County must reverse ruling

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By Optic Editorial Board

President Obama made it clear in his 2008 campaign: He didn’t want to pursue those using marijuana for medical purposes where it’s legal. And after he took office, the Justice Department announced a policy reflecting the president’s position.

But it’s obviously taking a while for the rest of the bureaucracy to catch up. Las Vegas resident Robert Jones found out that fact firsthand last month when San Miguel County’s then-housing director, Gilbert Almanza, sent a letter informing Jones that he was losing his federal housing subsidy because he was using medical marijuana.
Almanza apparently sent that letter after getting word from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Albuquerque office that the agency made no distinction between marijuana used for recreational or medical purposes. Citing a federal HUD policy, local housing authorities should ban those using medical marijuana from federally subsidized housing.

Yet when we called a HUD spokesman in Washington, D.C., she said the federal agency wouldn’t pursue those using medical marijuana in states where it’s legal, including New Mexico. So, in other words, housing authorities are getting mixed signals from the government on this issue.

Jones is suffering from cancer, and the marijuana helps alleviate the symptoms. So who is he harming by using marijuana? Absolutely no one.

Of course, this issue brings to light the whole fallacy of the effort to eliminate marijuana from the face of the Earth. The problem is that marijuana is a plant — one of God’s creations. And since the 1930s, the government hasn’t made any real progress in its anti-marijuana effort. Indeed, former Police Chief Gary Gold, to his great credit, admitted last week that he has an open mind to legalization of marijuana, accompanied by strict regulations. He correctly noted that the drug war has been a big failure.

Gold and like-minded people are just telling the truth. But others, including District Attorney Richard Flores, think otherwise. They want to continue the drug war at full throttle, spending millions and billions that would be better spent on treatment and education.

For now, we hope the county reverses its decision on Jones. Medical marijuana is legal in New Mexico, and public officials should respect that fact.