Conyers Questions the War on Sick People
Why don't we all?
by RS Davis
Thursday, May 8, 2008
Francis L Young, a DEA Administrative law judge, once remarked that cannibas is "one of the safest therapeutically active substances known." This has been backed up by numerous studies, including one that shows it to be one of the most successful treatments for neuropathic pain, one that shows it to shrink breast cancer tumors, and yet another that shows that while it doesn't harm the lungs like cigarettes, it can actually prevent cancer from happening.
In fact, according to a study by Dr. Tod Mikuriya (left), there are at least 250 valid therapeutic uses of medical MJ, including AIDS, cancer, anorexia, epilepsy, bi-polar disorder, panic disorders, OCD, and multiple sclerosis. It is because of promising research like the above that twelve states currently have laws allowing the medical use of marijuana.
California's Prop 215 was passed in 1996 with 55.6% of the left coast state voting in favor. It provided the following:
Exempts patients and defined caregivers who possess or cultivate marijuana for medical treatment recommended by a physician from criminal laws which otherwise prohibit possession or cultivation of marijuana.
Provides physicians who recommend use of marijuana for medical treatment shall not be punished or denied any right or privilege.
Declares that the measure is not be construed to supersede prohibitions of conduct endangering others or to condone diversion of marijuana for non-medical purposes.
But it didn't really do these things because even though there is no Constutional authority for the federal government to ban the cultivation and sale of marijuana for any reason at all, there are federal laws against it. And the devil's weed is still classified by the feds as a Schedule 1 narcotic, which means:
The drug or other substance has high potential for abuse.
The drug or other substance has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.
There is a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug or other substance under medical supervision.
It's a pretty absurd classification considering that marijuana is non-addictive, has at least 250 medical uses, and has never killed a single person in the history of the world, all of which flies in the face of the requirements for Schedule 1.
But Drug Warriors have never been allies of truth and reason. In fact, the entire scheduling of drugs was an end-run around the Constitution, so that unelected regulators could make law where the legislature is bound.
Since California legalized medical cannabis, they have had nothing but trouble. As far back as 2003, I wrote about one supplier named Ed Rosenthal (right), who was deputized by the City of Oakland to grow and provide this natural medicine to terminally-ill patients in California.
He was arrested by the feds and railroaded:
In February 2002, Mr. Rosenthal was arrested in San Francisco for selling the dope to the Harm Reduction Center in that city. In San Francisco, not surprisingly, the Compassionate Use Act passed with a 78% approval rate. This led to, as Clay Conrad, author of the enlightening book Jury Nullification: The Evolution of a Doctrine, said, a situation where "it took a total of 80 jurors to find 12 willing to convict Rosenthal. Most of those summoned for jury duty said they would not be willing to brand someone a felon for growing or distributing medical marijuana."
So, you have a situation where the government is sifting through people, trying desperately to find twelve people in that 22% of voters who opposed the law, eventually disqualifying 85% of the potential jurors just because they would probably exercise their right to nullify unfair laws. Clearly, this court shuffled and reshuffled, palming the right cards at the right time, stacking the deck inexorably against him.
As if that weren't enough, the court further prohibited his defense attorney from telling the truth about what happened. He was not allowed to mention that he was working for the city; he was not allowed to mention Proposition 215. This had the effect of creating, as Conrad said, an image of Rosenthal "not as a conscientious caregiver, but as a large-scale drug dealer."
With all said and done, the court now faces sentencing Rosenthal to 40 years without parole, which, for this 58 year old farmer, is a life sentence, and for his twelve-year-old daughter, a lonely rest of her life.
Astoundingly, Richard Meyer of the DEA said, "We feel the people of California have spoken." No, Mister Meyer, the people of California spoke when they passed the Compassionate Use Act. The government spoke when they railroaded and coerced twelve people into convicting an innocent man of doing his State sanctioned job.
At least half of the jurors - and it only takes one - later said they would have voted not guilty if they had known all the facts. Some were so distraught over the incident, they held a press conference on February 4, 2003 to publicly criticize the court and apologize to Rosenthal. One juror said, "It's the most horrible mistake I've ever made in my entire life," while the foreman, Charles Sackett, said, "I think jury nullification is going to be part of the answer in future cases."
Later, his sentence was reduced to one day with time served, but he still has a record for simply carrying out the wishes of his local government.
