I just noticed Mark Kleiman’s post about Sativex.
He does a fairly good job of summarizing the situation, and talks about how the advent of Sativex may affect the framing of the debate on both sides of the medical marijuana issue. So far, OK, (although I don’t agree with him that, for political reasons, “the pro-drug side — apart from Rick Doblin’s MAPS — has [been] denying the need for research.” That’s a crass over-simplification. The pro-drug side has, in fact, asserted that there is sufficient research already to allow for medical marijuana use and re-scheduling. We simply are not going to bend over and let the government continue to assert a requirement for more research as a delaying tactic, while blocking research at the same time. We would welcome more legitimate research.)
After Mark explained the mechanisms that are behind the way the two sides are framing the debate, he ends up his post with this extraordinarily offensive comment:
If you guessed from the above that neither side of the drug-policy debate actually gives a rat’s ass about sick people, you’re a remarkably good guesser.
Now I often consider Kleiman to be an intelligent fellow, so I don’t think this remark is the result of abject stupidity. I’m hoping it was ill-considered, glib rhetoric — you know, to give the end of the post some kind of personal pizazz. Either that, or it was an attempt to maintain his “cred” as a “balanced” expert, so he could continue to get lucrative gigs in that area (in which case, if you guessed that he doesn’t give a rat’s ass about the truth, you’d be a remarkably good guesser.)
Let me lay it out clearly, in case Mark’s actually stupid.
The (as he calls it) “pro-pot” position is that marijuana should be legal. We recognize (and fully admit) that acceptance of medical marijuana will help legalization, so we frame our debate in that way. The mere fact that we frame our debate does not mean that we don’t care about medical marijuana patients — our goals follow the same path.
There may be some individuals in the pro-pot community that don’t care about sick people, but that can’t be determined by our position on marijuana. Personally, even if marijuana was somehow not an interesting or useful recreational substance, I would be fully behind stopping the indefensible government interference with medical treatment.
If those on the pro-pot side didn’t care about sick people to further our goals, there might be other things that we’d do. For example, we might try to get Marinol taken off the market somehow, in the hopes that having one less medicine available would increase the pressure on legalizing medical marijuana. Or, in fact, we’d discourage the development of Sativex. Mark, oddly, calls our support of Sativex part of an inconsistent set of positions, but it’s actually proof that, while Sativex makes our overall message in some ways more complex, we desire its approval for medical marijuana patients.
I get tired of being told that because I support legalization, I don’t really care about sick people. It’s false and offensive. It’s also logically an improper construction. Imagine your wife has come down with an illness. She has a job offer that she must accept by next month (with a huge increase in pay), but she can only do so if she’s well. If you hope that she gets well quickly and is able to take that job, does that mean that you don’t give a rat’s ass about her health?
The drug warrior side
Now the drug warrior part of Mark’s statement is indisputable. The drug warriors have also known that acceptance of medical marijuana will help legalization, so they have resisted medical marijuana (beyond that of any other controlled substance) by restricting research, demonizing and lying about medical marijuana, lobbying against medical marijuana laws, and so forth. They have actively used taxpayer’s dollars to prevent sick people from using medicine. They have caused people’s deaths. They have sent armed federal agents to arrest sick people and yank up their medicine.
To put me in the same category with these monsters is offensive, and I hope Mark A.R. Kleiman will have the courtesy to apologize.
Edit: Section referencing correspondence, and my responses, removed by request.