Pubdate: Mon, 1 Jun 2009
Source: Alternatives (Eugene, OR)
Issue: Summer Issue
Copyright: 2009 Get Real Inc.
Author: Dr. Rick Bayer
Note: Rick Bayer, MD is board-certified in internal medicine, a 
fellow in the American College of Physicians, and practiced in Oregon 
for many years. Co-author of Is Marijuana the Right Medicine For You? 
A Factual Guide to Medical Uses of Marijuana, he was the filing chief 
petitioner for the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act in 1998, and manages that includes a medical cannabis/marijuana bibliography.
Bookmark: (Marijuana - Medicinal)


US Attorney General Eric Holder recently signaled federal changes in 
medical marijuana policy. Holder said, "The policy is to go after 
those people who violate both federal and state law"; but the Drug 
Enforcement Agency (DEA) will still target anyone who tries to "use 
medical marijuana laws as a shield" for other illegal activity. 
"Given the limited resources that we have, our focus will be on 
people, organizations that are growing, cultivating substantial 
amounts of marijuana and doing so in a way that's inconsistent with 
federal and state law."

"... Federal and State Law ..."

Many have been waiting for a statement regarding President Obama's 
drug policy toward medical marijuana, since Candidate Obama 
repeatedly promised changes in federal policy toward medical 
marijuana states. Now, in Attorney General Holder's statement, they 
have it. Graham Boyd, director of the American Civil Liberties Union 
drug law project, said Mr. Holder's remarks create reasonable balance 
between conflicting state and federal law while finally ending the 
policy war over medical marijuana.

Ethan Nadelmann, founder of the Drug Policy Alliance, said Mr. 
Holder's statement signaled a shift in policy by telling the DEA that 
it should leave alone legitimate medical cannabis growers. "Attorney 
General Holder is saying something explicitly different from both 
Bush and Clinton," Nadelmann said. "He's saying that these medical 
marijuana laws are kosher by state law and we're not going after 
those. He's saying federal law doesn't trump state laws on this."

Naturally, federal law enforcement has its own interpretation. DEA 
spokesperson, Garrison Courtney, pointed out that Mr. Holder's 
statement indicated that federal authorities would continue to go 
after marijuana dispensaries that break state and federal laws by 
selling to minors, selling excessive amounts or selling marijuana 
from unsanctioned growers.

DEA:Occupying Foreign Army

Meanwhile, recently, the DEA ransacked a dispensary that had violated 
no state laws according to California authorities. Tellingly, local 
law enforcement did not participate in the raid, while local 
authorities condemned the DEA for it.

Although thirteen states permit medicinal use of marijuana, 
California is unique, allowing dispensaries to sell marijuana to 
qualified patients. US attorney for Los Angeles, Thom Mrozek, said 
his office has prosecuted only four medical marijuana dispensary 
cases since the passage of Proposition 215, the 1996 ballot measure 
that legalized medical marijuana in California. What he failed to say 
was the feds can't count on jury convictions because most 
Californians see the DEA as an occupying foreign army. Therefore, the 
DEA uses vandalism of dispensaries and forfeiture threats rather than 
typical police arrests to curtail cannabis sales. As a result 
marijuana prohibition has changed community policing into 
snitch-based paramilitary combat against American citizens.

Special Interest Lobby: Marijuana

Mark Agrast, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress 
think tank in Washington DC, said Mr. Holder's statement indicated a 
more pragmatic and less ideological approach to drug enforcement. 
"This is an example of recognizing the limited resources they have, 
so they have to make decisions about the soundest use of available resources."

If only it were as easy as pointing to limited resources and using 
tax dollars more wisely. The reality is that law enforcement is a 
powerful special interest lobby and marijuana prohibition is a huge 
budget item for these lobbyists to lose. Unfortunately, politicians 
are swayed by this lobby and do not want to appear "soft on crime". 
So the public must say NO to the war on medical marijuana and give 
lawmakers the courage to end medical marijuana prohibition.

Moreover, states should be laboratories to seek solutions that allow 
for medical needs, personal privacy, and industrial use of cannabis. 
Public safety must be guided by science rather than hysterical 
presentations from law enforcement and other reefer-madness special 
interest groups. But first of all, the DEA must end the ransacking of 
marijuana dispensaries that comply with local regulations.

It will take time to see what impact the Obama presidency has on 
medical marijuana. Voters must remind Obama they want peace and 
prosperity rather than spending tax revenue to persecute the sick. 
Less federal interference in state medical marijuana laws may lead to 
greater scrutiny from state and local regulators. Advocates need to 
be alert to negotiate fair regulations that advocate for patients 
while recognizing concerns of the community.

One hopes the signal from Washington DC resonates in Oregon so state 
lawmakers respect Oregon voters when we said in 1998 that marijuana 
should be treated like other medicines. Advocates for medical 
marijuana are growing stronger and our cause is just. But for us to 
win the peace; we must engage in politics, tirelessly advocate for 
the sick, and consistently support our allies.
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake