An Open Letter to Drug Czar Kerlikowske (How Can I Break a Broken Law?)


First off, I would like to personally thank you for your efforts towards combating prescription drug abuse and increased funding for drug treatment programs instead of just more prison cells.  It is clear that your priority is the overall safety of the population and not the special interests which have plagued federal drug policies for decades.

Your integrity is greatly appreciated and will hopefully serve as an example for others in the Obama administration during this time of change.  But, although you have stopped calling it a war, there are still many battles here which must be fought and won–hopefully without sacrificing too many more innocent lives in the process.

Their View: Legalize marijuana to stop the drug cartels

Things have gotten so bad in Mexico that President Calderon, after years of waging a bloody war against the powerful drug cartels, has finally conceded that ending marijuana prohibition is the only way to stop the escalating violence.

His predecessor, Vincente Fox, along with dozens of other Latin American and world leaders, have also embraced the view that drug prohibition causes more problems than it even attempts to fix.

Furthermore, the U.N. is beginning to embrace the notion of “harm reduction” and treatment rather than criminal incarceration.  A sentiment which is being echoed by current Democratic and Tea Party advisors, yet seemingly ignored by President Obama and the rest of his administration–yourself included, aside from the policy shifts noted above.

The reality is that science has proven cannabis to be at least as safe and effective as the other drugs which are advertised on television every single day.  For a growing number of people, the cannabis plant has also become a substantial source of legitimate income–meaning that tax dollars are now officially being paid with money earned from the cannabis industry.

Cities and states are clamoring to find new ways of taxing the herb, while patients are finally getting legal access to arguably the safest medicine on the planet.

As time goes on, however, fundamental problems with the current situation are making some matters much worse.  Almost a year after the attorney general’s office issued a memo concerning the legitimacy of state “medical marijuana” laws, chaos and uncertainty have run rampant thanks to the pseudo-legal status of the plant.

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In California, the situation keeps coming to a boil as curious onlookers try to figure out how to deal with their own quickly changing realities.  The Oakland city council is coming under a tremendous amount of scrutiny and criticism for their plans to have huge commercial warehouses full of growing plants–a plan which has a lot in common with the plans being discussed in D.C., but with a distinctively different set of criticisms from potential patients and concerned citizens alike.

Basically, what the pseudo-legal status of cannabis has done is create a massive headache for all parties involved–from patients, to police officers, to politicians, to tax-paying citizens.

Many in the medical community and elsewhere have accepted and even embraced cannabis as legal medicine, while others still see it simply as an illegal (and, therefore, evil) drug.  It is now legal to use the herb as medicine if you obtain a card, but corporations afraid of federal backlash and people who seem afraid of the herb for other reasons (insurance companies, perhaps?) are firing people left and right for using the wrong medicine.

Personally, I am lucky enough to work for an employer who does not require drug testing unless there is a serious accident involved (anything that requires a trip to the hospital.)  But if he were ever to test me, he may be well within his rights to fire me on the spot–if my results happened to come back positive for the presence of THC.  Unless, perhaps, if I threatened to hire an expensive lawyer and waste months or even years fighting in the courts.

Given the current political tides and positive scientific trials which continue to support the medical efficacy of cannabis, it seems quite likely that more and more judges will soon be acknowledging the legitimacy of the herb as medicine.  Not just for cancer patients and MS sufferers, but for conditions as common as chronic pain–according to, among others, this recent article on WebMD:  http://www.webmd.com/pain-management/news/20100830/marijuana-relieves-chronic-pain-research-show

Mark Ware, MD, a researcher who’s also assistant professor of anesthesia and family medicine at McGill University in Montreal,  recently told WebMD:

“About 10% to 15% of patients attending a chronic pain clinic use cannabis as part of their pain [control] strategy.”

Dr. Ware and his team went about setting up clinical trials involving the use of cannabis for pain relief.  The results of the study were quite conclusive:

“We’ve shown again that cannabis is analgesic,” Ware says. “Clearly, it has medical value.”

Since the overwhelming majority of cardholders in my own home state of Montana listed “chronic pain” as their reason for obtaining a medical marijuana card, it seems relatively safe to say that marijuana has now become a safe and accepted form of medicine for ailments common throughout all parts of society.

