Pubdate: Fri, 06 Jul 2007
Source: ABC News (US Web)
Copyright: 2007 ABC News
Author: Brittany Bacon
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)


State to Become First to Set Up Medical Marijuana Distribution, Over
Fed Objections

New Mexico's new medical marijuana law, which provides a cultivation
and distribution center for patients to access the drug, might
conflict with federal law.

New Mexico is set to become the first U.S. state to set up a
cultivation and distribution system for medical marijuana, sewing the
seeds of a possible showdown with federal drug enforcement

Gov. Bill Richardson, a Democratic presidential candidate, signed the
"pot bill" into law this year and tasked the state's Department of
Health with establishing a way to grow and distribute the crop to
patients by Oct. 1. The new law may be at odds with federal law, which
supersedes state laws, and tightly controls who can grow marijuana and
for what purposes.

Cautious Fourth: Do You Feel Safe?

Even New Mexico's Attorney General Gary King doesn't endorse the plan.
"We are not behind this. This is not part of what we were asked to
look at, and it is not the position of the attorney general," said
Phil Sisneros, the attorney general's director of communications.

The state can't guarantee that marijuana users and distributors won't
be prosecuted under federal law, he said. That's a situation that has
become all too common in California, where the U.S. Drug Enforcement
Agency has raided dozens of medical marijuana "pot clubs," claiming
they are simply distributing weed to anyone who drops in.

"It comes down to politics and the degree to which the federal
government wants to employ law enforcement resources to try to stop a
state from providing medicine to sick people," said Daniel Abrahamson,
director of legal affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance, a group that
lobbies for relaxation of drug laws.

The state is immune from federal prosecution if it simply allows
patients and caregivers to cultivate the medicine themselves,
Abrahamson said. But when the state itself is the grower and provider,
there might be conflict with federal law, he admitted.

Rafael Lemaitre, a spokesman for the U.S. Office of National Drug
Control Policy, said exceptions to U.S. marijuana law have been made
for university-sponsored research programs. But he doubts they will
apply to the New Mexico plan.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Steve Heath