Representative John Conyers, Chair of the House Committee on the Judiciary, sent a letter to the DEA inquiring about the "paramilitary style enforcement raids" conducted against medical marijuana distributors in California. In case anyone hasn't been following this story the state of California permits the use of marijuana for medical purposes. Since the federal government does not and the current Federal apparatuses' have chosen not to look the other way in respect of State's rights, there have been Federally motivated enforcement actions against people and businesses that are legally permitted by the State but not the Federal government.
Ed Brayton observes:
All of this can be blamed entirely on the Supreme Court, which issued one of the most indefensible rulings in its history in Gonzales v Raich. And yes, this one you can lay directly at the feet of the liberals on the court. Stevens, Souter, Ginsburg and Breyer were all in the majority in ruling that the federal government has the authority to overrule state medical marijuana laws.
I ran across something specific related to this Conyers' letter that ties back to some previous comments I had about drug advocates trying to Trojan Horse recreational use under cover of medicinal use.
First, let me be clear about the medical marijuana thing. Did you watch the repeated ambushing of Presidential candidates by patients with various conditions attesting to their need for marijuana? If not, start here and follow the related videos.
I am not inclined to disbelieve medical marijuana patients out of hand, in fact rather the contrary. First, we know from anecdotes accessible to nearly everyone who has come across a dope smoker, popular media and indeed good quality research that marijuana smoking stimulates appetite. A GoodThing in cases of cancer cachexia and AIDS wasting. We know from a currently active area of research (see juniorprof) that cannabinoid sensitive mechanisms are involved in pain, so there is reason to assume a specific effect of marijuana smoking to relieve some chronic pain conditions. It takes only a rudimentary understanding of the risks of marijuana smoking to be able to come to a conclusion about how much we should care if the individual with a (near) terminal condition (such as AIDS) or threatening complication (cachexia in cancer or AIDS) becomes addicted to marijuana. One might need a slightly more involved appreciation of the relative risks of marijuana smoking and typical prescription medications for pain control but suffice it to say most of the good pain medications are opiates. Which carry their own addiction / dependence risks.
Furthermore, let me give major props to the State of California for funding at least one clinical research effort on the topic of medical marijuana. The individuals involved in that effort are very highly regarded clinical researchers- most of whom are involved with clinical AIDS research so their major motivation may be assumed the application of medical marijuana for AIDS-related wasting. [Update: as luck would have it, PalMD just posted an overview of HIV infection.] YHN is very much in favor of political entities that attempt to generate good scientific information when they plan or start new policies that could benefit from such.
With all that said, there is a list of drug busts appended to Conyers' letter and also an accounting here. I've been discussing this issue with a Reader who has some interesting observations.
Actually I have a little personal knowledge of one of these busts [of a distributor of medical marijuana-Ed]. The owner of one lived within a few blocks for several years and on my actual block for many months. This upstanding citizen may have been distributing medical marijuana, I guess, but this was also a good old fashioned drug dealer and abuser. Significant rage issues in the neighborhood, going all nonlinear shouting and threatening his neighbors at the slightest provocation. Cars pulling up to the house for people to dart in for 5 min at all hours [medical marijuana distribution was through a storefront location-Ed]
To summarize a little background, this individual lived in a nice family neighborhood with a couple of dozen elementary school and younger kids around. Lots of retirees as well. The neighborhood was all familiar with the disruptive antics and the evidence of the distributor in question appearing high at times as well as the parade of short-duration house visits. Not to mention the willingness of this supposed medical marijuana distributor to be a vocal defender of rights to distribute medical marijuana in the press. Usually associated with actions by the authorities against the individual. The people were well aware of the seeming end of the story in which the distributor went down on Al Capone type charges. I.e., other criminal behavior not directly related to the drug charges.
In short, this reasonably vocal defender of medical marijuana was clearly a drug dealer, first and foremost, who latched onto the issue to cover dealing. In short, a Trojan Horse advocate. Essentially single-handedly this person ensured that an entire neighborhood (of a consistently voting and reasonable liberal bent says my correspondent) would be very skeptical of efforts to legalize marijuana for medical purposes.
A commenter previously asked what I would suggest for strategies to advance public policy related to drug abuse science. Obviously, one major point is to completely divorce medical-use advocacy from personal-use advocacy. Another is to rigorously distance oneself or one's argument from drug dealers who are clearly recreational-use dealers first and medical marijuana providers only for convenience or market share.
In a tangentially related note, Bob Egelko of the SF Chronicle overviewed positions taken on the matter by Presidential candidates Obama, Clinton and McCain.