Pubdate: Tue, 01 Dec 2009
Source: Appeal-Democrat (Marysville, CA)
Copyright: 2009 Appeal-Democrat
Author: Thomas D. Elias
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)


Maybe it's because growers of medical marijuana are  sitting ducks,
not nearly as hard to find or as nasty  to deal with as the Mexican
drug cartels that run many  large marijuana farming operations deep in
forests on  federal- and state-owned land, in parks and forest  reserves.

Maybe it's because of the enduring contradictions  between state and
federal laws - about to become more  severe if Californians next year
pass a pending  initiative to flat-out legalize marijuana.

For despite his campaign statements, President Obama  has not ended
confusion on the medipot front, dashing  some hopes of patients,
growers and operators of the  medical marijuana dispensaries that have
proliferated  in many California cities. (Sure, some of those
patients and dispensaries are phonies out for nothing  but a high or a
profit, but there are also plenty of  legitimate medical users.)

More than six months after U.S. Attorney General Eric  Holder promised
twice (sort of) to stop federal raids  on state and locally sanctioned
medical marijuana  operations, raids continue. Not as many as under
ex-President George W. Bush, but still some.

And federal prosecutors show few signs of ceasing  efforts to convict
and imprison cannabis defendants  arrested before Obama became president.

Holder, of course, was never very specific in his  promises. "What the
president said during the campaign  will be consistent with what we're
doing in law  enforcement," he said.

Here's one thing Obama said while running for office:  "We will not be
using Justice Department resources to  circumvent state laws." Here's
another: "Whether I want  to expend a whole lot of political capital
(on  marijuana issues) is not likely." He also observed that  he has
"problems with mom and pop shops...because that  becomes difficult to
regulate." But he also said that  "If it's an issue of doctors
prescribing or  recommending marijuana, I think that should be

That's enough to let Holder and the Drug Enforcement  Administration
that answers to him do pretty much what  they like.

So, in late summer and early fall, the DEA made several  raids on
medipot growers in California and elsewhere.  One netted five persons
in Lake County, north of San  Francisco, where 154 pot plants were

The grower, a local contractor, had a doctor's  recommendation to use
medical marijuana and was a  designated supplier to several others
with similar  recommendations. That seemed to meet terms of
California's 1996 Proposition 215, which allows use and  supply of
medipot when doctors' recommendations are  involved.

The raid apparently resulted from official suspicion  that the grower
was involved in pot sales beyond the  medical realm, making a raid in
line with Obama's  observation about regulating small operations.

If all this sounds confusing, it is. That's one reason  the state
Senate by an eight-vote margin in late summer  passed a non-binding
resolution urging the federal  government to end medipot raids of all
kinds - on  growers, dispensers and users alike - and to "create a
comprehensive federal medical marijuana policy that  ensures safe and
legal access to any patient that would  benefit from it.'

This may be a sensible sentiment, but Obama gave notice  while a
candidate that he would not devote energy to  such an effort. Which is
one reason a bill co-sponsored  by the ultra-liberal Massachusetts
Democrat Barney  Frank and the ultra-libertarian Orange County
Republican Dana Rohrabacher to do just what the state  resolution
suggests is going nowhere in the House.

As a result, there is still plenty of fear in the  medipot community.
Maybe not as much as before Ho  lder's rather equivocal commitment not
to bother  medical users and their suppliers, but still plenty of
uncertainty. Cities and counties are confused, too. Los  Angeles is
one example: City council members appear  ready to authorize continued
operations by many of the  medipot dispensaries now open there, while
the city  attorney and district attorney both insist they are  illegal
because federal law trumps any state  initiative. Both threaten raids.

There's also still the possibility that if you use  medipot and live
in federally subsidized housing, you  can be evicted anytime - even if
you're in compliance  with state and local laws and regulations.
That's why  the pro-pot group Americans for Safe Access recommends  on
its Web site that patients in such housing not smoke  pot in their
apartments, but try to use only edible pot  concoctions or vaporizers
when at home.

Still, there's no doubt the Obama administration has  been - as
promised - less eager that its predecessor to  flout state laws and
insist on the primacy of federal  drug regulations over Proposition
215 and similar laws  in other states.

But if you're a cancer patient who legitimately needs  relief, if
you're the grower supplying that patient and  others with aches and
pains for which doctors recommend  pot as the safest palliative, the
uncertainty that  still remains is unsettling, at best. 
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MAP posted-by: Jo-D