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A federal court has ruled against finding a constitutional right to take medical marijuna. That is the right decision. But I think the Feds have missed an important bet on this issue. When the Controlled Substances Act was enacted, marijuana was explicitly defined as having no legitimate medical use. When states passed their medical marijuana laws, the Supreme Court ruled that such state statutes did not prevent the Feds from enforcing federal law in this regard. This too, was the right decision as a matter of law.

But it is now clear that at least for some maladies, marijuana provides effective palliation. So, why is it still identified in the law as a drug with no legitimate medical use? If this status were changed, then a rational policy could be adopted that would eliminate the two, opposite-ended problems with medical marijuana as it is currently dispensed. First, the status of marijuana should be changed to that of say, morphine, permitting it to be prescribed for conditions that it palliates. (This would also permit medical testing to identify those.) At the same time, the ability to prescribe and dispense through a pharmacy would obviate the need for marijuana clubs. It would also do away with the “letter” system where a doctor merely writes a note to a patient recommending marijuna. This system is too loose to prevent improper prescribing.

I think one of the Bush Administration’s biggest mistakes in the areas about which I engage has been its failure to push for a better medical marijuana policy. This would have been true “compassionate conservatism.” At the same time, now that the Dems are in charge of Congress, why aren’t they making this a policy priority?

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