Dark Bilious Vapors

But how could I deny that I possess these hands and this body, and withal escape being classed with persons in a state of insanity, whose brains are so disordered and clouded by dark bilious vapors....
--Rene Descartes, Meditations on First Philosophy: Meditation I

Home » Archives » November 2004 » Thought for the Day:

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11/30/2004: Thought for the Day:

If medical science conspired to construct, at the submolecular level, the world's most sympathetic plaintiff, it could do no better than Angel McClary Raich. Raich suffers from a host of painful wasting diseases, including fibromyalgia, endometriosis, scoliosis, uterine fibroid tumors, paralysis, asthma, and rotator cuff syndrome. She has an inoperable brain tumor, seizures, and struggles to consume enough calories to live. In her brief before the Supreme Court, an affidavit from her doctor enumerates not only Raich's staggering list of illnesses, but also the 35 alternative medicines she has tried without success. He adds that she "may suffer rapid death" if forced to stop using the marijuana she consumes (via pipe, massage oils, and quantities of pot-spiked zucchini bread) every two waking hours of the day.

Lucky for Raich, she resides in California--which passed the Compassionate Use Act of 1996. Unlucky for Raich, and for her co-plaintiff, Diane Monson, California is still part of the United States, in which the federal drug laws draw no distinctions between the deathly ill and the merrily stoned.
Ashcroft v. Raich pits the federal Controlled Substances Act--which makes marijuana a Schedule I drug with no legitimate medical use--against California's legalization of that drug for sick people under a doctor's care. In the simplest sense this is a states' rights, or federalism, case. But it's also a case full of twists and inversions, endless electric guitar solos, tie-dyed mayhem, and strange bedfellows. And that's not just among the folks camped out on the courthouse steps for oral argument this morning--many of whom were probably later rounded up and forced to pee in small cups outside John Ashcroft's office.
--Dahlia Lithwick

Len on 11.30.04 @ 07:48 AM CST

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