There is strong opposition to the three men from San Francisco facing
charges here for possession of marijuana.

The three men, proponents of medicinal marijuana, are currently
awaiting a decision from 5th District Court Judge Philip Eves
regarding their legal -- at least in California and seven other
states -- prescriptions to smoke marijuana as treatment for
alcoholism and depression.

Many suspect that the men are using the medicinal marijuana issue as
a backdoor entry into decriminalization of the herb, casting a shadow
on their credibility.

That's where the situation gets sticky.

It is tough to tell if these guys are arguing their case for medical
use of the drug with a wink and a nudge, acknowledging it as a way to
consume marijuana legally or for true medicinal benefits.

Meanwhile, we have three public servants investing an awful lot of
time on this case.

Attorney Dale Sessions, working in the capacity as a public defender,
is in a no-man's land where he's bound by law to defend these men and
take them at face value, that they are truly endeavoring to have
their legal prescriptions for pot recognized in the state of Utah.

Like any other attorney, he is charged with giving his client the
best defense possible, despite his personal beliefs and those of the

Iron County Attorney Scott Garrett is acting in his capacity as the
prosecuting arm of the state.

Judge Eves is in a similar boat.

He has to analyze the intricate legalities as they apply and make a
judicious decision, which, in reality, is much more difficult than it
seems on the surface.

His ruling, I can guarantee, has nothing to do with his personal
views on use of the herb, but will be based on his interpretation of
the law, which is good because marijuana is something that has
polarized several generations. That polarization is where the real
debate lies.

Because of the social stigma attached to it, marijuana is one of
those subjects that will draw a passionate argument from both sides.
As a result, the debate about its medicinal properties will be
ongoing, except in states where voters take it into their own hands
and decide if they want it legalized for medicinal purposes or
decriminalized for social purposes.

Because it has been so strongly associated with the fringe -- the
jazz musicians, the hippie movement, the rebellious youth -- it will
be some time before pot gets a fair day in the court of public
opinion, no matter how many cancer or AIDS patients come forward and
swear to the value they claim the drug has given to their quality of
life or how many people swear it has destroyed others.

Want an argument in favor of medicinal marijuana?

I can go to the Internet and reference books and pick out a thousand of them.

Want an argument against the use of medicinal marijuana?

I can get you a thousand of those, too.

For those reasons, it is difficult to give either side much credibility.

Those in favor will always be suspected of using the medicinal factor
as a smokescreen to get high.

Those opposed will always be suspected of placing a social agenda
before the facts, at least the facts as others see them.

Those suspicions will cloud whatever decision Eves makes, which is
unfortunate, because his ruling could potentially have far-reaching

Call Ed Kociela, Daily News' senior writer/columnist, at 586-7646,
ext. 502. E-mail is

Source: The Cedar City Spectrum (UT)
Pubdate: 13 Oct 2002
The Cedar City Spectrum
Medical marijuana case sparks passionate debate
By Ed Kociela