The Prospects for Drug Freedom
Oct 18, 2012 | 1618 views | 1 1 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print

It seems that the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program is allowing too many people to exploit the rules and get more marijuana than they are supposed to.

According to the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act,

A person engaged in or assisting in the medical use of marijuana is excepted from the criminal laws of the state for possession, delivery or production of marijuana, aiding and abetting another in the possession, delivery or production of marijuana or any other criminal offense in which possession, delivery or production of marijuana is an element if the following conditions have been satisfied.

Condition (a) defines such a person as someone with a debilitating medical condition who obtains a registry-identification card, the designated primary caregiver of the cardholder, or the grower responsible for a marijuana-grow site that is producing marijuana for the cardholder. Condition (b) states that a cardholder, his primary caregiver, and the marijuana grower are collectively allowed to possess, deliver, or produce marijuana for medical use only in amounts allowed under Oregon law.

A registry-identification cardholder (or his caregiver) may possess up to 6 “mature” marijuana plants, 24 ounces of “usable marijuana,” and 18 marijuana seedlings or starts. Marijuana growers may possess the same for each cardholder for which marijuana is being produced, up to four cardholders per year.

A marijuana plant that has no flowers and that is less than 12 inches tall and less than 12 inches in diameter is a seedling or a start and is not a “mature” plant. The dried leaves and flowers of the plant, not including the seeds, stalks, and roots of the plant, constitute “usable marijuana.”

More than 20,000 patients are registered with the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program.

But according to an analysis by The Oregonian,

    • Nearly 40 percent of Oregon pot seized on the nation’s most common drug-trafficking routes during the first three months of this year was tied to the medical marijuana program.

    • Since 2010, federal law-enforcement authorities have identified more than a dozen large-scale and highly profitable operations trafficking hundreds of pounds of Oregon medical marijuana to at least seven states.

    • Seventy-two percent of all state police stops involving pot in Oregon last year were linked to state-run medical marijuana programs.

    • Last year, police patrolling Oregon’s highways seized more West Coast medical marijuana than pot grown outside the program.

And no wonder, since marijuana goes for $1,000 to $3,000 a pound in Oregon and up to $5,200 a pound in the Midwest and on the East Coast.

Oregon legalized medical marijuana in 1998 after 55 percent of voters approved a ballot measure that removed state-level criminal penalties on the use, possession, and cultivation of marijuana by patients who possessed a signed recommendation from their physician stating that marijuana “may mitigate” their debilitating symptoms.

Sixteen other states and the District of Columbia have done likewise. California was the first state to legalize medical marijuana after 56 percent of voters approved Proposition 215 in 1996. Alaska and Washington joined Oregon in 1998. Maine followed in 1999; Colorado, Hawaii, and Nevada in 2000; Montana and Vermont in 2004; Rhode Island in 2006; New Mexico in 2007; Michigan in 2008; Arizona, Washington, D.C., and New Jersey in 2010; Delaware in 2011; and Connecticut in 2012.

Should marijuana be legal for medical use? From a libertarian perspective the answer is a resounding yes, but not because smoking marijuana is less dangerous than smoking tobacco and provides benefits for certain diseases and medical conditions.

Medical marijuana should be legal because marijuana itself should be legalized for any medicinal, therapeutic, or recreational use, with or without the supervision of a physician. The reason is that libertarians — those who believe that all men have the fundamental right to do anything that’s peaceful as long as they don’t aggress against someone else’s person or property — believe there should be no laws of any kind regarding the growing, buying, selling, transporting, processing, possessing, or using of marijuana in any amount for any reason.

So instead of the twelve pages and 5,700 words of the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act, one sentence repealing all laws having anything to do with marijuana would be preferable.

Former New Mexico governor and Libertarian Party presidential candidate Gary Johnson recently predicted that marijuana would be legal nationwide within the next four years. “The world will be a better place” when pot is legal, he said, because “police will go out and fight real crime, court dockets won’t get as filled up, and maybe we can reduce the highest incarceration rate in the world.”

The cause of Johnson’s optimistic view of the prospects for marijuana freedom is the upcoming ballot measures in six states. In addition to choosing between tweedledee and tweedledum for president in the general election next month, there are 174 ballot questions that voters in 37 states will decide — 44 initiatives, 12 referendums, 115 legislative measures, and 3 votes on constitutional conventions.