Although it is currently legal only in fourteen states and the District of Columbia, cannabis is now poised to have a huge impact throughout the entire spectrum of our society.  Since I know that you are well aware of the dangers associated with current mainstream pharmaceutical drugs, this hopefully comes as welcome news given the relative safety of the cannabis plant (which has, despite thousands of years of use, been the direct cause of exactly zero overdose deaths.)

The relative safety of our medicine is, sadly, not the only negative impact our failed prohibition laws are currently having on our society.  The economy and our cultural diversity have both suffered greatly from our ignorant and ill-conceived drug laws, while our nation’s southern border has literally become a war-zone in a battle where the rule of law is losing more and more ground every day.

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“I am a registered nurse and work on a trauma unit at an inner city level 1 trauma center hospital. The hospital’s income depends a great deal on tax dollars to pay for care and prevent many patients from costing the system countless dollars in the future if their care is not paid for right away. I work with countless patients who would prefer the use of medical marijuana over expensive alternatives including many opioid derivative pain medicines and other anti-nausea pain medicines. Medical use of marijuana with exponentially less addictive properties will lead to increased patient satisfaction, a less expensive bottom line, and less money spent on pain med addiction counseling.”

This particular comment appeared as a response to a CNN blog post earlier today, along with over ninety others voicing their support for the further integration of the herb into our society.  Although the article was simply asking about the acceptance of cannabis-promoting television advertisements, the overwhelming response from readers was that this plant deserves to be a far more respected part of our society.

Click here to read the article, along with the incredible array of pro-cannabis comments (as one reader noted just before noon, there were a total of 93 for cannabis ads versus 3 against cannabis ads.)

My point with all of this is that it will be a tremendously beneficial for our entire society once our failed prohibition laws are finally abandoned.  The growing “medical marijuana” movement is already having a positive impact across many sectors of the economy, but this is merely the tip of the iceberg.  It is well known in some circles that the much larger windfall for farmers once prohibition ends will be in the form of hemp–the necessary backbone for a sustainable future.

Why the laws are changing, no matter how much you try to fight it

Although I could go on and on about the necessity of getting rid of marijuana prohibition because it has an endless list of negative consequences, the way the law is written there is little left to argue about these days anyway.

According to the Controlled Substances Act, the foundation of our nation’s (and most of the world’s) drug laws, the cannabis plant can no longer be considered a “schedule I narcotic” because it now has proven medical utility.  Last fall’s infamous memo asked federal employees to ignore this fact, while simultaneously citing it as a reason for the relaxation of federal drug laws in certain instances.

“..As a general matter, pursuit of these priorities should not focus federal resources in your States on individuals whose actions are in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws providing for the medical use of marijuana. For example, prosecution of individuals with cancer or other serious illnesses who use marijuana as part of a recommended treatment regimen consistent with applicable state law, or those caregivers in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state law who provide such individuals with marijuana, is unlikely to be an efficient use of limited federal resources…”

A total contradiction to the strict requirements of the law, ignored by the media at the time; but, nevertheless, a glaring issue which is unlikely to find much sympathy among the public or potential jurors or judges who still have to worry about re-elections.

The tide of public sentiment has turned directly against our failed prohibition laws; either politicians and lawmakers will embrace this reality or they will soon enough be replaced by others who will.

This is not intended as a threat, so much as a wake-up call to remind you that the power to have a tremendously positive impact on our entire society is currently within your grasp–but, no matter what, it won’t be there for too long.

This urgent cause will most likely be preempted by someone else within the administration or embraced by one of the many candidates already vying for the 2012 presidential election. (Sarah Palin has already gained a lot of credibility with people by saying that cops have better things to do than busting a person for smoking a joint..)

Senator Jim Webb’s criminal justice reform bill has recently been endorsed by Congress.  It is also expected to pass easily in the senate, where it is already being co-sponsored by 39 other senators–and I’m proud to say that Montana’s own Jon Tester is one of them.  While it may take some time before the commission reaches its official conclusion, there can be little doubt that our nation’s failed prohibition is finally coming to an end.

No matter how it happens, marijuana prohibition is going away much sooner in California and anywhere else where people like money and/or sane laws.  Your own particular place in this historical moment is completely up to you.

If you are still somehow wondering what solutions might work better than our failed prohibition, listen to what the folks at Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (www.leap.cc) have to say:

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One Response to An Open Letter to Drug Czar Kerlikowske (How Can I Break a Broken Law?)

  1. Tai Nguyen says:

    That’s right on. Amen.

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