Arrogance and spite were hallmarks of the Bush administration, and these unattractive qualities were flagrantly displayed in the “war on drugs,” which, as we've noted before, is really a war on people. Drugs neither attack nor defend, and drugs don't die. People do, some more painfully than others. Increasing the number who died in agony seemed to be an obsession with the Bushers.
Marijuana can relieve some kinds of pain, and several states have legalized the use of marijuana for medical purposes. Bush administrators cared no more for states' rights than for individual rights. Regardless of what state law said, the federal government pursued and punished those involved in the medical marijuana trade. In chronic pain from cancer? Tough titty, was Bush's response, in his homely Texas way. The pitiless Asa Hutchinson was one of Bush's chief enforcers. He remains at large.
Kinder people are running things now. President Obama's Justice Department has announced that neither patients who use marijuana with state approval nor their sanctioned suppliers will be targeted for federal prosecution. Only a beast would argue otherwise. It was pretty beastly around here for eight years.
Bush's drug warriors had a reliable ally in the Federal Drug Administration, which asserted in 2005 that marijuana had no medical value, despite considerable research suggesting the opposite. The FDA ruling was widely regarded as more political than scientific.
Though Bush is gone — and not a minute too soon — the FDA is still up to its old tricks. Like Bush, the agency has been more solicitous of huge and hugely profitable corporations — drug manufacturers, in this case — than of private citizens in need of medication. Public-interest groups like Consumer Union regularly point out the excessive influence of the pharmaceutical industry on FDA decisions. Criminal charges are filed on occasion.
Arkansas's most plain-spoken congressman, Marion Berry, is among the severest critics of the affectionate relationship between the FDA and the industry it's supposed to regulate. We noticed the other day that he was reported as saying, “When they load up the train to take the crooks to hell, the FDA will be in the first car.” We called to check the accuracy of the quote. Berry assured us that he had indeed said it. He added: “I failed to mention that same car is gonna have the pharmaceutical manufacturers on board. It'll be crowded.”