Pubdate: Sun, 27 Nov 2011
Source: Times-Herald, The (Vallejo, CA)
Copyright: 2011 Paul Armentano
Author: Paul Armentano
Note: Paul Armentano is the Deputy Director of NORML, the National 
Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.


As a presidential candidate, Barack Obama stated: "The basic concept 
of using medical marijuana ... (is) entirely appropriate" and 
pledged, "I'm not going to be using Justice Department resources to 
try and circumvent state laws on this issue."

As president, Obama promised, "Science and the scientific process 
must inform and guide (the) decisions of my administration."

Yet recent actions of the administration belie these assurances. 
These actions include:

n The IRS has assessed crippling penalties on tax-paying medical 
cannabis facilities in California by denying these operations from 
filing standard expense deductions.

n The Department of Treasury has strong-armed local banks and other 
financial institutions into closing their accounts with medicinal 
marijuana operators.

n The Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms has sternly warned 
firearms dealers not to sell guns to medical cannabis consumers, and 
stated that patients who otherwise legally possess firearms are in 
violation of federal law and may face criminal prosecution.

n The Drug Enforcement Administration has rejected a nine-year-old 
administrative petition that called for hearings regarding the 
federal rescheduling of marijuana for medical use, ignoring extensive 
scientific evidence of its medical efficacy.

n The National Institute on Drug Abuse rejected an FDA-approved 
protocol to allow for clinical research assessing the use of cannabis 
to treat post-traumatic stress disorder; a spokesperson for the 
agency conceded, "We generally do not fund research focused on the 
potential beneficial medical effects of marijuana."

n The DEA has reduced the total number of federally qualified 
investigators licensed to study plant marijuana in humans to 14 nationwide.

In recent months, Deputy Attorney General James Cole, along with the 
four U.S. attorneys from California, announced plans for a 
coordinated effort against operations in California that provide 
access to cannabis for those patients qualified to use the substance 
in accordance with state law. Since that time U.S. attorneys have 
sent eviction notices to the landlords of several of the state's more 
prominent medical cannabis providers, causing several to close their 
doors and others to initiate a slew of federal lawsuits. Federal 
officials have also threatened to sanction local financial 
institutions that hold accounts with cannabis-related businesses. At 
least one U.S. attorney has even gone so far as to threaten to 
federally prosecute print publishers who accept ad revenue from 
medical cannabis facilities. (This paper is one such publisher.)

Does anyone really believe that this is an appropriate use of scarce 
federal resources?

If the federal government is truly concerned about the diversion of 
medical marijuana or its potential abuse in California then it would 
be better served to encourage -- rather than to discourage -- 
statewide and local efforts to regulate this industry accordingly. 
The Obama administration's troubling actions in California will only 
result in limiting adults' regulated, safe access to cannabis 
therapy, it will also cost California jobs and needed tax revenue. 
Finally, these actions will most likely stifle efforts by local 
lawmakers in cities like Vallejo from moving forward with the 
implementation local regulations that seek to license and authorize 
medical cannabis facilities in a manner that best serves their 
proprietors and the public.

Legislating medical marijuana operations and prosecuting those who 
act in a manner that is inconsistent with California law and voters' 
sentiment should be a responsibility left to the state and local 
officials, not the federal government. It is time for this 
administration to fulfill the assurances it gave to the medical 
cannabis community and to respect the decisions of voters and 
lawmakers in states that recognize its therapeutic efficacy.

Paul Armentano

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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom