Pubdate: Wed, 08 Jun 2005
Source: Anchorage Daily News (AK)
Copyright: 2005 The Anchorage Daily News
Author: Timothy Inklebarger, The Associated Press
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)
Cited: Marijuana Policy Project ( )
Cited: Gonzales v. Raich ( )


Policy Project: Organization Warns It Will Sue Alaska, Oregon.

JUNEAU -- A Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group says it will sue the 
states of Alaska and Oregon if they discontinue their medical marijuana 
registration programs.

Members of the Marijuana Policy Project said they are responding to a 
decision by the state of Oregon to temporarily halt its medical marijuana 
licensing program and an announcement from the Alaska Department of Law 
that it is considering a similar move.

The possible suspension of the program is tied to a U.S. Supreme Court 
decision issued Monday saying states where medical marijuana is legal 
cannot prevent federal law enforcement officers from arresting users and 
suppliers of the drug, even if they have a doctor's approval.

"By depriving patients of protection expressly granted under state law, 
Alaska is saying that not only federal agents -- but also state and local 
police -- can raid, arrest and prosecute seriously ill medical marijuana 
patients," the group's executive director, Rob Kampia, said in a statement. 
"This is grossly unjust, and we look forward to suing the Alaska government 
in court."

The group issued a similar statement threatening to sue Oregon if it makes 
its suspension permanent.

Alaska Attorney General David Marquez refused to take calls Tuesday 
inquiring about his intentions. The governor's office also refused to comment.

Department of Law spokesman Mark Morones said Marquez is considering 
suspending the registration program that currently authorizes use of 
medical marijuana by 198 people, but that the action is only one possible 
reaction to the Supreme Court decision.

"The question we must analyze is whether and how state medicinal use laws 
can continue to operate in light of this ruling," Marquez said in a written 
statement Monday.

Alaska voters approved the legalization of medical marijuana in a 1998 
ballot initiative and federal authorities said Monday they don't intend to 
start prosecuting medical users although they have the legal power to do 
so. Spokesmen for both the FBI and the DEA in Alaska said their agencies 
focus on large-scale traffickers, not individuals.

Neil Levine of the Marijuana Policy Project said the Supreme Court decision 
does not change existing law. It merely stops efforts that might have 
prevented federal authorities from arresting medical marijuana users if 
they chose to.

"The law has not changed," Levine said. "It's always been a conflict with 
the federal law. The state has the right to pass these laws."

He said the group is assessing its options on a decision by the Oregon 
attorney general's office to suspend the registration process there. If the 
decision is made to eliminate the registration program, the group will sue, 
Levine said.

Oregon attorney general spokesman Kevin Neely said the state has suspended 
the issuance of medical marijuana licenses pending a decision from Oregon 
Attorney General Hardy Myers.

More than 10,000 users are registered in Oregon.

Morones said there is no schedule for a decision about the registration 
list in Alaska.

Daily News reporter Nicole Tsong contributed to this story.