Pubdate: Thu, 25 Oct 2012
Source: Daily Trojan (U of Southern CA Edu)
Copyright: 2012 Daily Trojan
Authors: Burke Gibson and Elena Kadvany


Federal authorities closed a number of medical marijuana dispensaries
throughout Downtown Los Angeles in September as part of an effort to
cut down on the sale and use of the drug, which is legal in California
for medical purposes but still considered illegal by the federal government.

This month, the Drug Enforcement Administration followed up by sending
warning letters and revisiting several dispensaries. This series of
shutdowns was not only unnecessary, but it was also a violation of
state rights and an indication of broken promises on the part of
President Barack Obama. As marijuana regulation is becoming a hot
button issue in the presidential race, such an infringement on an
individual state's rights is unacceptable.

Given the size and scope of the federal crackdown operation -- it
began in San Diego and recently spread to Los Angeles -- it's obvious
that significant planning went into these raids. Obama deliberately
went back on his word and has been doing so for a long time. This is
an unusual move so close to the election but, more importantly, it
challenges the legitimacy of California's laws.

Whether or not a state allows the sale of medical marijuana, the fact
remains that marijuana is federally illegal, so it would seem the
owners of dispensaries should have known the risks associated with
their businesses. They thought, however, that under the Obama
administration they could operate without having to worry about being
shut down because of early campaign promises.

Beyond broken campaign promises, however, the crackdown signals a
disconnect between state and federal government and also raises a
larger issue on state rights. The federal government took advantage of
the disconnect between California and the federal government to fine
and shut down target dispensaries. This is more than just a backward
step in the legalization debate, it's a disregard for the rights of
individual states and offers a critical example of overbearing federal
power. To maintain a better balance between federal and state, medical
marijuana regulation must be returned to states' control.

The issue of medical marijuana has largely been ignored in the 2012
presidential election, and understandably so. Federal versus state
control of medical marijuana has no bearing on the United States'
global standing or on foreign policy matters. And while marijuana's
legalization generates substantial tax revenue, there are far bigger
fish to fry when it comes to solving the nation's deficit. All in all,
medical marijuana might be a hotly debated topic, but it isn't a
particularly significant one in terms of impact. For the federal
government to waste time, energy and money on medical marijuana
enforcement is simply inefficient. By allowing states to control the
regulation of their own medical marijuana dispensaries, the time and
money the federal government is currently wasting can be re-directed
somewhere much more worthwhile.

If the federal government took over the regulation of marijuana
dispensaries, not only would its leadership be inefficient, it would
potentially take away jobs from those who own legitimate, legal
dispensaries. For every illegally run collective, it's important to
remember there is a legitimate non-profit organization that employs
Americans and provides free marijuana to patients who can't afford it
but need it for actual medical purposes.

We need the government to be effective and consistent. The global
society and economy is at a point where America will be in a very
dangerous position if some important issues are not dealt with
directly and in a consistent manner. Especially considering that
medical marijuana is much less consequential than many other issues
currently facing the federal government, wasting resources to take
away states' rights is something the government can't afford to be

- - Burke Gibson is a sophomore majoring in economics and is the Daily
Trojan's Chief Copy Editor.

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While the nation's attention remains fixated on the upcoming Nov. 6
election, the Drug Enforcement Administration has been systematically
cracking down on medical marijuana operations across California, most
recently in Los Angeles -- even though such operations are 100 percent
legal statewide. But marijuana is still federally classified as an
illegal drug, and President Barack Obama's administration has been
making renewed efforts to enforce federal law, however much they
conflict with state and individual rights.

This begs the question: Should medical marijuana be regulated on a
federal or state level?

Because marijuana in its legal form is a health benefit, no state
should have the authority to take that away. The current
administration's crackdowns are not the right way to regulate, but
they are right to take action when state regulation is not working.
Medical marijuana must be federally regulated to ensure that medical
access is provided for all who need it, regardless of what state they
live in.

In 1970, marijuana was categorized by the government in 1970 as a
Schedule I drug. Schedule I drugs must meet three conditions to be
labeled as such: the drug has a high potential for abuse, has no
currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States and
has a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision.
Despite research that has proven all three of these conditions to be
false, marijuana remains an illegal drug within the Schedule I category.

Medical marijuana, however, is legal in 17 states, including
California, and measures proposing some level of legalization are
currently pending in six others. The state legalization movement is
growing fast, and as it does, so is the tension between the
conflicting doctrines in state and federal regulation of the drug.
This tension only contributes to further problems for everyone
involved -- business owners, medical patients and President Barack
Obama himself, whose Daily Beast-dubbed "war on weed" might be
angering some of his supporters. Having different laws in different
states on the legality of a substance that is ridiculously easy to
transport only creates chaos in the legal system and distracts from
the fact that this is an issue about medical access and benefits, not
governmental powers.

Federal regulation is opposed by those who see medical marijuana as a
state issue that should be dealt with at a local, specific level.
Nearly 1 million patients nationwide depend on medical marijuana for
their health and are in accordance with state laws, according to the
American Civil Liberties Union. Marijuana has been proven to provide
relief for serious conditions such as cancer or AIDS -- relief that
has not been reproduced by any other drug or medicine. So what about
cancer or AIDS patients who live in the 27 states where medical
marijuana remains illegal?

Should they bide their time until a ballot measure passes? Especially
in incredibly conservative states, the likelihood of such a measure
passing is small, considering Proposition 19 didn't pass in liberal
California in 2010. State efforts, as the past couple years have
demonstrated, take too long to succeed and do not guarantee the
results that patients in need deserve.

Though no debate over the regulation of marijuana can ignore the
rampant recreational use and illegal sale and purchase of the drug,
regulation must be re-framed as a medical issue. Medical marijuana is
a health benefit that all Americans should be able to take advantage
of if they need to do so -- and federal regulation would guarantee

The current federal administration, however, has failed to acknowledge
that. The DEA's recent efforts to mend the gap between state and
federal government are wrong and only perpetuate inconsistency and
conflict. Raids, crackdowns, warning letters and the like are not the
answer. It will take a change at the federal, not the state level, to
effectively ensure safe and guaranteed use of medical marijuana for
Americans in all states.

- - Elena Kadvany is a senior majoring in Spanish and is the Daily
Trojan's Editorial Director. Point/Counterpoint runs Fridays.
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