Pubdate: Fri, 19 Jun 2015
Source: Herald, The (Everett, WA)
Copyright: 2015 The Daily Herald Co.


In 2014, Congress quietly ended the federal government's prohibition 
on medical cannabis with a provision buried in the 1,603-page federal 
spending bill, The Los Angeles Times reported at the time. The rule 
says that states where medical cannabis is legal would no longer need 
to worry about federal drug agents raiding retail operations and 
prohibits agents from doing so. The change was prompted by bipartisan 
supporters. The change, however, does nothing to protect patients who 
use medical cannabis because the scientifically flawed and old 
federal law, favored by the Drug Enforcement Agency, still considers 
all cannabis a dangerous, addictive drug, with no medical use.

This year, for the first time ever, the Senate has joined the House 
in calling for a schedule reclassification for medical cannabis - 
from Schedule 1 to Schedule 2 - acknowledging that it does have 
medical uses. In March, the Democratic and Republican senators 
introduced the "Compassionate Access, Research Expansion and Respect 
States Act," which would also direct the federal government to stop 
prosecuting dispensaries in states that have legalized marijuana for 
medical use, just as the provision in the spending bill did. The law 
would allow cannabidiol imports to help patients with epilepsy and 
seizure disorders, and allow Veterans Affairs doctors to prescribe 
medical cannabis.

Despite the bipartisan support, (not to mention petitions from 
governors, state attorneys general, police groups, medical groups, 
researchers and activists) the bill might be shut down by one man: 
Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley, who is chairman of the powerful 
Senate Judiciary Committee, where the Senate bill was sent. Grassley 
has said he supports research into medical uses of marijuana, but 
won't support the bill because he doesn't want cannabis changed from 
a Schedule 1 drug. (Of course, research can't happen until that 
reclassification is made.) His "argument," as reported by the Des 
Moines Register: "Recent studies suggest marijuana use by young 
people can cause long-term and possibly permanent damage to brain 
development." Which completely ignores the medical applications, of 
which there are many, and focuses on "recreational" use by teens. 
Which is to say, Grassley is ignoring the entire, actual content of 
the bill, which again, has to do with medicine.

It's beyond frustrating to have non-scientists and non-medical people 
such as Grassley and DEA officials in Washington D.C., and the 
Washington state Liquor Control Board members here at home, deciding 
what policy should be regarding medical cannabis.

Congress needs to collectively override Grassley and get the bill passed.

The president, the attorney general and/or the DEA can also change 
the classification, but Congress might as well, since the bill has 
been introduced.

Of hundreds of examples of why this law needs changing, here's one: 
This week the Colorado state Supreme Court ruled 6-0 that a medical 
cannabis patient who was fired after failing a drug test cannot get 
his job back, citing the federal law. The worker, Brandon Coats, is a 
quadriplegic who uses cannabis to calm violent muscle spasms.

Coats, a telephone operator, was fired by Dish Network after failing 
a 2010 drug test. The company agreed that Coats wasn't high on the 
job, but said it has a zero-tolerance drug policy.

Dish Network applauded this ruling, although it's difficult to 
understand why: They lost a good worker, and good telephone operators 
are hard to find.

Change the federal classification of cannabis and let the states get 
on with research, and helping people, which in turn will lead 
businesses, such as Dish Network, to rethink their "zero-tolerance 
drug policy." Because taking medicine, and not being high at work, 
shouldn't get one fired.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom