Recently, Clarence Thomas, one of our more conservative members of the United States Supreme Court wrote, “A prohibition on interstate use or cultivation of marijuana may no longer be necessary or proper to support the federal government’s piecemeal approach.” Thomas was writing in response to the Supreme Court declining to hear the case of a Colorado dispensary’s challenge to federal tax law related to cannabis businesses. This is one of the most unprogressive sitting Supreme court judges firing a shot across the bow of prohibition. While it might seem like the judicial branch is finally coming to their senses, this isn’t the first time a conservative judge has come out in favor of cannabis.
In 1988, the DEA’s own administrative law judge, Francis L. Young ruled that, “Marijuana, in its natural form, is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man.” In the same ruling he concluded with, “The administrative law judge recommends that the Administrator conclude that the marijuana plant considered as a whole has a currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, that there is no lack of accepted safety for use of it under medical supervision and that it may lawfully be transferred from Schedule I to Schedule II [of the federal Controlled Substances Act].”
Judge Young’s ruling came as a result of a petition filed in 1972 by The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). The NORML petition sought to reschedule cannabis under federal law, thereby making it easier for research to be conducted. NORML had to wait 16 years before they got an answer to their petition, and it came in the midst of one of the greatest times of anti-drug hysteria in our nation’s history.
The 80’s saw America in the midst of “Just Say No”. Nancy Reagan did her damndest to convince us kids that if anyone approached us with drugs, all we had to do was say ‘No!’ and the dangerous drug problem could be solved. What she didn’t tell us was that Judge Young wrote, “In strict medical terms, marijuana is far safer than many foods we commonly consume. For example, eating 10 raw potatoes can result in a toxic response. By comparison, it is physically impossible to eat enough marijuana to induce death.” The same can not be said for junk food. Indeed, President Reagen was a fan of the junk as he proved during a radio broadcast he gave during his time as California’s governor.
NORML might never have gotten an answer to their petition had it not been for the influx of AIDS patients petitioning the Federal government to try cannabis. While Young’s ruling specifically dealt with cancer related nausea, he did make mention in his ruling of a physician from the Tenderloin District of San Francisco who had a number of AIDS patients that, “smoke marijuana to control their nausea and vomiting, not to “get high.” They self-titrate, i.e., smoke the marijuana only as long as needed to overcome the nausea, to prevent vomiting.” Other ailments Young mentioned in his ruling where he found marijuana had acceptable medical use was glaucoma and MS related spasticity. And should there be any doubt, in his conclusion Young wrote, “Nearly all medicines have toxic, potentially lethal effects. But marijuana is not such a substance. There is no record in the extensive medical literature describing a proven, documented cannabis-induced fatality.”