by Tony Ryan
An old term, my title. While it means the same as a more common phrase that starts with Bull, it is a kinder, gentler term – more suitable for our audience. I use this term as it is the most succinct way of saying what I think of some law enforcement officers’ publicly stated “opinion” on medical marijuana.
If I use anything else, my blog will be banned in Boston, so – for exclamatory purposes – that is my initial comment. It is in reference to an opinion written by the chief of a small town police department in Minnesota and published May 10th by the Rochester, MN Post-Bulletin (I’ll post the entire Op-Ed as written so as not to lose the flavor of what he said about the effort to legalize medical marijuana there – bold italics added by me):
MEDICAL MARIJUANA LAW WOULD SEND THE WRONG MESSAGE
I am writing to urge our community members to contact their legislators and ask for their assistance to defeat the Medical Use of Marijuana Bill that is being considered in the Legislature.
Marijuana is a Schedule I substance of the federal Controlled Substance Act. The possession, sale or manufacture of marijuana is a federal crime. Marijuana has been considered a gateway drug to other, more dreadful drugs.
Consequently, current federal law does not agree with the proposed medical marijuana law under consideration by the Minnesota Legislature. The conflict will subject Minnesota residents as well as law enforcement officials to conflicting and confusing laws, rules, roles and positions. Placing our citizens and law enforcement officers in this position is simply poor public policy.
I could list several additional reasons why I and my fellow police chiefs in Minnesota do not support this bill from a law enforcement perspective, but most telling is content from an April 2006 news release from the FDA:
“A growing number of states have passed voter referendum or legislative actions making smoked marijuana available for a variety of medical conditions upon a doctor’s recommendation. These measures are inconsistent with efforts to ensure that medications undergo the rigorous scientific scrutiny of the FDA approval process and are proven safe and effective under the standards of the Food, Drug &Cosmetic Act. Accordingly, the FDA as the federal agency responsible for reviewing the safety and efficacy of drugs, the Drug Enforcement Administration as the federal agency charged with enforcing the CSA and the Office of National Drug Control Policy as the federal coordinator of drug control policy do not support the use of smoked marijuana for medical purposes.”
Legalizing Marijuana for Medical Purposes will lead to increased use of marijuana by other persons, increased crime and the perception that marijuana is harmless.
Jeffrey L. McCormick
Chief of police
Chief McCormick, do you believe what you wrote – those old, tired, incorrect phrases about marijuana?
As long ago as 1988 the DEA’s Administrative law judge told them that marijuana should not be listed as a Schedule 1 narcotic. He cited numerous studies showing it was quite the opposite. To date, the DEA has not changed its status.
Then there is the “gateway drug” stuff. They say nearly all hard drug users first used marijuana. By itself, it is a true statement. So is this – all hard drug users were born infants, or, most hard drug users were fed mother’s milk as babies! All are basically true, but they are definitely NOT any indication of cause and effect. Otherwise, mothers would be illegal.
I agree with the next one, “Placing our citizens and law enforcement officers in this position is simply poor public policy.” Yes, the war on drugs is poor public policy. It endangers police and citizens alike by increasing violent crime, disease and death. It ruins lives and families, imprisons non-violent people who cause no one else any harm (except for crimes they may commit getting the funds for their addictions due to the high price of the black market illegal goods they are addicted to).
The one about the FDA is laughable, except for the fact it is so sad. There are numerous studies proving the medical efficacy of marijuana, but none by the FDA. Why? Because your government, so concerned about your medical well-being, won’t allow the FDA to do actual studies of marijuana like those done for prescription medications (can you say, “Vioxx?”). Just this past year, the University of Massachusetts filed suit to be allowed to study the medical effects of high-grade marijuana and, once again, the DEA’s Administrative law judge told them they should allow the study. No action on that by DEA head Karen Tandy and her federal drug enforcers there!
Saying that making medical marijuana legal will lead “to increased use of marijuana by other persons, increased crime and the perception that marijuana is harmless” is a total distortion of well-known facts.
There are ample examples of the exact opposite being true in European countries where marijuana is, in essence, legal. Those same countries show teen use of marijuana is half of what it is in our country. Countries where harder drugs are now legal have shown an exceptional reduction in crime – as well as in disease and death from drug use. There is little wrong in perceiving marijuana as harmless – it is. You can’t become addicted to it, you can’t overdose on it – but you can certainly find relief from endless pain due to debilitating diseases or relief from nausea caused by cancer chemotherapy by using it.
Just ask TV show host Montel Williams, who suffers intense pain from MS. In a recent Op-Ed in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch he said about marijuana (which he found is the only substance that eases his pain), “If federal officials come to town to tell you there’s no evidence marijuana is a safe, effective medicine, know this: They’re lying, and they know it.”
So, I ask of law enforcement people, “Can we just stop with the nonsense? Can we – even if the feds don’t – at least have compassion for the sick and dying?”
Oh, and Chief McCormick, how much of your small department’s budget is from federal drug enforcement grant money? And also, Chief, are your drug enforcement stats like the national average – over 40% of the arrests are for marijuana and 88% of those marijuana arrests for mere possession of small amounts? Don’t bother, sir, I know the answers.
Yes, indeed, I call Horse Puckey on this one.
Originally published at the LEAP (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition) blog May 17, 2007.