About AIDS

Looming Showdown at the THC Corral?

In November, Nevadans will vote on an initiative that would eliminate all penalties for possession of up to three ounces of marijuana and would provide state regulation of pot, similar to alcohol and tobacco. Two years ago, Nevada voters approved a measure allowing medical marijuana use and reduced penalties for possession of up to one ounce; larger amounts still draw a felony. Under this new initiative, Nevadans could legally possess up to three ounces of marijuana for any reason, not just medical. Nevada would oversee growth, distribution and sales of cannabis to generate tax revenue.

Eight other states also have laws allowing patients to use marijuana with a doctor's prescription, but it remains against federal law, so they are largely symbolic. However, Nevada's new initiative would be too much for the feds to ignore. It would place enormous pressure on Congress to rationally examine the nation's drug laws. Nevadans are showing an "unusually high level of support" for passage. No leading politicians have opposed it, and state and local law enforcement officials are almost unanimously in favor.

A bipartisan bill was introduced in late July in the U.S. House allowing states to approve medical marijuana legislation, eliminating any conflict with federal law (H.R. 2592, the "States' Rights to Medical Marijuana Act"). Barney Frank (D-MA) and Ron Paul (R-TX) are co-sponsors (talk about strange bedfellows!), along with 34 other Representatives. Of course, the federal drug enforcement folks are apoplectic.

Many people, especially those with AIDS, cancers and glaucoma, find superior relief from the pain and nausea associated with their chronic illnesses through using marijuana. This column has argued repeatedly that decisions on its use should lie in the hands of patients and physicians, and research should be unimpeded in answering murky clinical questions. Legal reforms might also have the salubrious effect of halting damage to the social fabric, as well.

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