Everybody must get stoned: Glaucoma never looked so good. Wedge issue in the drug war, or feel-good hit of the summer? Feds argue one side, I make the case that feds are idiots. Not sure I succeed, but close enough for government work. Incisive analysis with a third less calories than our regular beer.

A Toke A Day Keeps the Doctor Away…
Grass, pot, dope, mary jane…call it what you will, it’s still rock ‘n’ roll to me. The very entertaining Reefer Madness not withstanding, marijuana really isn’t the insanity-inducing happy drug that some law enforcement officials, notably General Barry McCaffrey, seem to think. His Highness McCaffrey, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, is quoted as saying there is “no convincing scientific evidence” that marijuana offers medical benefits unavailable from current prescription drugs. Sig heil, General McCaffrey! On with the drug war!

Now I want to make starkly clear that I, for one, have never inhaled, and as I type this I’m as lucid as one could expect from a person in my delicate psychological state. (I believe the medical term for this condition is “goofy-as-hell.”) This is important because I wouldn’t want anyone in my vast reading public—and that means both of you—to think that I have any sort of bias on this issue.

And no one out there should think that I’m advocating recreational drug use. I’m not. I’m advocating high-risk experimental surgery on cats, using only a pair of pliers and a toothbrush. Let the record be clear.

In short, a whole raft of doctors have spoken out recently with the very direct message that (1) marijuana does have medical benefits unavailable from prescription drugs, and (2) McCaffrey you’re a putz. It’s difficult to ascertain which of these two points is more germane to our discussion today, so let’s examine them both carefully. Here, kitty, kitty, kitty…

Dope As Wonder Drug
The short-form on marijuana’s medical benefits reads thusly: reduces vomiting and nausea for cancer chemotherapy patients; improves appetite in AIDS-related wasting cases; reduces muscle spasms for epilepsy and multiple sclerosis victims; and lowers pressure within the eye for glaucoma sufferers. All this in a drug that’s impossible to overdose on and is not, other than perhaps psychologically, addicting. So General McCaffrey can put that in his roach-clip and smoke it.

Even the New England Journal of Medicine, possibly the most respected medical journal in the world outside of Reader’s Digest, believes marijuana could have direct benefits to certain patients. So I hope I’ve made it plenty clear that McCaffrey is as wrong on this issue as it is possible to be without help. God save us if he gets the help he needs to be more wrong.

That is not to say that pot is without harmful effects. Grass disrupts motor activity, concentration and short-term memory, all of which can be considered harmful effects or just a lot of fun, depending on your perspective. Marijuana joints, like tobacco cigarettes, contain a number of carcinogens which means, for those you unfamiliar with medical terminology, that these things are essentially slow death in a paper wrapper. That, regardless of your perspective, is a pretty big bummer.

Nonetheless, I’m thinking that if I’m a cancer chemo patient, and I’m nauseous and vomiting, that I’ll take the slow death of marijuana any day. Call me crazy, but I’m going for short-term pain relief and long-term risk. I’m not sure I need the federal government telling me that’s a bad choice, either. (Well, okay, I guess they can tell me it’s a bad choice, I just don’t want them stopping me from making that choice.)

The Drug War In America: Storm Troopers on Training Wheels
Now I’m not among those pundits who call for a vast decriminalization of the currently illegal recreational drugs on the streets today. It seems evident to me that the number of overdoses, addictions, users and societal problems would rise dramatically if we did so.

But medical marijuana is different. The 77 year-old grandmother who lights up because it helps her glaucoma is not, generally speaking, what most of us would consider a societal risk. Sure, she probably shouldn’t be driving, and she might bore somebody to death, but neither of those are threats posed by her marijuana use. Necessarily. I mean, she already can’t remember to turn off her blinking turn signal. A hit might relax her, help her drive better. I think we can safely say that studies need to be done.

The national War on Drugs has accomplished two things, neither of them helpful. First, it’s caused government to mis-allocate the massive financial and law enforcement resources at its disposal. Second, and far worse, it’s given us moralizing slogans so utterly devoid of intelligence (i.e. “Just say no!” and “Just don’t do it!”) that an entire generation of teenagers ran screaming into the waiting arms of the anti-establishment, and now it’s trey chic to have piercings and tattoos and listen to rap music. Thanks a lot, Nancy Reagan.

What I really want to say here is that if I’ve got a medical condition that my doctor thinks is best treated by marijuana, I don’t want some jackbooted ATF agents knocking down my door at 2 o’clock in the morning. The federal government is doing a lousy enough job in drug enforcement without having to worry about people who might actually receive some sort of benefit from taking the drugs. (And God forbid that they feel good taking it!)

But let me tell you, if the ATF did show up at my place at 2 AM, they’d have another Waco on their hands. Well, they would if I had a gun. And if I lived in a compound. And had my own cult of followers. And if I didn’t collapse, wailing and sobbing at the sight of armed men entering my house. Hell, they’d probably have to let me smoke a joint just to calm me down. Then one of the agents would want to sneak a hit, and before you know it, Dylan would be on the turntable, there’d be a lava lamp in the middle of the living room, and we’d all be getting the munchies.

Is that what you want for America, General McCaffrey? I didn’t think so. Let’s legalize medical pot, and move on to more important things.