Pubdate: Sun, 21 Aug 2016
Source: Trentonian, The (NJ)
Copyright: 2016 The Trentonian


Federal officials remain in a haze when it comes to articulating a 
comprehensible policy on marijuana.

Perhaps last week's ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals 
curtailing the feds from prosecuting legitimate growers and 
distributors will help clear the air.

Half the nation's states, led by California, permit medicinal 
applications. Four states and the District of Columbia allow 
recreational use. In November, California could become the fifth.

Yet the federal government still sees marijuana as a dangerous drug 
and dispensary operators as prosecution targets.

President Barack Obama has said he considers marijuana no more 
dangerous than alcohol. More than three years ago, he said he had 
"bigger fish to fry" than targeting pot smokers in states that permit 
recreational use.

Yet, it took a bipartisan congressional action to rein in his Justice 
Department. In December 2014, Congress added an amendment to a 
spending bill directing the Justice Department to not interfere with 
states' medical marijuana laws.

Finally, in May, federal prosecutors dropped a misguided lawsuit 
against the Harborside dispensaries in Oakland and San Jose. After 
four years of litigation, Harborside climbed out from under legal threat.

Then, last week, ruling in cases from Los Angeles, San Francisco and 
Washington state, the 9th Circuit ordered an end to federal 
prosecutions of growers and sellers operating legally under state laws.

The ruling is long overdue. However, it's uncertain whether the 
Justice Department will finally throw in the towel and move on to 
important cases.

Meanwhile, in another arm of the Obama administration, the Drug 
Enforcement Agency continues to classify pot as a dangerous drug with 
no medical value on par with LSD and heroin.

Earlier this month, the DEA once again refused to back down from that 
position. The agency says there is inadequate data showing marijuana 
is safe and effective for medicinal use.

But the feds have tightly controlled the supply of marijuana 
available for use in research. The University of Mississippi has been 
the only federally authorized grower of pot for medical studies.

The good news is that the FDA this month announced it will finally 
relax that, allowing other universities to apply to grow marijuana.

More research could provide critical guidance on the efficacy of 
using marijuana to treat, for example, pain, nausea, epilepsy, 
Parkinson's, Crohn's disease and Alzheimer's.

It could also help states that have legalized pot use set standards 
for determining whether drivers are illegally under the influence of marijuana.

It's a shame that the federal government has dragged its feet on the 
criminal and medical fronts. It should have been a leader.

- - San Jose Mercury News, Digital First Media
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