Home Introduction Szasz Materials Debates Links/Related Items


Journal of Cognitive Liberties
Center for Cognitive Liberty & Ethics

Szasz, T.S. (2003). Marijuana medicalization: Bad cause, bad faith.Journal of Cognitive Liberties, 4: 83-85, 2003.



Thomas S. Szasz, M.D.

On January 31, 2003, marijuana grower Ed Rosenthal -- "deputized" by the City of Oakland, California, to grow "medical marijuana" -- was convicted on marijuana cultivation and conspiracy charges in San Francisco. The conviction provoked a chorus of indignation. An editorial in the San Francisco Chronicle (February 7) declared: "The state must take the lead in how to implement Proposition 215, the medical marijuana law." Indeed. However, there is no evidence that the "state" means business. If the State of California really wanted to provide marijuana for selected patients, it would not have delegated the job to famed "ganja guru" Ed Rosenthal.

In 1996, soon after Californians approved Proposition 215, the federal government announced that it would prosecute doctors who recommended marijuana for patients. In 2001, the Supreme Court, in an 8-0 ruling, rebuffed the Ninth Federal District Court's pussyfooting with the "medical necessity" rhetoric (used also by advocates of physician-assisted suicide). Marijuana medicalizers act as if they were not aware that medical rhetoric is the federal government's game: drug prohibition is justified on the ground that it "protects" 280 million Americans from the dread disease of "drug abuse."

Most people who support medical marijuana consider themselves liberals. Liberals have consistently opposed "states' rights," a slogan that has become synonymous with racism. Liberals continue to be the core constituents of the struggle to transform the United States from the Founder's creation of a Republic, a confederacy (that dreaded word) of states, into a monolithic national state, with a single central government regulating all but the most trivial affairs of its citizens. This struggle began with the Civil War and the abolition of states' rights permitting the ownership of slaves, and continued up until the civil rights legislations of the 1960s. This is the legacy to which the liberal medical marijuana advocates now appeal. They are fighting a bad cause in bad faith.

Rosenthal claimed that, having been "deputized" by Oakland authorities, he was entrapped: "I was following 215 in good faith. I had been made an officer of the city and been immunized. "

Good faith is the last thing anyone with a conscience can claim in this affair. If the California State authorities had wanted to implement Proposition 215, they ought to have assumed the task of growing and distributing marijuana under the direction of the State's health department, by State health department personnel, on State premises. The fact that they didn't -- and have not announced any plans to do so now -- speaks for itself.

Prohibition, let us recall, was also a federal law. Anti-Prohibitionists did not try to circumvent it with phony claims about states' rights and vacuous arguments about "medical necessity." (Countless cancer patients who "need" opiates are denied the drug.) Prohibition was repealed because, in the end, Americans were ready to reclaim their fundamental right to drink liquor, a right that, in principle, does not differ from the right to drink milk (which may be more harmful for adults than alcohol).

Either we have the right to poison and kill ourselves with food, alcohol, and drugs, or we don't. For nearly half a century I have opposed drug prohibition and the increasing power of the therapeutic state. I am not arguing for marijuana prohibition. I am arguing for individual liberty, personal responsibility, and the rule of law. The way to deal with bad laws is by repealing them, not by multiplying them.

Thomas S. Szasz Cybercenter for Liberty and Responsibility:
Copyright © 1998-2006 by the author of each page, except where noted. All rights reserved.