Supreme Court Ignored Public Sentiment in Its Ban of Medicinal Pot

Recently the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the federal ban on marijuana usage, arguing that the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 leaves no loopholes for medicinal marijuana usage, even in doctor-prescribed cases.

The ruling’s impact on California law will be undoubtedly widespread — 56 percent of this state’s voters approved 1996’s medical marijuana initiative, also known as the Compassionate Use Act and Proposition 215.

Medicinal marijuana clinics took root in various California cities as a result of Proposition 215, and the Oakland Cannabis Buyers Cooperative, in particular, became a prominent player in the tug-of-war this initiative ignited between state and federal law — the federal government sparked the soon-to-be Supreme Court case in 1998 when it began seeking an injunction against the Cooperative.

Several thought-provoking and sometimes disturbing circumstances surround the United States v. Oakland Cannabis Buyers’ Cooperative decision. First, consider the overlap in jurisdiction that inevitably exists here.

Federal judges, who are well-schooled in law, not medicine, have eliminated the ability of doctors, who have years of training and experience in various medical fields, to prescribe marijuana to their ailing patients. It is highly unlikely that Americans turn to their lawyers when they are ill and in need of sound advice as to what sort of treatment might cure their sickness.

Here, the court has taken it upon itself to serve as every American’s physician, yet the justices’ areas of expertise reside in a far different domain than that of the physician. In short, the court has left no room for doctors to engage in an individual-based interpretation of needs.

Furthermore, consider the freedoms with which doctors may prescribe other drugs, such as morphine and valium, even though these are considered rather addictive, longer-lasting and generally stronger than marijuana. It is ironic that doctors are trusted to divvy out these intense narcotics to pain sufferers or panic attack victims, yet the justices feel that AIDS and cancer patients tolerating any number of painful, unbearable conditions may not be trusted to truly need marijuana’s effects or really deserve them.

It seems almost laughable that the justices are allowing surgery patients continued intravenous access to opiates while denying the chronically ill access to a drug that they — and their doctors — claim is equally essential to their comfort.

Also worth consideration is the 1980s-style ideology espoused by this ruling: It states “”Drugs are bad.”” However, America’s half-assed war against drugs is simply a dead topic, especially now that we have elected a former cocaine addict as president.

More importantly, drug usage is considered “”bad”” or deviant only because it has historically been correlated to violent criminal activity. Labeling drugs as the cause of violent crime, and then launching a campaign against medical marijuana (which users argue is one of the most calming, mellowing drugs available) is a lamely constructed, roundabout way of throwing stones at high crime rates.

While it is true that violent crime may accompany drug use, and it is agreed that fighting violent crime is a worthy cause, it is not true that all drug use instigates or accompanies criminal behavior. Thus, it is not logical that banning access to medical marijuana will have any effect upon the fears that lay at the heart of the Supreme Court’s decision and at the heart of most bans on drug usage — fears of violent crime.

While it is acknowledged that this point might be too large a pill for most readers to swallow, at the very least, the unanimous ruling should present this question for discussion: Is the court removed from public opinion when it interprets the law, as was intended? It may be argued that the Oakland Cannabis Buyers’ Cooperative ruling proves that the court is isolated from public pressure, as it overruled medical marijuana usage even though Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Maine, Nevada, Oregon and Washington all have approved such laws.

However, it seems that America’s high court ignores public sentiment sometimes, but not all the time, and that its isolation from the outside world seems to depend on the nature of the case being heard.

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