In January 2007, the DEA started with the paramilitary raids of the medical marijuana dispensaries in California. Ralph W Partrige, head of the California branch of the DEA, showed his utter ignorance, saying, "Today's enforcement operations show that these establishments are nothing more than drug-trafficking organizations bringing criminal activities to our neighborhoods and drugs near our children and schools."
Tell that to the wheelchair-bound cancer patient with the M16 in his face.
These raids were not kosher with most of the public - even many of those who opposed Prop 216 - because the sight of paramilitary goons harassing the terminally ill tends to turn people's stomachs.
So, what did they do? As I wrote back in February, they tried to threaten and strongarm the owners of the commercial properties in which these dispensaries were located.
I quoted the following from The San Francisco Chronicle:
In late December, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration sent letters to landlords of buildings that housed medical cannabis dispensaries in the city, telling them they face the loss of their property and possibly prison if the businesses stay open.
Now, less than two months later, seven of the city's 28 dispensaries have closed or are on the verge of closing, according to medical marijuana supporters and activists. They fear more will follow...
...One of the best known dispensaries, the San Francisco Patients' Cooperative on Divisadero Street, will shut its doors at the end of the month after nearly 20 years, according to the Rev. Randi Webster, one of the cooperative's founders.
The owner of the building was "severely frightened" by the DEA letter, and the cooperative founders and the landlord had agreed years ago to part ways in the event of a situation like this, Webster said.
Activists will not disclose the locations of other dispensaries that have or may soon shut their doors.
Which brings us to today, and John Conyers (left). Again, The San Francisco Chronicle reports:
A congressional leader, citing complaints from Bay Area mayors and lawmakers, wants the Drug Enforcement Administration to explain its increased use of "paramilitary-style enforcement raids" and property forfeiture orders against medical marijuana patients and suppliers in California.
With drug trafficking and violence from international cartels on the rise, "do you think the DEA's limited resources are best utilized conducting enforcement raids on individuals and their caregivers who are conducting themselves legally under California law?" House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, D-Mich., said in a letter to the agency.
He also noted the DEA's recent tactic of sending letters to hundreds of property owners who rent to medical marijuana dispensaries, advising them that they could be prosecuted and lose their property under federal law.
Property forfeitures, Conyers said, have typically been reserved for "the worst drug traffickers and kingpins" and might have the unintended effect of driving medical marijuana distribution underground. Medical marijuana advocacy groups say the letters have led to evictions and closures of dozens of supply shops that had been operating with state and local approval.
These are good questions, Representative Conyers, despite your lack of knowledge about just how often asset forfieture happens and how dispicable it is. Asset forfieture has turned into revenue-generating programs for police departments, turning them into pirates instead of public servants. In most cases, the people whose assets are siezed are never even charged with a crime, much less convicted.
They're state-sanctioned shakedowns.
Now, I know John Conyers is just one legislator, but it is a good first step. Now, I would urge him to back Ron Paul on the legislation he has introduced, calledthe "Medical Marijuana Patient Protection Act",H.R. 5842.
As Paul states:
K.K. Forss lived in constant fear of federal and state officials so he eventually stopped taking medical marijuana and switched to his more rigorous and expensive pill regimen. Presently, twelve states have passed legislation allowing marijuana, under certain conditions, to be prescribed legally by doctors for patients who could benefit from it. K.K. Forss lives in Minnesota, where it is not yet legal. However, even if it is legalized by the state, Mr. Forss will still have plenty to fear from the Federal government, as cannabis dispensaries and clinics that operate under these state laws are still under fire from the Drug Enforcement Administration.
In other words, the federal government sees fit to use our tax dollars to raid state sanctioned healthcare clinics, to imprison and fine patients and operators, in order to compel people like Mr. Forss to be bedridden and overmedicated at great taxpayer expense every single day.
The Federal government should recognize that states have the authority to decide these issues. This affords all states the opportunity to see which policies are most beneficial. As a Congressman and a physician, I strongly advocate that healthcare decisions should be made by doctors and patients, not politicians or federal agents, which is why I am an original co-sponsor of the recently introduced "Medical Marijuana Patient Protection Act" which would bar the Federal government from intervening in such doctor/patient relationships that violate no state law.
The bottom line is that K.K. Forss should be treated as a free American. Mr. Forss is one of many who would like to use marijuana medicinally because it helps him. Politicians and bureaucrats have no right to interfere.
Lets end this insanity and stop treating doctors and their patients as criminals. It's the only compassionate choice.
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Conyers Questions the War on Sick People
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