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Science Over Ideology?

And yet the war on pot continues

An open letter to President Obama:

I am a disabled American worker who uses state approved marijuana for medical reasons. I am offended that you choose to consider me a criminal.

Mr. President, we all know that you smoked a lot of weed as a youth, and that your cannabis consumption did not prevent you from becoming this nation's elected leader. But what seems to be passing over your head, sir, is that had you been arrested for possession of pot, you most certainly would never have become president of the U.S.

You should know that during your first four years in office, while you dodged and dismissed the marijuana issue, some three-quarters of a million people were arrested each year for possession — about three million marijuana arrests just in your first term. I'm curious how that fact fares when we consider your statement at Northwestern University in 2004 that the “war on drugs has been an utter failure."

Mr. President, I'd really like to understand where you're coming from. With 80 percent of U.S. voters supporting medical marijuana legalization and a slim majority favoring adult use, I have a hard time comprehending your reluctance to act properly. 

There is no risk to you — and certainly your fellow Democrats in Congress could stand a boost in their popularity.

Mr. Obama, may I remind you that when you were elected, one of your initial points on how your administration would operate revolved around supporting science rather than ideology. You said "promoting science isn’t just about providing resources — it’s about protecting free and open inquiry. It’s about listening to what our scientists have to say, even when it’s inconvenient — especially when it’s inconvenient.”

Well sir, I'm not sure how to break this to you, because it might be "inconvenient" but there is no scientific legitimacy behind the illegality of cannabis in any of its forms. Surely you must agree that the continued prohibition of industrial hemp is absurd. And to deny patients like myself legitimate access to a non-toxic, non-addictive, grow-it-at-home substance that greatly reduces my consumption of toxic pharmaceuticals, is cruel and capricious.

As our commander-in-chief you should know that today 22 veterans will commit suicide. Tomorrow, 22 more. In this country nearly two dozen veterans take their own lives every day. A lot of them suffer from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

When University of Arizona psychiatrist Dr. Sue Sisley put together a study to find how effective cannabis is as a treatment for combat veterans with PTSD she first had to gain FDA and VA approval. Green-lighted from both agencies, her next step was to gain approval from the National Institutes of Drug Abuse. Since NIDA's mission is to find only the harms of drugs, her application was quickly rejected.

In February I was in Washington, D.C., attending the Americas for Safe Access Unity Conference. While there I had the opportunity to meet Dr. John Schwarz, a physicist best known as one of the "fathers of string theory."

In a November 2012 Huffington Post op-ed, Schwarz, who's wife is a medical marijuana patient, criticized your administration for "ignoring scientists' voices on medical marijuana policy ... and severely restricting their ability to conduct new research."

He went on to say the "acceptance of science has come a long way since Galileo was arrested as a heretic for questioning the order of the universe. Yet today, the federal government ignores scientific facts accepted around the globe — not to mention the will of the American people — to cling to outdated ideological policies and restrict marijuana research. This is hardly the 'free and open scientific inquiry' President Obama touted in 2009."

Please, Mr. President. I would like to believe that you are not a hypocrite — that you believe in both science and the will of the American people. You cannot lose, sir, you can only gain. 

In the words of Martin Luther King Jr., “Never, never be afraid to do what's right, especially if the well-being of a person or animal is at stake. Society's punishments are small compared to the wounds we inflict on our soul when we look the other way.”