The federal government announced this week that it will no longer seek to prosecute patients using medicinal marijuana if the practice of prescribing it is legal within that patient's state.
In a memorandum to select U.S. Attorney's affected by the new policy, Attorney General Eric Holder wrote that, "Pursuit of these priorities should not focus federal resources in your States on individuals whose actions are in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws providing for the medical use of marijuana."
In other words, U.S. Attorneys in states where they have legalized medicinal marijuana shouldn't seek out the prosecution of individuals who are using the drugs as part of their doctor's recommendations. The illegal growing and distribution of marijuana is still a criminal offense, and individuals partaking in those endeavors should still be sought after; but as far as patients using the drug, the Obama administration has made it clear that there are higher priorities than the cancer patient smoking dope because his doctor told him to.
The change in attitudes on marijuana policy is a big move for any administration to take. It's also a step in the right direction: the laws against marijuana users in this country are backwards and hypocritical. Marijuana is safer, in some ways, than other legal drugs, such as drinking and cigarette smoking. Marijuana isn't as addictive as cigarette smoking is; and it does less damage to your body than habitual drinking does (there has never been a single documented death due to marijuana overdose).
To be sure, there are still dangers with marijuana use -- no one is saying, for example, that driving while under the influence of pot is safe. But certainly a drug that has the ability to make those struggling with immense pain feel less of it is one we should consider legalizing, at the very least on a medicinal level.
Wisconsin governor Jim Doyle, in fact, recently stated that he would be open to a law in the state that would allow doctors to prescribe marijuana for medicinal purposes. And why not? There are certainly worse drugs a person can use; but if used properly, under the supervision of a doctor's care, marijuana can do wonders for a person's life, eliminating the suffering they would ordinarily feel without it.
There are drugs that are real problems for society -- ecstasy and heroin come to mind -- but there are many drugs that do wonderful things for society, too, that have helped people with various ailments, adding comfort to their lives when their absence would otherwise mean a life of unending pain. There are other drugs, still, that are deemed safe enough to be legal yet still are abused daily.
I would put marijuana in one or two of these groups -- it's just as safe, if not safer, than the drugs that are deemed safe enough to be legal, and has the potential to be a drug that can help thousands, if not, millions of lives.
It wouldn't be a terrible thing to legalize marijuana in Wisconsin, if only for medicinal purposes.