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News (Media Awareness Project) - US NJ: OPED: Upper Freehold's Plan to Bad Medical Marijuana
Title:US NJ: OPED: Upper Freehold's Plan to Bad Medical Marijuana
Published On:2011-12-28
Source:Times, The (Trenton, NJ)
Fetched On:2011-12-29 06:01:27

The Upper Freehold Township Committee adopted an ordinance this month
that is designed to ban medical marijuana facilities in its township
("Construction of pot greenhouses put on hold - Upper Freehold vote
prevents town from violating federal law," Dec. 17). The committee
said that it would not permit any facility that was engaged in an
activity that is against federal law. The ordinance is designed to
thwart the New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act in
favor of the federal law, the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).

The federal law is deeply flawed, ineffective and unjust, however.

The CSA was hastily passed by Congress in 1970, after the previous
federal ban on marijuana, the Marijuana Tax Act, was declared
unconstitutional in 1969. The CSA established five "schedules," or
categories, for all drugs, supposedly based on the relative dangers
of the drugs. Marijuana was placed in the most restrictive schedule
of all - Schedule I - along with heroin and LSD. Schedule I drugs:

Have no accepted medical uses in the U.S.;

Are unsafe for use even under medical supervision; and

Have a high potential for abuse.

In 1972, the Shafer Commission, appointed by President Nixon to
determine whether marijuana was properly classified, issued its
report. The commission determined that marijuana should not be a
scheduled drug at all, but that it should be decriminalized for adult
use. The Shafer Commission said, "The actual and potential harm of
use of the drug is not great enough to justify intrusion by the
criminal law into private behavior." President Nixon nonetheless
ignored the results of the commission he himself had appointed.

In 1986, federal hearings began on a petition to reschedule marijuana
in order to make it available for physicians to prescribe. U.S.
Department of Justice Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)
Administrative Law Judge Francis L. Young handed down the decision
Sept. 6, 1988. He said:

"The evidence in this record clearly shows that marijuana has been
accepted as capable of relieving the distress of great numbers of
very ill people, and doing so with safety under medical supervision.
It would be unreasoning, arbitrary and capricious for DEA to continue
to stand between these sufferers and the benefit of this substance in
light of the evidence in this record."

The administrator of the DEA overturned the judge's decision and kept
marijuana listed as a Schedule I drug, where it remains today. As
recently as July, the DEA rejected yet another petition to reschedule
marijuana. And last month, the governors of Rhode Island and
Washington state submitted a new petition to the DEA to reschedule the drug.

Clearly, marijuana has recognized medical uses in the United States.
So far, 16 states have removed statewide penalties for patients who
use medical marijuana. These states have well-defined medical uses
for marijuana within their borders. In these states, an estimated 1
million patients are using marijuana with their physicians'
recommendation. Additionally, scores of national medical
organizations are urging immediate legal access to marijuana for
patients who would otherwise suffer needlessly or be forced, by
medical necessity, to become lawbreakers.

The DEA's Judge Young also said, "Marijuana, in its natural form, is
one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man."
Not a single death has ever been recorded due to a marijuana overdose
or allergic reaction. Non-prescription drugs such as aspirin and
acetaminophen, by contrast, kill many Americans every year. Doctors
routinely prescribe, and nurses routinely give, far more dangerous
drugs than aspirin every day. To say that marijuana is unsafe for use
even under medical supervision is an absurd embarrassment.

What does it mean to say that marijuana has a high potential for
abuse? According to the federal government, any "unauthorized use" of
marijuana is abuse. But the federal government does not authorize any
use for marijuana, except in rare and very small clinical trials.
Certainly, marijuana has a high potential for use; can the cancer
patient, using marijuana with a doctor's recommendation, be said to
be abusing marijuana simply because it is against federal law?

About 100 million Americans - one in three - have used marijuana
despite the draconian penalties imposed by the CSA and the state laws
that are modeled on it. The latest government survey shows that about
one in 15 high school seniors uses marijuana daily.

The CSA does not have, and does not deserve, the respect of
Americans. Finally, the CSA is enforced unjustly. Between 1999 and
2007, there were about 10 million adult marijuana arrests in the
U.S., 80 percent for possession alone. Blacks and whites use drugs at
about the same rate, but Human Rights Watch reports that blacks are
arrested and incarcerated at a far greater rate than whites for drug
violations. And when legitimate patients are prosecuted under the
CSA, they are forbidden to explain their medical needs for marijuana
to the jury.

The CSA is the law the Upper Freehold Township Committee supports in
its efforts to keep a marijuana production facility outside its
borders - a law that is fundamentally flawed, ineffective and unjust.
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