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June 22, 2007

A Different Take on Federal Woes (Political)

Now that it's Summer, it must be time for another another test of medical marijuana's Congressional popularity, a.k.a. the Hinchey- Rohrabacher amendment, a biparisan resolution calling for the de-emphasis of medical marijuana prosecutions in those states which have passed medical marijuana laws. It's an exercise in futility that's been going on for a few years; by my count, which may not be entirely accurate, this will be the sixth time the measure will come to a vote. Again, I may be a bit off on my numbers, but last year's defeat was a high water mark of sorts because H-R atrracted 163 out of 422 possible votes (38.6%), in losing by its smallest margin ever.

Thoughtful readers may wonder why the idea that pot has important medical benefits, one for which popular support has been growing for years and now stands at 60-70%, should be lagging so miserably with politicos who have to face re-election every two years and for whom, at least the appearance of fairness and compassion may trail only campaign contributions in importance. The answer is really quite simple: anonymity. Popular support for medical marijuana is inevitably tested in public opinion polls, whereas important votes in Congress are recorded; meaning that one must be able to deal with a "soft on drugs" charge from one's next political opponent . Obviously, the relevant political calculus assumes that the public's antipathy for "druggies"and attendant fear that their own kids will become "addicts," still trumps sympathy for those who are obviously sick and/or dying. The recent veto of Connecticut's highly restrictive medical pot bill by its female governor,  herself a breast cancer survivor, is as good an example of that calculus as one could ask. 

In its own way, the persistent and well-intentioned efforts of H-R's sponsors to goad their fellow Congressman into being more accepting of medical use may have helped create another political trap similar to the one reform fell into when it pushed Raich on the Supreme Court in the mistaken belief that the distaste certain Justice's had expressed for the New Deal in a Texas gun case would combine with logic and fairness to trump the hostility the court Court had expressed  toward "the scourge of drugs" in another (unfair) ruling in another now-forgotten case.

Details of the trap, a shrewd ploy by a red-neck Oklahoma senator named Tom Coburn (who also happens to be a pro-life gynecologist) are explained in a an Iowa NORML post.

The real explanation for the dichotomy may be something that's very difficut to prove but is suggested by the wide swings in numbers of both pot applicants and pot docs in California: the growing national sympathy for medical marijuana reflects facts documented by MTF surveys: a large fraction of American adolecents began trying pot in the mid Sixties and have continued to try it ever since. An unknown fraction of them became chronic users for periods of years; whether one classifies them as "recreational" or "medical," two undeniable facts remain. One is that the market they represent is continuing to grow; the other is that, while the social legal, and employment pressures that keep them "in the closet" about their pot use have also been growing, they are still free to express anonymous support for pot at the ballot box and in surveys. 

Isn't it time to educate the older ones about why they may have found the benefits of pot attractive enough to continue using for a years as adults; whether or not those old enough have continued using it into their forties and fifties?

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at June 22, 2007 04:37 PM