Why liberty-minded conservatives should support medical marijuana initiative

By Aaron Rice
August 6, 2018

We don’t want government telling us what to put in our mouths any more than we want them to tell us what can come out of our mouths. And the federal government has no legal authority to prevent state governments from changing their laws to remove state-level penalties for medical marijuana use. As a conservative state with a love for individual liberty and for federalism, this should be an easy decision, especially if we take the time to review the facts. In my view, the evidence is overwhelming.

Polling demonstrates that citizens are ahead of politicians and legislators across the county on this issue, with anywhere from as low as 65 percent to as high as 94 percent of Americans supporting the legalization of medical marijuana. And it spans all ages and party affiliations. A vast majority of Americans recognize the legitimate medical benefits of marijuana, as well as a large number of medical organizations. It is less harmful and poses fewer negative side effects than most prescription drugs – especially opiate-based painkillers – and patients often find it to be a more effective treatment.

Licensed medical doctors, already heavily regulated by the state, should be allowed to recommend solutions to deal with debilitating medical conditions, no matter the derivative of such solutions. If marijuana can provide relief to those suffering from terrible illnesses like cancer and HIV/AIDS, it is unconscionable to criminalize patients for using it. People who would benefit from medical marijuana should have right to use it legally. Legal prohibitions on commonly accepted behavior has never produced positive results. It’s bad public policy.

Medical marijuana is not the same as recreational marijuana and to try to conflate the two is an insult to the citizens of Mississippi and comes at the expense of patients who should be free to choose a legal option to opiate-based painkillers, with the guidance of their doctor. Rather than trying to turn this issue into a “law and order” one and attempting to convince us that patients suffering from debilitating illnesses and the doctors caring for them are criminals, our politicians should focus on removing this unnecessary barrier. The federal government put the barrier in place and 31 other states have rightly removed it. There is no legitimate reason for Mississippi not to do the same.

This is not a “crackpot” or “fringe” issue. The American Medical Association, The Institute of Medicine, and the American College of Physicians have all acknowledged the potential benefits of medical marijuana and the New England Journal of Medicine reported 76 percent of surveyed physicians would recommend it to a patient. Other legitimate health organizations supporting it include; American Academy of Family Physicians, American Nurses Association, American Public Health Association, American Academy of HIV Medicine, and the Epilepsy Foundation.

Government is already regulating the healthcare industry at an unprecedented level. The federal government has grown into an unwieldy and unresponsive beast – increasing its paternalism over us all. Is all of this really required? Is it even legitimate? Mississippi can join the other states who value federalism and respect the rights of patients and licensed doctors to decide what is best.

For liberty-minded conservatives, this should be an easy decision.

This column appeared in the Clarion Ledger on August 6, 2018. 


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