Pubdate: Sat, 16 May 2009
Source: Colusa County Sun-Herald (CA)
Copyright: 2009 Freedom Communications
Author: Thomas D. Elias
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)


There is silence now where once loud huzzahs erupted from medical 
marijuana advocates in California after U.S. Attorney General Eric 
Holder signaled this spring that federal authorities will no longer 
raid or interfere with medipot dispensaries in states where it is 
legal, so long as users abide by state law.

That's because no big change has occurred since then in this state, 
whose voters via the 1996 Proposition 215 became the first in the 
nation to pass a state law legalizing medical use of marijuana.

Federal prosecutions of medipot providers arrested while George W. 
Bush was president continue. Inconsistencies in what's legal persist 
from one county to the next. While some officials in big cities and 
urban counties advocate municipal sales of pot to keep prices down 
and make sure clinics operate within the law, their counterparts in 
other places continue banning medipot altogether.

Los Angeles County, for the biggest example, has more than 100 
medical cannabis clubs, storefronts and delivery services, but nearby 
cities like Anaheim and Pasadena ban them. While some medipot supply 
outlets feature smoking lounges and marijuana brownies, counties like 
Amador, Contra Costa, El Dorado, Merced, Riverside, Stanislaus and 
Sutter ban all sales, according to the pro-pot group Americans for Safe Access.

Then there are the abiding inconsistencies between state and federal 
law. Where the state says anyone can smoke or otherwise take 
marijuana for medical reasons with a mere recommendation from a 
doctor, federal law recognizes no medical effects at all from the 
weed, despite Holder's stated new policy.

That's how a federal appeals court the other day could uphold a 
10-year prison term for a Chico medipot patient convicted in 2002 of 
conspiring to grow more than 1,000 marijuana plants, even though he 
had a doctor's recommendation and testified he was growing the plants 
for himself and four other patients who shared expenses.

That's why, if you use medical marijuana and live in housing 
subsidized by the federal Department of Housing and Urban 
Development, you can be evicted anytime - even if you're in complete 
compliance with every state and local law. As a result, Americans for 
Safe Access recommends on its Web site that such patients not smoke 
pot in their apartments, but try to use only edible pot concoctions 
or vaporizers.

For while the California Supreme Court has upheld Proposition 215 and 
counties are required to issue ID cards to medipot patients who 
register, plenty of county officials refuse to comply. San Diego 
County, for one, has not issued cards, instead suing the state in an 
action that now awaits review by the U.S. Supreme Court.

If the nation's highest court upholds the San Diego County stance, 
there's a strong possibility several counties that reluctantly began 
issuing IDs last year will stop doing it or rescind the cards they're 
already given out.

Adding to the welter of confusion is the fact that despite Holder's 
policy change, Justice Department lawyers nominally working for him 
argued before a federal appeals court a month later that marijuana 
"currently has no accepted medical use."

At the same time, some politicians argue that California should just 
forget about both federal law and all disputes over the medical 
merits of pot, and simply legalize the weed in order to tax it, which 
might help balance the constantly strapped state budget. Gov. Arnold 
Schwarzenegger, taking a cue from Democratic Assemblyman Tom Ammiano 
of San Francisco, who last winter proposed full legalization, argued 
this month that California should consider just that.

Some estimates claim marijuana is the largest cash crop along 
California's North Coast and in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada 
mountains, with estimates of the total street value of 
California-grown pot ranging up to $14 billion per year. A 10 percent 
sales tax on that amount would contribute more than $1.4 billion to 
the state's coffers.

But there's confusion here, too, since no one can say how much prices 
might drop if pot became legal.

This all creates a legal maze of almost unprecedented complexity that 
probably won't be resolved until or unless Congress legalizes 
marijuana, or at least its use for legitimate medical reasons. No one 
should expect that to happen anytime soon.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom