Medical Marijuana, Compassionate Use, And Public Policy: Expert Opinion Or Vox Populi?

Medical Marijuana, Compassionate Use, And Public Policy: Expert Opinion Or Vox Populi?

A recent article in the Hastings Center Report reviewed the Supreme Court’s current (but undoubtedly not final) delineation of the boundaries of federal power as set forth by the Constitution’s commerce clause. (1) The question before the Court was straightforward: Did federal authority asserted under the Controlled Substance Act of 1970 (CSA) trump California’s legalization of “medical marijuana” when these plants were grown within the state and were not bought, sold, or transported into another state? (2) By a six to three vote, the Raich court held that the federal Drug Enforcement Administration could enforce the CSA against two individuals who were growing marijuana for their own medical use in full compliance with California’s Compassionate Use Act (Proposition 215). At the same time, the Court’s holding neither struck down Proposition 215 nor demanded that California bring criminal charges against its citizens who were using marijuana on the advice of their physicians. Unfortunately, the far more significant policy question raised by Proposition 215 was never adjudicated. In effect, Proposition 215 declared that some compounds used to treat disease could be evaluated and approved by a vote of the people rather than “by experts qualified by scientific training and experience,” as mandated by the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. (3) But Proposition 215 was wrong as a matter of public policy. Anecdotes, Internet blogs, and advertisements do not provide a sound basis for assessing the safety and efficacy of pharmacologic agents. (4) “Medical marijuana” should be subjected to the same scientific scrutiny as any drug proposed for use in medical therapy, rather than made legal for medical use by popular will.

Medical Marijuana, Compassionate Use, And Public Policy: Expert Opinion Or Vox Populi?



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