Pubdate: Tue, 08 Apr 2014
Source: Dallas Morning News (TX)
Copyright: 2014 The Dallas Morning News, Inc.
Author: Rob Hotakainen, McClatchy Newspapers
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)


WASHINGTON - In January, President Barack Obama said reclassifying 
marijuana and making it legal in any way "is a job for Congress."

"It's not something by ourselves that we start changing," Obama said.

In February, 18 members of the House shot back in a letter to the 
president, telling Obama he should use his executive power to make 
the change on his own.

Caught in the middle are the more than 1 million Americans who use 
marijuana for their physical and psychological ailments. They say 
they face daily uncertainty about whether they' ll be able to get the 
drug they need or whether they' ll be arrested for possessing it.

"Without cannabis, I can't get out of bed," said Steph Sherer, the 
founder and executive director of a group called Americans for Safe Access.

On Monday, the medical pot users took their complaints to Congress.

Concluding a three-day conference in Washington, the group organized 
200 medical marijuana advocates from 37 states - patients, doctors, 
scientists, lawyers and others - for its second annual lobbying day 
on Capitol Hill, lining up more than 300 meetings with legislative offices.

Pot backers say Congress needs to get involved to resolve a growing 
conflict between state and federal laws.

They expressed hope that change could be in the offing after Attorney 
General Eric Holder said Friday that the Obama administration is 
ready to tackle the issue. While stressing that "ultimately Congress 
would have to change the law," Holder said, "I think our 
administration would be willing to work with Congress if such a 
proposal were made."

While Congress classifies marijuana as a Schedule 1 substance with no 
medical value, 20 states have passed laws allowing medical pot since 
California became the first in 1996, and Florida is expected to vote 
on the issue in November. Washington and Colorado went further in 
2012, passing laws that allow all adults who are 21 and over to smoke 
pot for recreational purposes.

But medical marijuana users say the state laws can easily be ignored 
by federal authorities, who have the discretion and authority to 
override them as they see fit. Medical marijuana advocates say a 
change in federal law would eliminate any confusion and ensure that 
patients and their suppliers are operating legally.

Critics say it would be a mistake to reclassify marijuana, calling it 
a dangerous drug that's highly addictive.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom