President Obama reportedly is sending the message that federal drug enforcement agents have better things to do than interfering with the use of medicinal marijuana in states that sanction it.
This would be a welcome dose of common sense in a dispute that seems to focus on everything but what is really important: Whether patients benefit from the treatment.
Thirteen states have laws permitting the medicinal use of marijuana. California is unique among them for allowing marijuana dispensaries that can sell and even advertise their services to customers with a doctor's prescription.
But the federal government has been at odds with states that allow the use of medicinal marijuana. According to officials with the Drug Enforcement Agency, anyone possessing, distributing or cultivating marijuana for any reason is in violation of federal law whatever state law might be.
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And, under the Bush administration, the law was routinely enforced in rounding up those who distributed medicinal marijuana.
We fail to understand why doctors should not be allowed to prescribe marijuana for patients undergoing cancer treatments, suffering from glaucoma or other ailments that some claim are alleviated by the drug. Why should it be OK for doctors to prescribe morphine, codeine or other opiates and their chemical cousins but not marijuana?
Thankfully, the president appears to share that view.
"I think the basic concept of using medical marijuana for the same purposes and with the same controls as other drugs prescribed by doctors, I think that's entirely appropriate," Obama told the Mail Tribune of Medford, Ore., last year.
He also stated during the presidential campaign that he would not have the Justice Department prosecuting and raiding medicinal marijuana users.
The policy of cracking down on the use of marijuana for medical purposes seems to have been driven by pot's long history of use as an illegal substance. Those who view marijuana as a dangerous recreational drug are reluctant to advocate for its use for any purpose.
But it is illogical and potentially cruel to deny patients with serious ailments a drug that could help mediate pain and discomfort. The White House is right -- the DEA has better things to do than bust people for medicinal marijuana.