Monday, August 31, 2009
Colorado Medical Marijuana Patients Want Federal Action
Clear the haze on medical pot
Conflicting federal and state laws make it difficult, if not impossible,
for some to use doctor-prescribed marijuana.
By The Denver Post
Posted: 08/31/2009 01:00:00 AM MDT
Though Coloradans voted to legalize marijuana for medicinal use nine
years ago, certified medical-marijuana users, many of whom are battling
chronic pain, are being evicted from federal housing.
That's because federal law categorizes marijuana as an illegal drug.
Two Colorado men are fighting such evictions in court and similar
battles are taking place in 13 other states that allow medical-marijuana
use, according to The Post's Nancy Lofholm.
Given earlier court rulings, it's doubtful those battles will prevail
for the evicted. That's why we think elected officials in Washington
should correct the conflict between state and national law.
"It's safe to say this is a growing problem. We're going to encounter it
more," said Brian Vicente, an advocate for medical-marijuana users.
To get a more poignant take on the situation, consider Bill Hewitt, one
of the Colorado men fighting his eviction.
"It's disgusting," Hewitt told Lofholm. "Most disabled can't afford a
house, so they get assistance. These people should not be thrown in the
street because they use a medication that alleviates pain."
Hewitt suffers from muscular dystrophy. He claims smoking marijuana has
replaced prescription painkillers that produced negative side effects.
Pot, he says, allowed him to toss tranquilizers, muscle relaxers,
sleeping pills and other drugs in the trash. Hard — but legal —
drugs such as morphine and Oxycontin also are painkillers that
medical-marijuana advocates claim can be shelved in favor of pot.
Yes, we have concerns that a mushrooming use of medical marijuana by
young men in Colorado, as earlier stories have shown, signals a system
that is likely being abused.
Authorities ought to make sure certified users truly are deserving of
the treatment. But that is a separate issue.
We understand that there could be a perception problem regarding the
evictions. No one wants to think that their tax dollars are allowing
someone to live on the government dole while getting high.
But evicting victims of chronic pain from federal housing or federally
assisted housing seems cruel for exactly the reasons Hewitt articulated.
Many are in need of housing assistance because of their pain and
And what they are doing — smoking pot for medicinal purposes —
is legal under state law.
No doubt, many of those in federal housing also are getting government
money to buy prescription drugs, which comes at a cost to taxpayers.
If use of relatively inexpensive marijuana cuts a need for those
prescription medications, isn't that better for everyone?
The long and costly "war on drugs" creates these kinds of legal
headaches. It would be much easier if marijuana use were legalized and
Another solution would be for Congress to create a federal
medical-marijuana law like Colorado's that applies to all states and
Short of those measures, our representatives should create a federal
housing exemption for those states that allow for medical-marijuana use.
Otherwise the legal conflicts are sure to continue, further tying up
resources in our courts.
http://www.denverpo st.com/opinion/ ci_13235931