Pubdate: Thu, 12 Mar 2009 Source: Chicago Tribune (IL) Copyright: 2009 Chicago Tribune Company Contact: http://drugsense.org/url/IuiAC7IZ Website: http://www.chicagotribune.com/ Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/82 Author: Clarence Page Bookmark: http://mapinc.org/people/Charles+Lynch Bookmark: http://www.mapinc.org/people/Obama Bookmark: http://www.mapinc.org/bush.htm (Bush, George) Bookmark: http://www.mapinc.org/walters.htm (Walters, John) Bookmark: http://www.mapinc.org/mmj.htm (Cannabis - Medicinal) IS IT REEFER MADNESS? White House Moves to Revisit the Medicinal Marijuana Issue When Charles Lynch asked local officials for permission to sell a herbal medicine in the town of Morro Bay on the central coast of California, they allowed his request--even though the "medicine" was marijuana. That's because marijuana prescribed by a doctor has been legal in California since 1996. A dozen other states have passed similar laws. Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota and New Hampshire are among about 10 states that have been debating similar measures. So Lynch applied for a business license, joined the local chamber of commerce, talked to lawyers and even called the federal Drug Enforcement Administration before opening his medical marijuana dispensary with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. Unfortunately for Charlie Lynch, none of this prevented him from being arrested in March 2007 when federal authorities raided his home and small business. That's because the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 6-3 in Gonzales vs. Raich in 2005 that on the issue of medical marijuana, federal law trumps the states. "Today's decision," crowed President George W. Bush's drug czar John Walters back then, "marks the end of medical marijuana as a political issue." Well, not quite. President Barack Obama's attorney general, Eric Holder, has announced that the Justice Department will stop raiding marijuana dispensaries in California and other states that allow medical marijuana. But that doesn't help Lynch, whose sentencing is set for March 23. Putting the brakes on medical marijuana raids is only one small step toward a sensible drug policy after years of Bush backpedaling from it. Obama likes to multitask. Faced with a long list of thorny issues, he's decided to take them on all at once while his honeymoon lasts. While he's at it, he needs to modernize federal policy on the medicinal use of marijuana. Stopping the raids in states where it's legal is good for starters. He also needs to lift what has amounted to a ban on scientific research of marijuana and push to change federal law that equates marijuana with heroin. That's right. Marijuana has been classified as a "schedule I" narcotic, meaning it has no medical value, since 1971. Keep in mind that that's the same category as heroin. And as if that were not goofy enough, that would mean marijuana is more dangerous than crack cocaine, a "schedule II" drug that no one in the sane world describes as less dangerous than pot. Yet that's the kind of thinking that gave a green light for the DEA, for whom there is far more useful work to do, to terrorize growers, providers, caregivers and patients with hundreds of commando-style raids. At least 90 major raids have been conducted by DEA agents in California, according to the Marijuana Policy Project, which advocates legalization of medicinal marijuana The Bush administration justified the federal crackdown against the medicinal use of marijuana as a way to stop people from abusing the drug--as if some people don't abuse legally prescribed drugs. In fact, the same rationale was used to justify alcohol prohibition a century ago. That didn't work out so well, either. Walters, like the drug czars before him, argued that the law must rely on scientific research, "not popular opinion." Yet, 10 years after a study commissioned by President Bill Clinton's administration found marijuana had medical value, the Bush experts said that's not enough. Days before Obama's inauguration the DEA denied an application by professor Lyle Craker, who has been fighting in and out of court for eight years, to obtain a license to conduct DEA-approved research to measure the medicinal value of marijuana in a way that could lead to federal approval. President Obama recently reversed much of what has been called the Bush administration's "war against science." He needs to turn around the war against medicinal marijuana too.