Pubdate: Fri, 20 May 2011
Source: Portland Press Herald (ME)
Copyright: 2011 MaineToday Media, Inc.


Medical Marijuana Is Both Legal and Illegal, Depending on Which
Official You Ask.

It's good that U.S. Attorney Thomas Delahanty wanted to clarify his
position when it comes to state and federal laws regarding medical
marijuana. Imagine the confusion if he had wanted to muddy things up.

In response to Maine lawmakers who are seeking to amend the state's
medical marijuana program, Delahanty wrote that although all use of
marijuana is illegal under federal law, the U.S. Department of Justice
would not spend its limited resources to prosecute sick people who are
using the drug under a doctor's supervision.

But then he went on: The feds still may go after individuals and
groups who engage in "unlawful manufacturing and distribution" of pot,
even if those activities are legal under state law.

In other words, while the state government has spent 18 months
creating a system of "manufacturing and distribution" to get medical
marijuana to the patients who are helped by it, the federal government
reserves the right to treat the people who operate that system as drug

This stance creates more doubts than it resolves. If federal law
enforcement views growing and distributing marijuana for medicinal
purposes as a criminal enterprise punishable by lengthy prison
sentences and property seizures, it's unclear how these seriously ill
and law-abiding patients are supposed to get access to the marijuana
they need.

Don't blame Delahanty: He doesn't write the laws, he just enforces 
them. The problem is a disconnect between state and federal 
government and both sides have some work to do before innocent people get hurt.

The state should not do anything to make matters worse. Until the
Justice Department can provide more clarity, the Legislature should
not further amend the law in any way that would provoke federal
authorities to take action.

But the really heavy lifting is needed by the federal

The District of Columbia and 16 states have decided to permit the use
of marijuana in some medical applications. Not everyone likes it, but
it's reality and the federal law should be changed to reflect that.

The easiest fix would be to reclassify marijuana as a controlled
substance that can sometimes be used in a medical setting, like
prescription drugs, and no longer treat it as a drug that is always

Letters like the one sent by Delahanty and other federal prosecutors
do not clarify this situation. It will take action by Congress and the
White House to do that. 
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MAP posted-by: Richard R Smith Jr.