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June 01, 1998 - Image 4

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Publication:
Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 1998-06-01

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4 - The Michigar Daily - Monday; June 1,1998

Edited and managed by CHRIs FARAH DAVID WALLACE
students at the 4 4 Editor in Chief Editorial Page Editor
University of Michigan
i/i 0111'n noftd 1 n iliips d/iioia n'1.1 e s/ h ;i niii
420 M aynard Street iiioboi/iv 0//il1)11/il silo ol P0)1/. iii ut/i ori .1l !i /o '
Ann Arbor, MI 48109 """"llo i) "'"nrcus-li is //. '/ic (oiion of i/e t/ic/iian 1)a1/..

A nn Arbor's marijuana-possession law is
under fire. Sen. Mike Rogers, R-
Brighton, wants the city to repeal its lenient
marijuana-possession penalty or else face
state budget sanctions. Ann Arbor's mari-
juana-possession law is the only municipal-
ity statute in Michigan that is lower than the
state standard in its penalty confines. This
amendment, while marring the city's ability
to make it's own laws, is unequivocally
interdicting the possession of a substance
that should be legalized.
Making marijuana illegal is a hypocrit-
ical denunciation when alcohol and nico-
tine are termed as legal. Marijuana has not
been confirmed to be physically addictive,
unlike nicotine, alcohol and even caffeine,
nor has it been proven to have any long-
term maleficent effects. The National
Institute for Drug Abuse released a circu-
lar in 1996 which states that "There is lit-
tle evidence that the drug (marijuana) is
physically addicting ... There is nothing in
marijuana itself that causes people to use
other drugs ... No definitive neurological

Unfounded concerns
Legalizing marijuana would solve problems

study of humans has turned up evidence of
marijuana-related permanent brain dam-
age ... There is no direct evidence that mar-
ijuana causes cancer in humans."
This government publication disproves
the multitude of misdirected claims which
term marijuana as a "gateway drug,"
recruiting users to harder drugs. There has
never been a reported case of a fatal mari-
juana overdose. In fact, the results of mar-
ijuana use are often comparable to those of
alcohol, though less harmful than inordi-
nate, long-termn alcohol consumption.
Marijuana has even been ascertained to
provide medicinal benefits. It has been used
as a tranquilizer for cancer and AIDS
patients and to assuage intraocular tension in
glaucoma patients, as well as for diagnosis of
multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, paraplegia, asth-

ma and quadriplegia. In a nationwide survey
of cancer therapists in 1995, about 50 per-
cent reported they would prescribe marijua-
na if it were legal, nwhtile 44 percent admitted
they had recommended marijluana to
patients. Francis Young, the administrative
judge for the Drug Enforcement Agency,
said, "Marijuana, in its natural form, is one
of the safest therapeutically active sub-
stances known to man." Sadly, state laws
ignore this advantageous element of the sub-
stance, and the drug is even banned from use
in medicinal purposes.
The marijuana legalization issue comes
with a few legislative and judicial strings
attached. The arrest count for marijuana-
related offenses in 1996 was an exorbitant
642,000. A majority of these arrests are for
mere possession. Shockingly, marijuana-

related offenders, even first-time posses-
sion crses, are Subject to mach harshe-
penalties thain those involved ii violent
crinmes. This is a gross contravention of tl,
rights of otherwise law-abiding citizeI
Who use maijuana, a misuse of taxpayer
dollars anid a misappropriation of the law
at the hands of its practitioners, while
criminals of violent conduct are dealt with
nore leniently.
Legalization of marijuana would also
invalidate the rules-are-made-to-be-bro-
ken clause that is paired with the marijua-
na trade. The illicit status of the drug has
caused its circulation to be Untrammeled
and thus unregulated, making it accesE
ble for use by minors. It is easier foi
minors to get a gram of weed than a pint
of beer, for the latter requires a person tc
be 21. Similarly, a legalized status wouk
help eradicate the smuggling and vio-
lence-related drug trade that continues to
claim many lives. Appropriate and safei
use becotmes inevitable with the regula-
tion of the drug.

Health Crisis
Patient bill of rights will curb HMOs' power
f President Bill Clinton gets his wish, extended to clients in an effort to contain
Americans covered by health mainte- operating costs and maintain profits. The
nance organizations may soon gain lever- cost-cutting measures have unfortunately
age in opposing the practices of their led to a general decrease in the quality of
HMOs. At a White House rally last Americans' health care plans. Many
Tuesday, Clinton urged Congress to sup- patients now find new and effective med-
port a forthcoming patient bill of rights ications unavailable because HMOs may
that would guarantee certain basic privi- spend many months determining whether
leges to HMO clients. Lauded by Health they wish to cover a new drug for clients.
and Human Services Secretary Donna Also because of cost-cutting, many moth-
Shalala as a means of improving access to ers now find themselves unable to spend a
health care, the proposal would clarify the night in the hospital after giving birth.
entitlements due to all HMO clients. To While the forthcoming legislation
improve the quality and consistency of seeks to improve health care access and
America's health care and bridle the power control HMO power, legislators must take
HMOs wield over their clients, legislators care not to defeat the original purpose of
should press for the passage of the patient health maintenance organizations: To
bill of rights. lower the cost of care. The proposed over-
Under the current system, many haul and regulation of HMOs has the
Americans remain unsure of the proce- potential to drive up health care costs and
dures, medications and physicians covered spark appreciable inflation within the
by their health plans. In addition, inany health care industry, making health care
patients discover - only after receiving less accessible to Americans.
care - that their HMO refuses to defray Theoretically, stringent atid severe regula-
the treatment costs. Many patients receiv- tion would further patients' cause; howev-
ing emergency room care often find them- er, Congress must keep a wary eye toward
selves confronted by such a predicament. iiaintaining economic stability nwitlsin the
Sadly, in these situations, patients have no health care market.,
effective avenue of petitioning the HMO's Given the current dissatisfaction many
refusal. In an effort to empower patients patients express with the coverage pro-
with the opportunity to have their griev- vided by their health maintenance organi-
ance heard by an impartial body, the forth- zations, the need to adjust and regulate
coming patient rights legislation seeks to some of their practices is evident. The
establish an appellate panel to rule on pending proposal's empowerment of
patient complaints. clients and the clarification of basic enti-
Such an appellate procedure would tlements would serve to eliminate much
constitute one of the firtt major controls of the distress and confusion stifling the
on the power of health maintenance orga- smooth growth of the HMO industry.
nizations. The need for such a protocol for While taking care to protect the afford-
handling appeals has become increasingly ability of America's health care, legisla-
evident in recent years. Unchecked, HMOs tors should support the drafting of a
have gradually eroded the coverage patient bill of rights.

Dangerous pursuits
Police chases raise questions of accountability
P olice sirens flash as civilian cars law enforcement personnel across the
tattempt to steer towards safety: nation. Robert Scully, a retired officer and
Pedestrians scramble from the street. Such executive director of the Nationa
sights are common when a high-speed Association of Police Organizations, said
police chase is in motion. On Tuesday, in a after the verdict, "We applaud t
case determining whether police officers Supreme Court for following our logic at
could be sued for liability in high speed not second-guessing law enforcemen
pursuits, the Supreme Court unanimously officers when they make a split-second
ruled in favor of law enforcers' general decision to engage in a high-speed pur
unaccountability for the results of chasing suit." Certainly, high-speed pursuits are
those who flee. While the high court's part of the job police officers perform. The
show of support for police officers is decision of a police officer to pursue on
appropriate, the wording of the decision resisting arrest is a complicated, quidc
leaves too much leeway for abuses to go process.
unpunished. Police officers must be We as citizens must maitain faithl
allowed to make life and death decisions, the ability and training of our I
but the Court did not establish a strong- enforcers, while at the same time realizinl
ettough staisdard that preveitts officers ithe tragic imaplicatioits thtat ltiglt-spee<
from having impunity when they make a chases may bring. On average, 300 death
disastrous decision. each year are caused from police pursuits
Justice David Souter stated that In Michigan, at least 110 people have diei
police could be reprimanded only if the due to police chases siee the start of th
coisuuct of ithe officer was "so egre- decade. Somietimies, thsoughs the putrsuttit
gious, so outrageous, that it may fairly officer may take every precaution, live
be said to shock the contemporary con- are lost. But when officers do not takt
science." The idea of a "contemporary expected precautions they must be liable
conscience" is open to much interpreta- These occurrences are not acceptae
tion and lacks any concrete basis. The accounted for in the Supreme Court's deci
idea of "shocking" may not apply to sit- siom1.
uations inn hicl an officer clearly made Each time the sirens go on and civil
ait error that could have been avoided. iais pull to the side of the road as squa
All high-speed chases are by definition cars roar ott, certain understandimg
extreme. In determining ait officer's lia- must prevail. Citizens need to recognmz
bility, common sense deserves principle the police are trying to protect them, bu
consideration. The places a chase may dangerous circumstances exist an
run through, the number of people put at require the judgment call of ait officei
risk and the likelihood for a safe resolu- Officers must determine whether
tion of the chase are all factors the fleeing itdividual poses more hart
police must consider, and form the stat- unpursued than the risk of participatin,
dards by which officers should be mea- in a high-speed chase. If the police pet
sured in terms of liability. form unacceptably and create a deadl
Understandably, the decision delights situation, they must have accountability

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