By Gustavo Arellano
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By Charles Lam
Except one group, says Salazar: "It's a mystery, I think, it really is, where the pressure is coming from. My sense is it's coming from law enforcement."
Certainly Obama's threats are real. He may be loath to jail landlords, bankers or even dispensary owners. Arresting nonviolent, state-sanctioned businesspeople wouldn't be popular. But his quieter war of chopping merchants off at the knees through credit and leasing would ravage the trade.
Still, the president has thrown himself into an uphill fight. There is reason to believe medical marijuana will persist, despite his betrayal.
MARIJUANA REALLY IS MEDICINE
Earlier this month, in a timely coincidence, the California Medical Association's board voted to encourage the feds to legalize marijuana.
Though spokeswoman Molly Weedn emphasizes that the decision by the doctors' group hinges on a call for more research, a report studied by the CMA board before its decision makes it clear that—at the least—marijuana shows promise as a medicine.
The CMA's Council on Clinical and Scientific Affairs "has also concluded that components of medical cannabis may be effective for the treatment of pain, nausea, anorexia and other conditions."
The report goes on to say:
"Cannabinoids are presently thought to exhibit their greatest efficacy when implemented for the management of neuropathic pain, which is a form of severe and often chronic pain resulting from nerve injury, disease or toxicity.
"The University of California Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research (CMCR) recently reported to the California legislature the results of a number of studies. Four studies involved the treatment of neuropathic pain; and all four demonstrated a significant improvement in pain after cannabis administration."
The doctors note that while using marijuana may contain risks, such as addiction, they argue that its prohibition may be more dangerous than the drug itself:
"Under the current prohibition of cannabis, public health is also affected by increased rates of crime surrounding cannabis cultivation, sale and use. The California Legislative Analyst's Office estimates that the incarceration and parole supervision of cannabis offenders costs the state tens of millions of dollars annually."
Nationally, prohibition burns through billions of dollars in lives lost to the violence inherent in the black market; the incarceration of thousands of productive, nonviolent Americans; and the lack of access to a beneficial medicine. Are lots of people using weed without suffering from a medical problem? Absolutely. But just because you've heard that half or more of patients take the drug for "severe and chronic pain" doesn't mean they're all faking it.
In June, the Institute of Medicine estimated that 116 million Americans suffer from significant, chronic pain.
As more research comes in showing that pot can be an effective treatment, and with America's elderly population exploding in the coming decades, the interest in its medicinal qualities seems only likely to rise.
THE TRUTH WILL PREVAIL
Ignorance, false propaganda and rank political posturing tend to be the foundation of the anti-marijuana argument. (Throw in bureaucratic turf protection as well. The DEA, for example, would need fewer agents if pot was decriminalized nationwide.)
A new Gallup poll shows that a record 50 percent of Americans believe marijuana—and not just the medical kind—should be legalized. The poll follows a continuing trend over the past several years of increasing support for legalization.
Obama has chosen to swim against the tide. But there's reason to believe his fight is about politics, not public safety. If this were about safety, alcohol would be his primary target.
Politics cause both sides to fudge the truth. Yet prohibitionists and the government have been particularly egregious. The government is using taxpayer dollars to prop up its side, with the U.S. Justice Department's 64-page booklet "Speaking Out About Drug Legalization" being a prime example.
The booklet, distributed in print and online, states that "smoked marijuana is not scientifically approved medicine." Forget that by labeling it a drug on par with heroin, the DEA is curtailing the proper study of marijuana, since it prevents even scientists from possessing it for research. The publicly funded propaganda also flies in the face of the opinion of doctors, who see pot's potential as medicine.
It's a strategy that has trickled to states with functionaries unhappy about executing the voters' will. Last December, Arizona's Department of Health Services director, Will Humble, held a news conference about that state's new Medical Marijuana Act. He took a moment to remind reporters that more than 1,000 Arizonans died last year from accidental overdoses from prescription drugs.
But when asked how many of those died from marijuana, Humble refused to answer—to chuckles from the audience. He referred the question to his chief medical officer, Laura Nelson, who would only say she'd "have to do the research on that" before she could answer.
Then Nelson began stammering about the danger of marijuana due to "car accidents"—though she had done no research on that, either.
The CMA's new report, interestingly enough, sheds light on statements like Nelson's. It says that prohibitionists often make unsubstantiated claims about car crashes or other purported harms. Studies disagree on its risks to motorists, though there's no question that booze increases the chances of a crash, the report says. Moreover, simulated driving tests reveal that pot smokers overestimate their degree of impairment and "compensate effectively."