Debating Medical Marijuana

Dec 04, 2008 , , ,

Last night I had the opportunity to debate medical marijuana policy with the White House drug czar’s chief counsel, Ed Jurith. Scott Morgan of did a great job covering the event.

Nobody expected a drug czar official to get up on stage, slap his forehead and say, “Oh, you’re right, arresting patients for using a safe, effective drug recommended by their doctors is shameful and immoral.” Still, I thought there were signs in the debate that there could be some common ground somewhere. Or at least the possibility of civil discussion.

Mr. Jurith – who served as acting drug czar before John Walters’ appointment – is certainly a drug warrior, but he’s also a career bureaucrat, not a political appointee like his boss.

Considering that Walters will soon be gone (wait for applause), I thought it was appropriate for a senior career government guy like Jurith to represent his office’s position. I also couldn’t help but notice how different it was interacting with him over marijuana policy rather than his boss.

Unlike the drug czar, Jurith didn’t lie, bully, or accuse me of secretly trying to get children hooked on marijuana. His arguments at least had some basis in legal fact, although I believe they were far too narrow to justify denying seriously ill patients access to safe, effective medicine, let alone arresting them for it. But he was civil and thoughtful. I liked him.

Like Walters, Jurith is wrong on marijuana policy. But Walters is a zealot, and he’s never shown much respect for the public he was supposed to serve.

But political guys like Walters come and go, and so do their personal crusades. I’d like to think that as our marijuana laws improve – and they are, right now – professional public servants like Jurith will know how to embrace and execute the people’s will in good faith.

(By the way, I’d like to thank Ken Falcon, Georgetown Law School’s Students for Sensible Drug Policy president, for the fantastic job he did setting this debate up.)

8 responses to “Debating Medical Marijuana”

  1. It’s painfully obvious that none of these guys knows what the hell they talk about. Sometimes it really looks like they just make stuff up as they go along. No facts, no nothing to support these crazy ideas.
    I wonder if they are all high…

  2. It comes as no surprise when you realise that the laws against all drugs have no basis in fact or science.They were all racist reactions to the racist fears of the early twentieth century.Most of the despicable acts fomented in that era have been withdrawn with an apology.Drugs are an exception.The only arguments against drugs are moral in nature.Till people stop enforcing their moral views on others we will continue to suffer under the oppressive drug prohibition that still exists to this day.How long till we get our apology?

  3. I’m glad to hear not everyone is like Walters. How can Walters possibly think condescending statements to the people he serves are a good thing. Good riddance

  4. When a state enacts a law accepting the medical use of something in Schedule I of the federal drug law, federal law requires the DEA to move that substance out of schedule I. 21 U.S.C. 812(a). It’s not optional. If the DEA does obey that statute, the state Attorney General should demand that the DEA explain why. That hasn’t been done by any of the 13 state attorneys general in the states that have legalized the medical use of marijuana. I’ve filed a civil complaint here in federal court, Carl Olsen v. Michael Mukasey, No. 4:08-cv-370, United States District Court for the Southern District of Iowa, demanding that the Attorney General immediately reclassify marijuana as required by 21 U.S.C. 812(b)(1)(B).

    Carl Olsen
    Iowans for Medical Marijuana
    Post Office Box 4091
    Des Moines, Iowa 50333
    Donations are Welcome!

  5. So what were Mr. Jurith’s views? You say they differ then what were they? And you say you liked him because he didn’t berate you, are you saying that he was an admirable debater? Or was he just a little more reserved in his narrow mindedness? By all means I am on your side, I would just like to know a little bit more about him, and your conversation.

  6. Hey, Jacob — Yeah, it’s certainly possible that my take on the debate may be a bit rosy, and I can’t say for sure what Mr. Jurith’s personal views are.

    But here’s what I observed: Jurith was very comfortable discussing the legal justification for denying a medical exception to current marijuana laws for seriously ill patients who use marijuana with a doctor’s recommendation. Like I said, I think that argument is disingenuous and overly convenient for anybody with a conscience. My impression was that this was more of an intellectual exercise for him.

    But unlike, say, the drug czar, Jurith didn’t seem to have much enthusiasm for attacking medical marijuana, patients, or advocates and their motives as immoral or socially destructive. It should be a given, but I have to commend him for avoiding the nasty tactics his boss seems to love so much.

    In other words, Jurith struck me as a guy who’s just trying to do his job. That doesn’t make him right on medical marijuana, and I certainly don’t know what kind of soul searching he’s done about it outside the narrow scope of how it can be legally justified.

    But ONDCP has been dominated for the past couple decades by some pretty irreconcilably heartless ideologues. My main point was that, in the realm of realistic expectations for medical marijuana advocates, we could do worse than interact with bureaucrats who may not be so personally invested in persecuting sick people.

    But that’s really just my impression. I could be wrong on this.

  7. It’s a shame none of these people have ever felt the pain so many of us live with on a daily basis. I wonder if they are like the abortion zealots who when faced with an unplanned pregnancy asked the clinic I worked at to schedule an abortion for her after hours so no one would know. How quickly she put aside her convictions when they were no longer convenient and one wonders had we given her the “secret” abortion would she have been out there again picketing us? Do these anti drug Nazi’s use drugs in their spare time because they can? Look at Flush Rush who publicly criticized drug users only to be flushed out as a druggie himself (and I bet he still uses).
    The time has come for change. We need a drug policy that has a basis in both truth and reality.

  8. It’s sickening that Walters and Jurith will be allowed to just walk away in January. They deserve decades in prison for the pain and suffering they cause. Legalization should be combined with the forfeiture of all assets of the drug warriors.

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