Finally, some “unadulterated good news from Washington,” said Glenn Greenwald in Salon.com. This week, the Justice Department announced it would no longer prosecute legitimate growers or users of medical marijuana, saying that it’s a waste of time and resources. That’s welcome relief for those poor souls who might have worried about taking a toke to relieve the pain and nausea associated with cancer, AIDS, and other terrible diseases. You don’t have to be sick—or a pothead—to applaud this “sensible, humane” decision, said Rick Brookhiser in National Review Online. For libertarian conservatives like me, medical marijuana is one of the great states’ rights issues of our time. The 14 states that allow some medical use of cannabis—including “Barack’s Hawaii, Sarah’s Alaska, libertarian Nevada, Ben & Jerry’s Vermont,” and our most populous state, California—reflect “every shade” of political belief. In most of them, medical pot was legalized by popular referendum. By pledging to honor these laws, Washington has finally bowed to “the will of the people.”
Actually there’s little new, and plenty wrong, with this policy, said Tom Riley in NewYorkTimes.com. Medical marijuana busts, Attorney General Eric Holder said, will “no longer be a ‘priority’ for the federal government.” But they never were. Only in myth have the feds been locking up glaucoma-ridden grandmothers and cancer patients “for puffing a few joints for ‘medical purposes.’” More important, the Justice Department directive is “internally conflicted to the point of incoherence.” It advises federal authorities not to prosecute medical marijuana growers and users, but it still allows them to do so “at their discretion.” What does that mean? By being so coy and so vague, the administration may have served only to discourage some legal growers, while sending “a green light to cultivators and traffickers who have been cynically using the ‘medical’ label.”
That’s a legitimate concern, said Wesley Smith in FirstThings.com. It’s obvious that people who want to smoke weed to get high “are using suffering patients in a very cynical way,” as “a stalking horse for full-tilt legalization.” To separate those two issues, the administration should have taken a real stand on legalizing medical marijuana nationwide, instead of this cowardly cop-out, said the Los Angeles Times in an editorial. Why should a cancer patient in, say, Kansas, not have access to this pain- and nausea-relieving drug while one in Fresno does? Obama—or any president—shouldn’t get to “pick and choose states in which to enforce federal law.”
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