Pubdate: Tue, 07 Aug 2012
Source: Hartford Courant (CT)
Copyright: 2012 The Hartford Courant
Author: Sam Tracy
Note: Sam Tracy, 21, of South Windsor, former student body president 
at the University of Connecticut, is a board member of Students for 
Sensible Drug Policy. He is a senior majoring in political science 
and sociology.


Drug Paradox: State, Federal Discrepancy Threatens Legal Users

Starting on Oct. 1, medical marijuana will be legal in Connecticut. 
Although our state's medical marijuana law was carefully designed to 
minimize the risk of federal invention, the legal reality is that the 
federal government can still prosecute anyone growing, selling or 
even using marijuana in compliance with state law. Our state leaders 
should act to protect Connecticut's citizens, and call on President 
Barack Obama to allow medical marijuana at the federal level.

Despite the president's 2008 campaign promise to not interfere with 
states' medical marijuana programs, his administration has shown it 
is all too willing to crack down on dispensaries -- even ones 
complying fully with state law -- with its recent raids of Oaksterdam 
University and threats of property seizure against Harborside Health 
Center, both in California. Marijuana remains in the most restrictive 
legal category, Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, meaning 
it is officially recognized as having a high potential for abuse and 
no accepted medical use in treatment.

To put this in perspective, other Schedule I drugs include heroin and 
LSD, while Schedule II (defined as having a high potential for abuse 
and a currently accepted medical use with severe restrictions) 
includes cocaine and PCP. Paradoxically, the FDA-approved Marinol, 
which is simply a synthetic form of the chemical THC found in 
marijuana, is under Schedule III, defined as having a lower potential 
for abuse and an accepted medical use.

If President Obama wants to make good on his campaign promise, he 
could direct the Drug Enforcement Agency to look at the facts and 
move marijuana to a more appropriate schedule, such as II or III. 
This would lift the federal prohibition on marijuana for medical use 
and allow states to regulate it without fear of federal interference. 
It would also enable marijuana to be prescribed to patients and 
dispensed at a pharmacy, rather than forcing legislatures to use 
legal loopholes and allow doctors to "recommend" it and have patients 
buy it from dedicated dispensaries. Most important, rescheduling 
would allow much more research to be done on the effects of 
marijuana, allowing us to better understand its uses and how to 
administer it as safely as possible.

The fact that the Obama administration could quickly and easily end 
federal interference in medical marijuana is no secret. Last year, 
Govs. Christine Gregoire of Washington and Lincoln Chafee of Rhode 
Island jointly filed a petition to the DEA asking that marijuana be 
reclassified to at least Schedule II, and Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin 
signed on to the petition almost immediately. Unfortunately, their 
request has gone nowhere; the Obama administration simply ignored it. 
The advocacy group Americans for Safe Access is appealing a decision 
by the DEA to ignore its own rescheduling request.

Connecticut's elected leaders, including our congressional delegation 
and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, must join with other states to put 
pressure on the Obama administration to look honestly at the science 
and reschedule marijuana. They have all shown great support for 
medical marijuana in the past. Mr. Malloy campaigned on the issue in 
2010, and his support was key in making Connecticut the 17th state to 
permit medical marijuana this year.

The U.S. House of Representatives recently held a vote to block 
federal funding for raids on medical marijuana dispensaries; although 
the motion failed 262-163, all five of Connecticut's representatives 
voted against federal interference.

Nationwide, support for medical marijuana consistently polls at well 
over 70 percent, significantly higher than President Obama's own 
approval rating, which currently hovers around 47 percent. 
Connecticut is the country's most recent state to allow medical 
marijuana, and if allowed to be implemented, its law will be one of 
the most responsible in the nation. Our state leaders need to stand 
up for the rights of Connecticut's patients -- and the will of its 
voters -- and advocate for the end of federal interference in state 
medical marijuana programs.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom