Pubdate: Mon, 11 Feb 2002
Source: Cumberland Times-News (MD)
Copyright: 2002 Cumberland Times-News
Author: Bruce Mirken


To the Editor:

Now that the Oakland Cannabis Buyers' Cooperative has resumed its fight for 
the right to distribute medical marijuana to patients using it legally 
under California law, it is important to keep in mind what last May's 
Supreme Court ruling did and did not do.

The Court's decision in United States v. Oakland Cannabis Buyers' 
Cooperative did not prevent states from taking action to protect patients 
who use marijuana for medical purposes. All eight medical marijuana 
statutes enacted since 1996 remain in full force and effect. The court 
merely said that distributors of medical marijuana couldn't use a "medical 
necessity" defense under federal law.

While this, combined with federal raids on the clubs, creates great 
hardship and inconvenience for patients, medical marijuana users who are in 
compliance with their states' laws are still protected from arrest by those 
laws. This is critical, as 99 percent of marijuana arrests are made by 
state and local authorities. In other words, effective state laws prevent 
99 out of 100 arrests of medical marijuana patients. While arrests by 
federal agents are theoretically possible, the Justice Department thus far 
has not gone after individual medical marijuana users -- perhaps realizing 
they have little chance of convicting patients who are simply trying to 
ease their suffering.

As the legal battles over the federal government's absurd war on medical 
marijuana continue, state governments need not fear the Supreme Court. They 
can and should continue to act to protect patients.

Bruce Mirken

Assistant Director of Communications Marijuana Policy Project
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