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ERLC’s Duke: Court ‘courageous’ to block Calif. medical marijuana

WASHINGTON (BP)–A U.S. Supreme Court order blocking the distribution in California of marijuana for medicinal purposes was a “courageous act on [a] divisive issue,” said a Southern Baptist specialist on drug issues.

The high court voted 7-1 to halt a federal judge’s order, thereby preventing an Oakland cooperative from giving marijuana to patients, according to The Los Angeles Times. The vote signals the justices are likely to take up the case in their next term and to strike down a California law legalizing medical marijuana use, according to The Times. The court’s term begins in October.

In 1996, California voters approved a proposal allowing patients to receive marijuana with a physician’s recommendation, The Times reported. Private clubs, growers and some local governments have distributed the drug to patients since then, according to The Times. Marijuana has been found by some cancer and AIDS patients to relieve pain and nausea and to stimulate appetite, The Times reported.

Seven other states — Alaska, Arizona, Hawaii, Maine, Nevada, Oregon and Washington — have approved similar measures, according to The Times.

Federal authorities, meanwhile, contend the states are in violation of federal laws prohibiting the distribution of marijuana, no matter the reason, The Times reported.

“By their support for marijuana clubs, it is obvious that many of those arguing for the medical use of marijuana have a greater agenda — nothing less than the complete decriminalization of marijuana,” said Barrett Duke, vice president of research for the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. Drug abuse is one of the issues Duke handles for the ERLC.

“Many of these advocates are playing on people’s compassion in order to achieve this goal. With this in mind, it is obvious that those with cooler heads and nothing to win or lose must make this decision. The Supreme Court upheld federal law on the matter and protected the citizenry in the process.”

There are more effective, nonaddictive drugs available to control pain, Duke said. Promoters of medical marijuana use “have trivialized the suffering of those in severe chronic pain by supporting the open distribution of marijuana through marijuana clubs,” he said.

“I regret that so many people have bought the lie that marijuana is an essentially harmless drug, akin to aspirin,” Duke said. “Marijuana contains a mind-altering drug. Marijuana does not merely block pain; it interferes with a person’s thought processes. Furthermore, marijuana is a gateway drug that has begun the life-destroying process of drug addiction for millions of people. There is a good reason marijuana is illegal — it has a history of destroying lives.”

In 1998, federal Judge Charles Breyer, brother of Supreme Court Associate Justice Stephen Breyer, issued an order blocking the Oakland Cannabis Buyer’s Cooperative from manufacturing or distributing marijuana, according to The Times. After the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed his decision last year, Breyer produced an order in July permitting the Oakland cooperative to distribute the drug, The Times reported.

It was that action the high court blocked by issuing its emergency order Aug. 29 in response to a request by the Justice Department, The Times reported. Only Associate Justice John Paul Stevens dissented, while Stephen Breyer recused himself, according to The Times.