Letters + Opinion » The Week in Weed

The High Court



You could argue that nine grown-ups who sit around all day in silky black robes always look ridiculous, but the U.S. Supreme Court looked especially foolish last week when it decided not to hear an appeal of the federal government's classification of marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug — that is, a substance with no currently accepted medical use and with more potential for abuse than cocaine or meth. This in a country where 20 states and the nation's capital have legalized medical cannabis, and despite more than 200 peer-reviewed scientific studies that have shown marijuana to be both safe and effective in relieving pain, nausea and the side effects of chemotherapy, among other applications.

The San Francisco-based group Americans for Safe Access kindly asked the Drug Enforcement Administration to reclassify weed 11 years ago, and the agency took nine years to say "no." In January, the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., took a turn on the silly stage. It admitted that a 1999 report from the esteemed Institute of Medicine "does indeed suggest that marijuana might have medical benefits." But in its 3-0 ruling the court found that the DEA (cough!) reasonably interpreted the study as a recommendation for more studies. Exhibiting what can only be described as willful blindness the court insisted, "Substantial evidence supports [the DEA's] conclusion that such studies do not exist."

Riiiight. The truth is that such studies come out all the time, despite federal restrictions that hinder scientific research. For example, a new study published in the American Journal of Medicine found that smoking weed may help regulate blood sugar and prevent Type 2 diabetes. Another study, published in the Journal of Neuroimmune Pharmacology, found that chemical compounds in marijuana show promise in treating multiple sclerosis. And after listening to medical professionals, the state of Maine just passed a law allowing doctors to recommend marijuana as a treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder.

Evidence abounds for marijuana's effectiveness in treating everything from rheumatoid arthritis to digestive disorders to sleep apnea, HIV, Alzheimer's and more. So why would the Supreme Court — a body that's supposedly guided by reason and evidence — refuse to even consider the federal government's ostrich-pose on the issue? It gives new meaning to "the highest court in the land."


• Romania just became the 10th member of the European Union to legalize medical marijuana, and Switzerland just decriminalized possession of pot-for-fun. Also, did you know that growing, selling and consuming weed is entirely legal in, of all places, North Korea?

• Denver, meanwhile, is still trying to figure out how to navigate legal weed. After opponents to a proposed marijuana tax started handing out free joints at rallies in Colorado, which legalized weed-for-fun last fall, the mayor of Denver said he'll propose outlawing handouts of free pot in city parks. And the Denver City Council is considering an ordinance that could land people in jail for up to a year and cost them a $999 fine if they're caught "openly" using marijuana in public. That would mean potentially getting busted if someone so much as smells your puff.

• Are marijuana gardens destroying history? That was the provocative title of an Oct. 10 Times-Standard story by Thadeus Greenson, who examined how the county's 4,000-plus marijuana farms may be obliterating Native American archaeological sites. A state Fish and Wildlife employee recently noticed shattered artifacts in the dirt of a grow operation. These included an arrowhead that turned out to be more than 1,000 years old. The story quoted him saying that the grow operation damaged a large archaeological site. "Now," he said, "it's just kind of a big jumbled mess."

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