10 October 2006

The New Civil War

There's a low level civil war going on out West over - of all things - marijuana.

States are legalizing marijuana. Heck, even Virginia's code has exceptions for medical use of marijuana: § 18.2-250.1(A) It is unlawful for any person knowingly or intentionally to possess marijuana unless the substance was obtained directly from, or pursuant to, a valid prescription or order of a practitioner while acting in the course of his professional practice, or except as otherwise authorized by the Drug Control Act. News keeps coming out about how marijuana's active ingredient helps with diseases such as Alzheimer's disease.

Now, don't get me wrong, I don't buy that the driving force behind the legalization movement is medical use. I'm old enough to remember when the push for marijuana legalization was because it made good rope and the world's most uncomfortable shirts. For some reason that rationalization never worked. Medical use has gained traction, but I remain dubious.

Over the last week or two the nexus of this conflict has been California (as usual) with a little bit of Nevada mixed in. Perhaps the most unusual story is out of Nevada where 33 clergymen called for people to vote in favor of a referendum requiring the sale of marijuana by the State government and legalizing possession of small amounts.

No mater the motivation behind legalization, States are beginning to bend to the will of the citizenry. Localities are not banning the substance out of hand. Instead, they are treating the clinics as zoning or licensing issues.

When local law enforcement moves against the marijuana growers and clinics it does so on the basis of filling bad scrip for healthy people or because of failures on the permit application. Even the feds, who have loudly proclaimed that it's still illegal even if the States and their citizenry say it isn't, are finding an extra act before moving on marijuana clinics. When the feds raided a marijuana clinic in Palm Springs and seized its stock they relied upon a claim that a worker from that clinic had illegally given some marijuana as a tip. Despite having its entire supply seized, the clinic reopened the next day.

I must say, I'm torn here. I don't believe that the number of clinics popping up and the number of "patients" being served is medically legitimate. I'd be much more convinced if the push was to prescribe some sort of THC pills. And it is clearly still illegal under federal law whether or not States or localities pass laws and ordinances legalizing it. I don't have any desire to see smoking marijuana legalized. However, even if I - and the citizens of Virginia - disagree with legalization, the citizenry out on the Left Coast is pretty clearly in disagreement with me. If they vote for legalization isn't that sort of thing supposed to be at the root of our federalist form of government?

Anyway, this low level conflict ne rebellion continues. Who will win? It's an interesting question. If the feds push too hard they are likely to drive a large number of the voting public into the hands of the legalization movement. If they don't push hard enough the clinics and infrastructure with them will become too firmly entrenched to remove without massive, and quite possibly self defeating (see option one), action. I suspect that the growing wave will soon be too much for even the feds to stem.


Anonymous said...

Assuming it's just pretext, so what? I've never understood why alcohol is legal while marijuana, which as I understand it has less harmful long term effects, is illegal.

-A member of the "left coast"

Anonymous said...

that is by far the coolest flag i have ever seen -