (It should be noted that this question applies to several different areas -- abortion, for example -- but to try to encompass all of these lies madness ...)

Finally, there's the question of the Rohrabacher–Farr amendment. This legislation was inserted into the $1.1 trillion “cromnibus” spending bill and was signed into law by President Obama on December 16, 2014. This amendment prohibits the Justice Department from spending funds to interfere with the implementation of state medical cannabis laws, and has been renewed several times with the most recent renewal being on December 22, 2017 (expiring on January 19, 2018 ... renewal now depends on the House-Senate Conference Committee, which reconciles the differences between House and Senate versions of legislation).

Given that there is currently law on the books that says the Justice Department does not have the authority to interfere with medical marijuana, then it appears that this is an empty threat -- unless, of course, the Rohrabacher–Farr amendment is killed.

Hopefully people will come to their senses (not so much Sessions and his ilk; his thinking is locked into mid-century Southern America) and realize that a) marijuana has significant medical benefit, and b) if the right wants to allow people untrammeled rights to own weapons (the purported goal of the NRA), then why the hypocrisy of trying to prevent them from doing something that feels good?

I gotta lie down.

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