Medical marijuana neon sign at a dispensary on Ventura Boulevard in the San Fernando Valley—Los Angeles, CA.

Outgoing Chair of the Republican Party of Iowa, A.J. Spiker, wrote an op/ed on Friday that caused a stir over the weekend.  He called for the legalization of medical marijuana.

Reaction has been mixed.  The liberty wing of the party and libertarians are certainly in agreement.  One State Central Committee member, Jamie Johnson, said Spiker should be fired and not allowed to serve out his last week.  Really?  The State Central Committee will elect a new chair at their meeting this Saturday, I don’t think the party needs the additional drama.  Craig Robinson of The Iowa Republican called his op-ed, a distraction, but then again he believes Spiker’s entire chairmanship has pretty much been a distraction.

A few thoughts on this, and I admit my position on medical marijuana has evolved over the years.

First, why is anyone shocked that A.J. Spiker believes medical marijuana should be allowed?  That’s a standard libertarian/liberty position.  It shouldn’t surprise anyone.

Second, A.J. should have waited to submit this until after he has officially left.  Making a policy statement like this as the chairman of the party is in bad taste when you only have a week left.  As Robinson pointed out while a recent poll showed 59% of Iowans support legalizing medical marijuana, a majority of Republicans do not (only 46% do).  This would have been a better statement to make as the state representative of RandPAC or as a private citizen.  Spiker certainly has a right to his opinion, but he does not speak for all Republicans on this matter.

Third, I have mixed feelings  about medical marijuana.  Many know my son is a cancer survivor and seeing how the chemotherapy impacted him helped shed some light on this subject.  While I certainly don’t support its use for minors for medicinal use or otherwise, I do not object to it being prescribed to adults.  Several caveats to this.  Legalize the ingredients that provide the medicinal benefit.  Most people object to the delivery mechanism, not so much the ingredients itself.  Personally if my second caveat is met I really don’t care quite as much about the delivery mechanism, but legalization is more likely to happen if it was not dispensed as a joint.  It must be prescribed by a physician for treatment for an approved list of illnesses and must be dispensed out of an ACTUAL pharmacy where it can be controlled.  California’s experiment with medical marijuana shows that the lack of control was a joke.

Fourth, many people’s skepticism regarding medical marijuana is that the issue is typically seen as a gateway for legalizing recreational use.  Only 28% of Iowans support that.  Out of all of the drugs out there marijuana has the least amount of side effects, but there are still side effects.  Working with juvenile offenders I’ve seen its use become a gateway for other types of drug use.  I get the argument some make that it’s no different than alcohol.  I think time will tell as we see how different state experiments with legalizing marijuana pan out.

Fifth, a stronger case for legalizing (or decriminalizing)  marijuana (and other drugs as most libertarians support) would be stronger if we didn’t have a welfare state and people actually took responsibility for their behavior.  I see far too much tax money used on drug (and alcohol) addicts and treatment, and then there are federal laws that protect addicts from “discrimination.”  If that were truly dealt with then an argument could be made.  Until then it’s a non-starter because those who abuse are ultimately not held responsible.  Private help/treatment can and should be made available, but employers should not be coerced into keeping addicts on the payroll and taxpayers should have to pay for treatment.  That said based on my experience working with juvenile offenders it makes little sense to me to incarcerate adults who use.  Drug laws, in particular, sentencing needs to be addressed.  We are paying far too much in taxpayer money on the incarceration those who mainly only hurt themselves.

Photo credit: Laurie Avocado (CC-By-2.0)

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