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Why Kevin Sabet's Got It All Wrong on California Medical Marijuana

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Dr. Kevin Sabet, former right-hand man for Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske and champion of the new "Kinder Gentler Drug War" rhetoric that eschews "War on Drugs" metaphors without actually ending the War on Drugs, has a new post up on Huffington Post called "Medical Marijuana: Buyers Remorse in California Reaches New Heights."  Unsurprisingly, Dr. Sabet has disabled the ability of Huffington Post readers to leave their own comments.  It's not helpful to the mastermind of the Kinder Gentler Drug War to have average people poking holes in the illogic of putting people in cages over their use of what a DEA Administrative Law Judge called "the safest therapeutically active substance known to man" two dozen years ago.

So we'll take care of that here.

This week, the Los Angeles City Council unanimously agreed to shut down all 900 store fronts selling marijuana for so-called "medical" purposes." Siding with neighborhood residents and public health experts like the American Medical Association, the Council took a courageous stand against what has become a magnet for crime, nuisance, and addiction.

Dr. Sabet always likes to put "medical" in scare quotes, as if the federal government is sending half a pound of marijuana to four Americans every month so they can better enjoy junk food while watching Harold & Kumar.  The feds have been busy patenting the medical uses of cannabinoids, but he still uses 1990s-era demonization of something three out of four Democrats and two out of three Republicans nationwide support the medical use of.

As for that AMA link he provided, perhaps he missed the conclusions where they stated, "Results of short term controlled trials indicate that smoked cannabis reduces neuropathic pain, improves appetite and caloric intake especially in patients with reduced muscle mass, and may relieve spasticity and pain in patients with multiple sclerosis."  That sounds kind of, I don't know, medical to me.

The vote -- and the federal court ruling confirming the decision that followed just hours after -- signals a major sense of buyers' remorse Californians are feeling after voting in "medical" marijuana 16 years ago.

So, the votes of some city council that has always hated medical marijuana and four U.S. district courts' judges who maintain the Schedule I lie that there is no such thing as "medical" in marijuana are supposed to indicate a majority of 37+ million Californians are feeling "buyer's remorse?"

That doesn't seem to be reflected in the polls.  According to the most recent California Field Poll on the issue, dated September 2010, "Three in four of California's registered voters (74 percent) approve of the state's medical marijuana law, which was enacted by voters in the November 1996 election."  That level of support is the same in 2010 as it was in 2004, and opposition dropped four percentage points during that time.  At least three out of five Californians in any demographic - even elderly Republicans in the Central Valley who've never smoked pot -- support the medical marijuana law, even though "[m]ost voters (57 percent) think the medical marijuana law has made it easier for people to obtain marijuana, even among those without a medical need."

In another poll, the 2010 election, voters in Los Angeles County narrowly defeated the Prop 19 attempt to legalize marijuana for non-medical use by a vote of 52 percent; however, the statewide vote was 53.5 percent against, so Angelenos seem to be more accepting of marijuana use than Californians in general.

Fast forward 16 years and most Californians know that "medical" marijuana has become a sad joke. ... Today's dispensaries -- really pot shops selling the drug under the guise of medicine -- bear little resemblance to voters' intent.

Dr. Sabet lists all sorts of supposed problems with Los Angeles medical marijuana dispensaries, such as the "average Prop 215 card holder" being a 32-year-old white male smoking pot for relaxation instead of using other drugs and alcohol.  (California doesn't have cards to hold, but why let accuracy intrude now, eh, Kevin?)  We're supposed to be shocked that not everyone using cannabis is a cancer patient on his death bed.  But as he notes, it's been 16 years, surely everyone in California is well aware of this fact (at least 57 percent of them, see above) and yet that public support for the law remains stubbornly at 74 percent.

The City Council should be commended for taking a courageous stance against these store fronts, and catching up with popular opinion.

The City Council is clearly going against public opinion.  They are the ones responsible for any situation Dr. Sabet thinks might be problematic.  Nobody, not even us legalization advocates, supports "anything goes" marijuana storefronts, sales and advertising to kids, public medication, and shady gang-connected distributions, any more than we'd support that regime for alcohol for tobacco.

But for 16 years, the L.A. City Council has failed every opportunity to work with medical marijuana advocates to craft workable dispensary regulations, such as those that seem to serve San Francisco and Oakland so well.  Now they want to throw the baby out with the bath water and ban all dispensaries... as if the hundreds of thousands of patients with marijuana recommendations are going to stop buying marijuana.  They will now just buy it underground where no legit jobs are created and no tax revenues can be reaped by Los Angeles and California.

 There is a way to do medical marijuana right -- through science, pharmacies, and non-smoked medications based on the marijuana plant -- but we cannot rely on marijuana advocates for that.

In closing, Dr. Sabet reveals the true cause of his willful distortions of Californian support for medical marijuana: the federal government that steadfastly refuses to acknowledge that a raw whole plant safely used without a single casualty in 5,000 years can have remarkable medical properties.  See, marijuana can only be medical when it's "done right" through pharmaceutical companies that make massive campaign contributions and scientific FDA approval processes that brought us such safe and effective remedies as Vioxx (heart disease for 140,000) , Fen-phen (50,000 victims), and Baycol (100,000 deaths).