“Congress should definitely consider decriminalizing possession of marijuana….We should concentrate on prosecuting the rapists and burglars who are a menace to society.” -U.S. Representative Dan Quayle, March 1977
If you are old enough to recall some of Dan Quayle’s head-scratching remarks (such as “For NASA, space is still a high priority”) the above comment might explain a lot. What it fails to explain is the rigid stance against marijuana by federal politicians both then and now.
The fact is that some form of every hard core drug from heroin to cocaine to methamphetamine is available by prescription at your local pharmacy. Though possession of even trace amounts of these controlled substances amounts to a felony crime, a small amount of marijuana equates to a simple misdemeanor. Whether we accept that marijuana is the smoking version of alcohol or a narcotic that should remain on the list of controlled substances, overwhelming evidence suggests it also has a part to play as a prescribed drug.
Unfortunately, the current state of medical marijuana legislation here in Washington (see Trib article) has criminal justice officials and medical marijuana dispensers both convinced that their polar opinions are correct.
Even for people like me who have never smoked a joint the legislative debacle has widespread ramifications, as evidenced by these two unrelated events.
About two years ago my wife called and said she had an appointment that evening at a medical marijuana dispensary. Though it was in a rough part of Tacoma, she was prepared to do what had to be done to fill a prescription written by her mother’s oncologist (marijuana has been shown to stimulate the appetite for people underoing chemotherapy treatment). I was told, both by my police commander and a worker at the dispensary, that my presence at the location was not permitted. Thus, I sat outside in my car, in the dark, and thought of several safer and more efficient ways of having my wife get her mother some pot.
The other incident involved a woman who had been given a prescription allowing her to grow several marijuana plants for “personal use.” Her home had been invaded by gang members, one of whom placed a gun to her head. The increase in legally endorsed home grow operations has ramped up these violent types of crimes, especially when the victims make their business known by selling some of their product. Although I doubt the legislature intended to create a scenario where a woman and her small child were terrorized by gunmen over a bundle of medical marijuana, that is precisely what happened.
It is clear that the legislature and the governor have badly screwed up our state’s gradual transition to legalized medical marijuana. At this point the situation is so ridiculous that discussing the future of marijuana–legalization or not–remains moot. There’s plenty of time for that discussion when a safer and saner method of dispensing medical marijuana is implemented in Olympia.