Mar 182007
 
Authors: Andy Nicewicz

Reading the Denver Post last Thursday, I noticed a small blurb about Angel Raich, a 41-year-old mother of two from Oakland, Calif., who suffers from scoliosis, a brain tumor, chronic nausea, and other ailments. According to her doctor, medical marijuana is the only thing keeping her alive.

Sadly, a federal appeals court ruled last Wednesday that she can still be charged with federal drug charges.

It’s very unfortunate, especially for people who are suffering like Angel Raich, that the government chooses to ignore the evidence that marijuana can actually help people. One study done by the Institute of Medicine in 1999 found that “the accumulated data indicate a potential therapeutic value for cannabinoid drugs, particularly for symptoms such as pain relief, control of nausea and vomiting, and appetite stimulation.”

Numerous other reputable organizations have also endorsed the use of marijuana for medical purposes (see www.drugwarfacts.org).

Opponents of medical marijuana still claim there hasn’t been enough research on the subject to legitimize making marijuana available to patients. Ironically, this is because marijuana is categorized by the government as a “Schedule I Substance,” which defines marijuana as having a high potential for abuse, no currently accepted medical use in the United States and a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision.

It’s sort of a Catch-22. Because marijuana is a Schedule I Substance, many restrictions are placed on research, and because there are these restrictions, it’s exceedingly difficult to provide “sufficient” evidence to remove marijuana from the Schedule I category.

At any rate, the federal government has chosen to use its rather limited resources to charge Angel Raich with drug charges. The federal government has many purposes and duties, but investigating, arresting, and trying dying mothers using our tax dollars certainly shouldn’t be one of them.

Moreover, the federal government’s involvement in medical marijuana cases in California raises questions of Constitutional validity.

The United States was founded as a federal system, meaning that states are granted some manor of autonomy from the national government to make their own laws.

In California, where Raich resides, medical marijuana is legal (the same is true in Colorado). However, it is illegal under federal law.

Under the U.S. Constitution, the national government only has powers granted to it expressed in Article 1, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution. Under the 10th Amendment, all other powers are granted to the States.

The federal appeals court involved in this case cited Article 1, Section 8, Clause 3 of the U.S. Constitution, also known as the Commerce Clause, to justify the national government’s interference in the affairs of California. The Commerce Clause says that the national government has the power to regulate commerce between states, but applying this to a person who gets her cannabis from private care-givers from inside California, as Raich did, is questionable at best.

Whatever the federal government’s reasons for its involvement, this woman is dying, and the government is taking away the thing that can help her live.

I remember when Terry Schiavo was going to be taken off life support. There were protests, huge amounts of media coverage, and the involvement of various elected officials on her behalf, including President Bush.

So where are the religious leaders now, preaching about the sanctity of life and the duty to help those in need? Where are the politicians introducing new legislation and condemning acts of heartlessness?

But I suppose in the War on Drugs, enemies like Angel Raich pose one of the biggest threats to the United States, right?

Andy Nicewicz is a senior political science major. His column appears every Monday in the Collegian. Replies and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com.

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