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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, March 19, 2007

Feds wrong to go after medical marijuana use

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Angel Raich is many things. A victim of scoliosis, a brain tumor and other debilitating ailments. A patient who, under the advice of physicians, has turned to medical marijuana in order to bear the pain and stay alive. A mother of two from California.

What she's not, however, is a criminal worthy of federal prosecution. Yet that is what a federal appeals court ruled last week, marking yet another legal setback for the 41-year-old. Two years ago, the Supreme Court made the first outrageous ruling against Raich, paving the way for prosecutors to go after patients who use medical marijuana, even in places where the humane practice is legal under state law.

Hawai'i is among 11 states that allow the use of cannabis for medical purposes. Currently, there are 249 licensed caregivers and 2,609 medical marijuana patients in the state. These are people who suffer from diseases such as AIDS, cancer, anorexia, chronic pain and glaucoma people who, like Raich, should not have to add jail time to their list of problems.

California voters approved Proposition 215, the Compassionate Use Act, more than a decade ago. But the federal government refuses to recognize it despite several reports, including a study requested by the White House, saying that marijuana can relieve severe pain, nausea and appetite loss.

The Drug Enforcement Administration has conducted numerous raids in states where the practice is legal, sometimes prosecuting patients who were using the drug in accordance with state laws.

There must be strict oversight to ensure that those given medical marijuana caregiver certificates are not abusing the law. It is in those cases that punitive actions are warranted. But in cases where people are dying, and their only comfort is in using legalized medical marijuana, they truly are not.