Newt Gingrich is among the most zealous of the drug warriors, once submitting a bill that would have included the death penalty for those who import marijuana to the United States. But he was a pot smoker himself and once wrote a letter to the AMA advocating for marijuana legalization.
The American Medical Association’s Council on Scientific Affairs should be commended for its report, “Marijuana: Its Health Hazards and Therapeutic Potential” (1981;246:1823). Not only does the report outline evidence of marijuana’s potential harms, but it distinguishes this concern from the legitimate issue of marijuana’s important medical benefits. All too often the hysteria that attends public debate over marijuana’s social abuse compromises a clear appreciation for this critical distinction.
Since 1978, 32 states have abandoned the federal prohibition to recognize legislatively marijuana’s important medical properties. Federal law, however, continues to define marijuana as a drug “with no accepted medical use,” and federal agencies continue to prohibit physician-patient access to marijuana. This outdated federal prohibition is corrupting the intent of the state laws and depriving thousands of glaucoma and cancer patients of the medical care promised them by their state legislatures.
On Sept 16, 1981, Representative Stewart McKinney and I introduced legislation designed to end bureaucratic interference in the use of marijuana as a medicant. We believe licensed physicians are competent to employ marijuana, and patients have a right to obtain marijuana legally, under medical supervision, from a regulated source. The medical prohibition does not prevent seriously ill patients from employing marijuana; it simply deprives them of medical supervision and access to a regulated medical substance. Physicians are often forced to choose between their ethical responsibilities to the patient and their legal liabilities to federal bureaucrats.
“That was a sign we were alive and in graduate school in that era. See, when I smoked pot it was illegal, but not immoral. Now, it is illegal AND immoral. The law didn’t change, only the morality… That’s why you get to go to jail and I don’t.”
Well that explains it.
Update: Unfortunately, it turns out that the last quote from Gingrich was fictional. Steven Taylor tracked down the original citation for it and it was not in the article. I have a policy that I do not remove posts in which I make a mistake, but I do edit and correct the mistake and make clear that I made it (I’ve seen others that disappear posts to make their mistake disappear and I won’t do that). It’s as wrong to use a fake quote from Newt Gingrich as it is to use one from George Washington (hello, David Barton) or from Barack Obama (hi Ellis Washington). Mea culpa.