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What About Angel Raich’s “sanctity of life”?

There’s a woman in America who is dying.  She has an inoperable brain tumor and an untreatable wasting syndrome.  Thanks to decisions by black-robed tyrants (a.k.a. “judges”), she is going to die a painful death, starving to death, slowly and without relief.  This despite the fact that the judges are acting in opposition to the will of the people, as shown both in nationwide opinion polls and recently-passed statewide voter initiatives.

Sounds like Terri Schaivo, right?  Damn activist judges, ignoring the people and forcing their agenda by playing politics with a dying woman!  Any minute now, Congress will convene in the wee hours of the morning and Mr. Bush will make an emergency flight on Air Force One to come to the rescue of this dying woman.  After all, Bush and his evangenital funduh-mental-less allies are all about the “sanctity of life”, aren’t they?

Well, not quite.  The woman’s name is Angel Raich, and she needs medical marijuana to survive.  And unlike that animated zombie corpse* in Florida the righties fought to continue feeding, this is a living breathing Californian that they’d prefer to watch die.Raich was the defendant in a Supreme Court case, Gonzalez v. Raich, that led to this latest appeal at the Ninth Circuit.  Raich is a California medical marijuana patient and under state law, she has the right to possess and use marijuana as medicine.

Originally, the Ninth Circuit saw her on appeal when she was busted by the feds for her use of marijuana.  The feds, of course, don’t recognize the medical use of marijuana, despite 11 states** that do and 5,000 years of recorded history of marijuana being used as medicine.

Marijuana is illegal under federal law (as are all drugs) because of an interpretation of the Interstate Commerce Clause of the Constitution.  Since drugs are bought and sold, even illegally, Congress can “control” them since the drug trade is nationwide.  Raich’s defense was that since the marijuana was grown in California by Californians using California equipment, and since it was used by a Californian who never bought or sold it, there was no “interstate” to that “commerce” (or, it wasn’t even “commerce”, it is “medical treatment”).  The Ninth Circuit agreed, so for a brief time, state medical marijuana patients were safe from federal prosecution.

But the case made it to the Supreme Court (can’t have sick people using pot… what kind of message does that send to the children!) which reversed the Ninth Circuit ruling.  Their logic was that since marijuana is “fungible” (a generic product that cannot be distinguished one from the other), any production of marijuana could affect the illegal marijuana trade.  Not “will”, not “we have evidence that…”, but “could”, as in “it’s possible in the realm of imagination that a medical marijuana patient could sell some of their stash on the black market.”  Since you can’t tell “medical” marijuana from “commercial” marijuana, all marijuana must be banned.  Of course, Raich has never diverted her medicine to the black market, but that doesn’t matter.

The Supreme Court decision flies in the face of California’s medical marijuana Prop 215 and its amendments in SB 420 (yes, that’s really the bill number).  It flies in the face of numerous opinion polls that put nationwide public support for medical marijuana at 70%-80%.  But there it is.

So Raich appealed again, this time citing a “right to life” and “choice of evils” defense, that she has the fundamental right to use her medicine because her choice is quite literally “medicine or death”.  Denying her marijuana = denying her survival.

The woman, Angel McClary Raich, says she uses marijuana on doctors’ recommendation to treat an inoperable brain tumor and a battery of other serious ailments. Ms. Raich, 41, asserts that the drug effectively keeps her alive, by stimulating appetite and relieving pain, in a way that prescription drugs do not.

She wept when she heard the decision.

“It’s not every day in this country that someone’s right to life is taken from them,” said Ms. Raich, appearing frail during a news conference in Oakland, where she lives. “Today you are looking at someone who really is walking dead.”

On Wednesday, a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit found that while they sympathized with Ms. Raich’s plight and had seen “uncontroverted evidence” that she needed marijuana to survive, she lacked the legal grounds to exempt herself from federal law.

The court “recognizes the use of marijuana for medical purposes is gaining traction,” the decision read. “But that legal recognition has not yet reached the point where a conclusion can be drawn that the right to use medical marijuana is ‘fundamental.'”

In other words, medical marijuana is real popular, but not popular enough for us to stick our necks on the line and declare it a right.  They recognize that she definitely needs marijuana to live, but because the feds worry that a woman with brain tumors smoking a doobie might make a teenager think about getting high at a Snoop Dogg concert***, she really oughtta just die.

Silja Talvi at WIMN’s Voices saw the same parallel I did:

It might still be too early to tell, but I’m willing to bet that the vast majority of mainstream media outlets will not be sitting on Angel McClary Raich’s doorstep, reporting on the urgency of her struggle right now to stay alive.

The pro-lifers are also unlikely to be rounding up the troops to try to make sure that Raich survives.

And that’s a damn shame. A hypocritical shame, at that.

I, for one, want to see how interested the media would be in pursuing the kind of intensive coverage we saw devoted to a woman who had already lost all of her ability to function and live without life support. Both women’s stories revolve(d) around the government’s intervention in a person’s right to live or die. In this case, Raich’s loyal husband and lawyer is fighting for her right to live just as strongly as Schiavo’s loyal husband fought for her right to die. For that, he was made the subject of spectacle, and the Schiavo story drew national headlines. The sad, almost surreal media frenzy surrounding her death was also chronicled, sometimes minute by minute, on pro-life blogs everywhere.

To all the anti-choice folks out there talkin’ all that smack about wanting to make sure human life is sacrosanct ? So, show me what you’ve got.

Members of the 4th Estate, I want to see you throw the same kind of effort into covering Raich’s case as Schiavo’s.

I won’t be holding my breath, but I’m still giving it a shot. Show me what you’ve got.

I’ve actually met Angel Raich and she’s a wonderful human being.  That we would allow her to suffer and die to serve the agenda of the War on (Certain American Citizens Using Unpopular, Non-Pharmaceutical, Non-Alcoholic, Tobacco-Free) Drugs is blasphemy against the Constitution and our inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

* I’ve had to change my epithet on Terri Schaivo from “brain-dead flesh muppet” to “animated zombie corpse”, because some Blenders complained about the unnecessary hate words.  They were right.  The former term was unfair to muppets… they DO respond to external stimuli.

** Soon to be 12.  New Mexico’s House and Senate just approved medical marijuana and Gov. Bill Richardson will sign it into law within a couple of weeks.  Bills are pending in IL, MN, SC, and ID as well.

*** Too late.  Try the Mandy Moore concert.

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