Pubdate: Thu, 15 Jan 2009
Source: Times, The (Trenton, NJ)
Copyright: 2009 The Times
Author: Ken Wolski
Note: Ken Wolski, R.N., M.P.A., is executive director of 
the  Coalition for Medical Marijuana New Jersey Inc.  (
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)


Times columnist Gregory Sullivan acknowledges  marijuana's 
therapeutic potential, but he argues that  federal law must be 
changed before New Jersey passes  its Compassionate Use Medical 
Marijuana Act (The Times, "Compassionate, but still illegal," Dec. 
30). Mr.  Sullivan is apparently unaware of the recent U.S.  Supreme 
Court action in the Garden Grove case, which  resolved the conflict 
between federal and state  marijuana laws. The U.S. Supreme Court 
refused to hear,  and thus let stand, a decision from California's 
Fourth  District Court of Appeals, which said: "Congress  enacted the 
Controlled Substances Act (CSA) to combat  recreational drug abuse 
and curb drug trafficking. Its  goal was not to regulate the practice 
of medicine, a  task that falls within the traditional powers of 
the  states. ... Congress regulates medical practice (only)  insofar 
as it bars doctors from using their  prescription-writing powers as a 
means to engage in illicit drug dealing ... . Beyond this, however, 
the  statute manifests no intent to regulate the practice 
of  medicine generally."

The federal case came about when police in Garden  Grove, Calif., 
seized about one-third of an ounce of  marijuana from a man named 
Felix Kha during a traffic  stop. The drug charge was dismissed when 
Mr. Kha  produced documentation showing he was a medical  marijuana 
patient. The court then granted Mr. Kha's  motion for the return of 
his marijuana, which the state  of California recognizes as his medicine.

The city of Garden Grove refused to return it, however,  because 
marijuana is generally prohibited under federal  law. The city 
maintained that, to the extent state law  mandated the return of Mr. 
Kha's marijuana, it is  pre-empted by federal law. The appeals court 
said that  California's law does not "exempt medical marijuana  from 
prosecution under federal law ... it merely  exempts certain conduct 
by certain persons from  California drug laws." So, what we are left 
with is a  state statutory scheme that limits state prosecution  for 
medical marijuana possession but does not limit  enforcement of the 
federal drug laws. This scenario  simply does not implicate federal 
supremacy concerns.

In other words, there is no conflict between federal  law and New 
Jersey's Compassionate Use Medical  Marijuana Act. One has to do with 
drug abuse and one  has to do with the appropriate practice of 
medicine in  New Jersey.

In addition to the court decision, President-elect  Barack Obama has 
promised to end federal interference  with states' medical marijuana 
laws when he is in  office.

Columnist Sullivan is correct when he says that the  federal CSA 
should be modified to permit the medical  use of marijuana. The 
federal government insists that  marijuana remain a Schedule I drug, 
which means that it  has no accepted medical use in the U.S., and is 
unsafe  for use even under medical supervision. This is an 
embarrassment to science, the medical profession and  even common sense.

There is a wealth of scientific data that support the  therapeutic 
efficacy and safety of marijuana for a wide  variety of symptoms and 
conditions. Thousands of  physicians have recommended marijuana for 
hundreds of  thousands of patients in the 13 states that have 
legalized medical marijuana. Even common sense  understands that 
doctors prescribe far more dangerous  and addicting drugs than 
marijuana every day.

Yet common sense on the federal level may well be an  uncommon 
commodity. A previous attempt to modify the  CSA in 1972 was met with 
14 years of intense federal  resistance. Finally, in 1986, after 
three court orders,  two years of hearings were begun that led to 
Judge Francis Young's fairly famous decision in 1988. Judge  Young 
said that the evidence clearly showed that  marijuana had therapeutic 
value and that it should be  available for patients in the U.S. His 
decision was overturned by federal bureaucrats.

Patients in New Jersey should not have to suffer  needlessly while 
they wait for the federal government  to catch up with advances in 
medical science and  practice. That's not how America was designed to operate.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom