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Helping the Sick Should Not Be a Crime

November 30, 2003

Columnist Patt Morrison is right to rejoice in the justice and mercy shown by Judge A. Howard Matz in refusing to send medical marijuana defendant Scott Imler to jail for the "crime" of helping people battling AIDS and cancer (Nov. 25). But such acts of sanity could soon be illegal if Rep. Mark Souder (R-Ind.) has his way. Souder, chairman of the House subcommittee that oversees drug policy issues, is now seeking co-sponsors for the Drug Sentencing Reform Act, a bill that would take away nearly all of the grounds upon which judges like Matz can show mercy to defendants who deserve it. Indeed, the measure would treat medical marijuana providers like Imler as being worse than child molesters under federal law.

Appallingly, Souder's bill would increase the punishment for those who provide high-quality medical marijuana to patients -- who can be harmed by having to use low-potency marijuana that requires inhalation of larger amounts of irritating smoke.

Bruce Mirken

Communications Director

Marijuana Policy Project

Washington

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Thank goodness common sense prevailed at the sentencing of three former directors of the West Hollywood medical marijuana dispensary. The judge who elected to impose probation, instead of the sentence recommended by prosecutors, demonstrated a compassion that has been entirely lacking in the federal government's treatment of medical marijuana patients and their caregivers.

Prosecuting providers who operate within state laws is a waste of tax funds and a miscarriage of justice. The federal government may continue to doggedly ignore the vast body of scientific data indicating that marijuana can relieve pain, control nausea and stimulate the appetite. But if it insists on continuing to wage a failed war on some drugs, it should at least have the decency to clear the sick and dying off the battlefield.

Julie Ruiz-Sierra

Davis

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