Of the various fronts in the nation's "war on drugs," none seems more perverse and pointless than the raids that Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft pressed Drug Enforcement Administration agents to stage against patients treating themselves with medical marijuana under Proposition 215, a law that California voters passed eight years ago.
On Monday, two of those patients --Angel Raich, an Oakland mother of two who used the drug as a last resort to ease the constant pain of a brain tumor, and Diane Monson of Oroville, who used cannabis to help her stay mobile despite a degenerative spinal disease -- struck back, appealing their right to treatment to the U.S. Supreme Court. That the Justice Department considers them criminals shows something seriously out of whack in Washington.
Ashcroft's lawyers argued, on narrow legal grounds, that the government had every right to prosecute because Congress in 1970 decreed that marijuana was a Schedule 1 drug, a chemical devoid of any possible medicinal value and illegal in all uses. Even morphine and cocaine are granted more legitimate status.
Some of the justices fretted that allowing Raich to grow her own pot and use it would open the floodgates for unlimited recreational use. Granted, not every medical marijuana user has a case like Raich's, but commercial prescription drugs are misused, often widely, without being banned or put on Schedule 1.