Last night I attended the D.C. premiere of Jed Riffeâs film Waiting to Inhale, which was followed by a debate that pitted Special Assistant to the Drug Czar David Murray against MPPâs Rob Kampia, and DPAâs Ethan Nadelmann (Former ONDCP staffer Andrea Barthwell didnât show).
The film takes a compelling look at the history of medical cannabis and gives us a glimpse into the lives of several patients who depend on it. For those of us whoâve been following the issue, the plight of the patients depicted is all too familiar. Iâd bet that many people whoâve formed snap judgments about medical marijuana would be stunned to see the faces behind this controversy.
Knowing that David Murray was in the room gave it an extra bite. Would he really stick around to defend these atrocities? He looked villainous in the film, and for all the nonsense to which weâve become accustomed from him, I was somehow still surprised that his head didnât explode halfway through.
But Murray is a professional, and with no choice but to fight, he faced two of his most articulate critics with as much grace as you might expect from a man who gets paid to excuse the inexcusable.
- When Murray read the FDAâs absurd statement on MMJ, Kampia waved a pair of handcuffs and asked why patients were being arrested for taking their doctors advice.
- When Murray claimed that these guys just want to legalize drugs, Nadelmann acknowledged that he advocates a variety of reforms but considers the persecution of sick people to be the drug warâs greatest injustice.
- When Murray claimed that medical groups donât support MMJ, Kampia enumerated the rambling list of medical groups that do in fact support MMJ.
- When Murray claimed that DEA doesnât target doctors, Nadelmann pointed out that DPA had to win a significant court battle to prevent exactly that.
- When Kampia claimed that youth marijuana use in California has dropped significantly since the passage of Proposition 215, Murray claimed that it would take too long to explain why that was misleading.
- When Murray claimed that medicines must be approved through the rigorous FDA approval process, Nadelmann noted that the Federal Government routinely blocks MMJ research.
And so it went, each point disputed on its face with no concessions made by either side. At times, it sounded like they weren't talking about the same drug. Or the same laws, the same patients, the same research, or for that matter the same country.
But I applaud David Murray for being there. He told lies in front of people who know the truth, and that takes guts. He said the film âfelt like a cartoonâ to him, demonstrating the detachment such a man must summon when confronted with the consequences of his deceit.
That this event even took place is testament to the relentless and growing pressure our movement has brought to bear against those who persecute the sick and dying. David Murray might be able to view Waiting to Inhale in the comfort of arrogant indifference, but the film could prove a bitter pill for less-entrenched adherents to the drug war doctrine.
This is no cartoon, Mr. Murray. Itâs real, itâs the truth, and it will never go away.
Sidenote: Tom Angell and I spotted David Murray drinking a beer before the film. I guess even shameless drug warriors gotta take the edge off.