In 24 states, citizens can get laws on the books or propose constitutional amendments by collecting a certain number of signatures and putting measures before voters by means of the initiative, and 49 states have a referendum procedure whereby issues are put before voters by the legislature.

Voters in three states will consider the issue of medical marijuana. In Arkansas, Issue 5 would permit the medical use of marijuana. In Massachusetts, Question 3 would permit the medical use of marijuana. In Montana, IR-124 asks voters to repeal a state law (SB 423) that weakens the 2004 voter-approved initiative permitting the medical use of marijuana.

Voters in three states where medical marijuana is legal will have the opportunity to decide on initiatives taking things a step further. In Colorado, Amendment 64 would legalize and tax marijuana. In Oregon, Measure 80 would legalize the possession and sale of marijuana through state-licensed stores. In Washington, I-502 would legalize the production, possession, and distribution of marijuana.

There is just one problem.

Marijuana is still a Schedule I controlled substance. The federal government still considers growing, distributing, or possessing marijuana in any capacity to be a violation of federal law regardless of any state laws to the contrary.

According to a memorandum issued by the U.S. Justice Department,

The Department of Justice is committed to the enforcement of the Controlled Substances Act in all States. Congress has determined that marijuana is a dangerous drug, and the illegal distribution and sale of marijuana is a serious crime and provides a significant source of revenue to large-scale criminal enterprises, gangs, and cartels.

So, according to Bernie Hobson, a spokesman for the DEA in Seattle, “From a federal standpoint, there is no such thing as medical marijuana.”

“The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the Federal Government, are few and defined,” said James Madison in Federalist No. 45. “Those which are to remain in the State Governments are numerous and indefinite.” The federal government has been given no authority by the Constitution to regulate or prohibit marijuana in any way or for any reason. That means that the Justice Department has no authority whatsoever to interfere in any manner in state medical marijuana programs. And the DEA shouldn’t even exist in the first place.

In fact,

    • Nowhere does the Constitution authorize the national government to intrude itself into the personal eating, drinking, or smoking habits of Americans.

    • Nowhere does the Constitution authorize the national government to regulate, criminalize, or prohibit the manufacture, sale, or use of any drug.

    • Nowhere does the Constitution authorize the national government to restrict or monitor any harmful or mood-altering substances that any American wants to eat, drink, smoke, inject, absorb, snort, sniff, inhale, swallow, or otherwise ingest into his body.

    • Nowhere does the Constitution authorize the national government to concern itself with the nature and quantity of any substance Americans want to consume.

    • Nowhere does the Constitution authorize the national government to ban anything.

That explains why libertarians don’t stop with marijuana, medical or otherwise. Marijuana should be legal for the simple reason that all drugs should be legal.

It is strange that libertarians, who have some major reservations with the Constitution, have no trouble clearly seeing when the federal government violates it; but conservatives, who say they reverence the Constitution, are blind to just how much the federal government’s war on drugs violates it.

But Constitution or no Constitution, it is not the purpose of government at any level — federal, state, or local — to regulate or monitor Americans’ consumption habits or recreational activities.

The legalization of marijuana for medical use and the decriminalization of marijuana for recreational use are small steps toward drug freedom. Ultimately, however, the prospects for drug freedom don’t depend so much on legislation and initiatives as they do on the decision of Americans at the grassroots to accept the freedom philosophy.

Laurence M. Vance is a policy advisor for the Future of Freedom Foundation and the author of The War on Drugs Is a War on Freedom and The Revolution That Wasn’t. Visit his website: Send him email.

Comments-icon Post a Comment
J. Crawford.
October 19, 2012
Amen. Instead of collecting billions in taxes on the country's (by far) largest cash crop, we're spending billions on prohibition. We no longer have the luxury of going into debt to fight a harmless plant. PROHIBITION DOESN'T WORK. The War on Drugs hasn't lowered addiction rates, teenagers report that marijuana is more easily available than alcohol, the USA has become a prison state with more people incarcerated than China, and our neighbor Mexico is burning. It is time to try legalization, regulation and taxation. It's worked with alcohol and tobacco and it can work for marijuana.