Thursday, February 12, 2015

A Letter On Marijuana Legalization

A letter to Mike Moon, Missouri 157th District State Representative in response to his recent Capitol Report:


Hoping this letter finds you in good health and in the best spirits possible during your self-imposed exile among the strange and barbaric tribes which inhabit our state capitol ;-)

First of all, thank you for making your stand on the Miller vote, and no, you are not standing alone because we back here are standing behind you.

On the subject of marijuana, obviously a difficult one, I am strongly in favor of legal medical use. There are many of us with chronic pain conditions whose only lawful choice is opiate-based pain-killers. Opiate pain-killers work well for short-term trauma (broken arm) but poorly for long-term pain. Opiates do not stop pain, per se, but allow us to temporarily disassociate from it. Disassociating from life cannot be a long-term solution to pain. We have to daily balance how much we want to be dependent on such medications and how much we wish to suffer. Vicodin/oxycontin/etc. damage the liver, develop tolerance, can be addictive, are often abused, and are hell to come off of.

Medical marijuana might or might not help my condition, but because of the legal issues, I may not find out, even though doctors may prescribe heroin legally, even though there are varieties and formulations of marijuana which have medicinal but no recreational value, even though legalization would encourage the development of those solutions: it is simply not permitted. Whether or not it would help me, I want the option, and I want others who suffer to have the option. Denying access to palliative care is inhuman.

A note of caution, however: when medical marijuana use is legalized, thought must be given to legal definitions of intoxication. Legal thresholds are well-defined for alcohol and opiates usually have a standard. In states where marijuana use has been permitted, they have encountered difficulty with DUI/DWI definitions because marijuana is detectable at significant levels in the blood long after its effects have worn off and alcohol-oriented laws are not appropriate. I can read the law and have a reasonable idea of when I can drive after ingesting alcohol or an opiate-based pain-killer or which pain-killers count as "intoxication" in what amounts and which do not. The law must also give fair notice of expected behavior for medical marijuana in order for people to have the ability to comply.

On recreational use, it is not and has never been "my thing". Even if it were legal, I would be unlikely to avail myself of the opportunity, but I do not know that this gives me the right to forbid someone else from making that choice for themselves. I also am dubious of the distinction between my choice to have a beer on occasion or home brew a batch of wine (have one in the kitchen waiting to be bottled) and someone else's choice to smoke a joint, grow some pot, or make brownies. In particular, there is not and never was a rational basis for including marijuana in the most dangerous category of illegal drugs. The law should be rational and not arbitrary.

More than that, the Drug War has been an unmitigated disaster, causing decades of suffering, destabilizing foreign relations, playing a part in the militarization of police and urban communities, in the misuse of civil forfeiture laws, expanding the black market, placing peace officers in a position as enforcers of morality which many of them have no desire to be, and contributing to the world's largest prison population. It has lead to the eradication of industrial hemp for fiber and fuel, and to the outlaw of medical marijuana. We recognized Prohibition as a mistake and retracted it. It is long past time that we come to the same recognition with marijuana: no matter what we personally may think of the practice.

Sometimes we make mistakes and simply have to live with them, whether we like it or not. Once in a while, we have an opportunity to reassess and choose again. This is one such opportunity, and the process must begin somewhere, with someone. In the meantime, I remain:

Your Most Obedient Servant,

Eric Vought,

Writing in my personal capacity; these opinions are my own and are not official statements of any group or organization.

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