The Coastal Post - October, 1996

Medical Marijuana: Threat To War On Drugs

BY STEPHEN SIMAC

Legalizing medical marijuana may seem innocuous, a humanitarian, save-sick-people-from-suffering kind of initiative, but to those whose careers have profited from the War on Drugs, California Proposition 215 is seen as a stake in the heart of their blood-sucking monster.

Surveys say that two-thirds of Californians approve of legalizing marijuana for compassionate medical purposes. Voters will have a chance to do so by voting Yes on Proposition 215, which calls for changing state laws which prohibit growing or possessing marijuana, allowing patients with cancer, AIDS, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, or migraine headaches or their caregivers to do so legally.

The Drug Warriors, and they are legion, "fear that medical legalization is a dangerous first step toward full-scale legalization of marijuana and other similarly classified narcotics." They are probably right. They recognize that unless they do something drastic, the people will pass the proposition and endanger their jobs.

Their first attack was a jack-booted, storm-trooper assault on the Cannabis Buyers' Club in San Francisco. Attorney General Dan Lungren and the state Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement Kristal Nacht attack on the state's largest medical marijuana provider and the headquarters for Proposition 215, was a desperate attempt to shift public opinion and derail the political campaign for medical marijuana. Serious constitutional violations of using police power to influence an election were made, but the media ignored this and went with the program, framing it as a Buyers' Club gone bad, where any "Manny the Hippie" could saunter in, smoke his brains out, then sell what was left to innocent teenagers on Haight Street.

Balanced reporting would have pointed out the majority of customers were severely ill people who had been able to purchase and administer their medicine in a safe, affordably priced, community clinic and are now unable to do so. Instead negative nabobs blamed the victim, and accused Dennis Peron, founder of the Cannabis Buyers' Club in 1990 and director of the Yes on Prop 215 campaign, of being responsible for the raid. They conveniently forgot that without Peron there would have been no Club and certainly no initiative; under his direction, the initiative gained 800,000 signatures, nearly twice the number of registered voters necessary to put it on the ballot.

The Narcotics Bureau, pleased by their coup, have since raided a buyers' club in Southern California, but overall, their tactics have backfired. They are seen as heartless gestapo agents who have forced sick people to buy pot from criminal drug dealers on the street, and they raised public awareness about the medical marijuana initiative which had received very little publicity before the raids.

While the media has been very quick to publicize outright lies and unproven claims about health problems from smoking marijuana, they have virtually ignored the known, improved health benefits for sick people. Cannabis has been shown to be an effective and safe medicine for dozens of illnesses. Even the Drug Enforcement Agency's own administrative judge, after reviewing all the evidence in 1987, said "marijuana is the safest known therapeutic drug," and ruled that its federal classification should be changed from Schedule One—"extremely harmful with no known medical benefits"—to allow its use for medical purposes. This recommendation has still not been followed, so even if California legalizes medical marijuana, federal law would supercede state law.

With the publication of a dubious national survey showing that teenage marijuana use had increased by 105 percent since Bill Clinton took office, the presidential race finally included debate on the War on Drugs. Not rational debate. Bob Dole, with blood in his eye, was quick to blame the president for the increase. Governor Wilson and Dan Lungren were noticeably quiet on this issue, since the same survey showed the biggest increase in teen pot smoking was right here in California.

No one seemed to care that the same survey showed the number one drug of choice and the "gateway" drug of teens and pre-teens is alcohol. Fifty percent of 7th graders reported binging on alcohol within the last three months. The second leading drug used: tobacco. In all the debate over preventing teen drug abuse, which includes telling baby boomer parents to lie to their kids about their past drug use (Honest, Junior, Bill Clinton and I were the only ones who never inhaled during the '70s...never went to a disco either...), no mention is made of Holland's extremely low teen drug use resulting from their harm-reduction policies and truthful, educational campaigns.

While it's questionable how much effect presidents or governors can have on teen drug use, Bill Clinton jumped into the medical marijuana fray by sending his Drug Czar to Haight Street. Former General Barry McCaffrey denounced Prop 215. "There is not a shred of scientific evidence that shows that smoking marijuana is useful or needed. This is a cruel hoax like something out of a Cheech and Chong show." He prescribes marinol, the patented pharmaceutical THC pill which cannot be kept down by nauseous cancer or AIDS chemotherapy patients. In fact, there are studies going back decades showing that smoking cannabis is beneficial for many medical conditions. There are also thousands of anecdotal reports from sick people who have been helped by herb. The criminal laws around cannabis have prevented more studies from being done.

Never mind, decades of lies and propaganda about the dangers of marijuana are what most people believe, even after they've been proven fraudulent. Certainly there are some lung and pulmonary conditions which are aggravated by smoking anything. There are certain cancers which are more frequent in long-term, daily cannabis tokers, although these are more likely for people who also smoke cigarettes. Tobacco and alcohol use are linked to many more types of cancer. The biggest danger of smoking marijuana is the criminal sanctions levied against the least harmful of all drugs.

In the end, the hypocrisy and the media collusion in the War on Drugs is evident. The hawks in this war, which include politicians, prosecutors, prison builders and guards, alcohol, tobacco and pharmaceutical drug companies, narco-trafficantes, bankers and other shadowy figures who benefit from the multi-billion-dollar, cash-only black market, have a lot to lose from legalizing medical marijuana.

The recent controversy over the CIA's role in introducing crack cocaine into America to fund the Contra terrorist war in Nicaragua is just the tip of the iceberg of denial over how much damage has been done by the Drug War. Even though the typical crack cocaine smoker is a young, white male, this story has been marginalized as a black thing. And an essay in Time magazine admitted that the original story in San Jose's Mercury News was supported by "a plethora of court documents, recorded interviews and photographs," but confidently asserted any official investigation would prove it to be a "bizarre fantasy," on the same level as the conspiracy theory that "AIDS was produced by government scientists to exterminate blacks and gays." After all, a congressional inquiry in the 1980s had found that "the CIA and the Contras had used a number of traffickers, criminals and brigands to smuggle arms." (They also smuggled cocaine and other drugs.) "But the committee could not prove that these freelance criminal activities had been sanctioned, organized or furthered by the intelligence agency." Surely Time editors know of the practice of maintaining plausible deniability.

In the end, the citizens will have to end the War, and Prop 215 is the first step, because politicians will turn blue before they exhale a true word about just who benefits from the War against people who use illegal drugs.