Tuesday, September 11, 2012

NORML By Your Side

NORML By Your Side

By Norm Kent
"Of all the tyrannies a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive...”-----C.S. Lewis
Next month in Los Angeles, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws will meet at its annual convention.

We are at a critical time for reform in America. We are at the precipice of change, despite unfortunate, untimely, and uncalled for setbacks by the Obama Administration.

Medical dispensaries in California have been under attack by federal prosecutors and state law enforcement officers. Local cities are backing away from their licensing of medical marijuana programs, authorized by state law.

NORML has always backed reform efforts, but last year a storm of controversy ensued when our own national director referred to the California plan as a ‘sham.’ In truth, advocates for the reform of marijuana laws never intended for pot to be conditionally ‘medicalized.’ We wanted it unconditionally legalized. Nothing has changed since the organization was founded 40 years ago.

Long before there were pharmacies for the federal government to raid, Thomas Szasz, a noted civil libertarian, writing in Liberty Magazine, warned us about the dangers of creating a therapeutic state. Here are his exact words:

“Drug prohibitionists were alarmed last November, when voters in Arizona and California endorsed the referendums permitting the use of marijuana for "medical purposes." Opponents of drug prohibition ought to be even more alarmed: The advocates of medical marijuana have embraced a tactic that retards the repeal of drug prohibition and reinforces the moral legitimacy of prevailing drug policies.”

No one at NORML has ever said that marijuana is not medicine. No one is saying that the war on drugs has not been an intrinsically evil exercise. We have even had voices argue that all use is medical.

The issue advocates debate today is the best and most appropriate path to legalization. Ironically, many thought the first step would be to support statewide medical marijuana programs. Instead, that highway has led to a federal law enforcement bulldozer. Innocent people are getting arrested and prosecuted.

NORML’s position has been to advocate for the free and unfettered use of marijuana by responsible citizens.

Why should we require any free citizen, patients included, to have to explain to a doctor why they are responsibly consuming a natural herb they should otherwise be free to use as they wish anyway?

Why should we embrace a system, where we know in advance, some people are going to use a ruse to get their medicine? It has contributed to the very consequences we are dealing with today.

When you position yourself as being an advocate of medical marijuana programs supervised by the state to help sick patients, you are correspondingly saying that the substance being administered should be regulated and controlled by that entity. You are not saying it should be freely disseminated to the general population at their leisure.  

NORML has a broad duty to serve the general public, not just a limited obligation to protect the medical marijuana clientele. Regrettably, the federal government is now demonstrating with arrests where that path has taken us, ignoring even decisions made by the states for their own citizens. 

Americans need to author their own drug policy, and not abdicate that right to physicians, the pharmaceutical lobby, or the government. Thomas Szasz was prophetic when he warned we were blinding ourselves by asking the government to adopt a “more rational policy.”

Any policy orchestrated by the government is simply another instrument of control inhibiting what should be the inalienable right of free citizens to decide which substances to use or avoid within their own bodies. If we bought into this idea of medicalization with governmental regulation, it was only because we hoped it would be a stepping-stone that would facilitate legalization. The broad primrose path sometimes leads to a nasty place.

Articles in the NY Times dating back to 2004 warned about the abuses inherent in California’s pioneering medical marijuana program. Shrewd reformers at the local and national level knew that these defects would eventually lead to a law enforcement backlash, which could potentially undermine the ability of patients to get their medicine. While justly empowering citizens to acquire marijuana as a medicine, we also saw it could lead to more stringent controls. Sadly, we face that today from a hypocritical Obama administration. We can say we are surprised this particular president reversed his course. We cannot say we are surprised that this day has come.

Consequently, rather than enhancing our civil liberties, we may have set into motion a process which diminished them. Allowing for medical marijuana access under a system of government administration is simply not the same as legalization, which provides adults with free and unfettered access to consume cannabis. Medical marijuana, for all its value, still has set forth a path of regulation, better perhaps than what existed before- but still not where we need to be.

Still, for any one of us that supports legalization not to also support medicalization is foolish. The fact is cannabis is a useful medicinal treatment alternative for dozens of ailments suffered by thousands of Americans. Not to allow its distribution through lawful and licensed dispensaries is inexcusable, indefensible, and unconscionable. So NORML very much joins with citizens from Colorado to California and all those communities now opening their doors to medical dissemination. Still, we can even do more than that.

Let’s move to a higher plateau and address the real issue of freeing nearly one million Americans a year from arrest and prosecution for the use of marijuana, medicinally or recreationally.

Medical? Recreational? Spiritual? Your body, your mind, your choice. A civil liberty is a civil liberty regardless of why you exercise that right.

Join with NORML next month at the Omni Hotel in Los Angeles and express your preference that marijuana be freed from slavery. Go to our website at www.norml.org and register as soon as you can.

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