Pubdate: Wed, 15 Sep 1999
Source: Los Angeles Times (CA)
Copyright: 1999 Los Angeles Times
Contact:  (213) 237-4712


Three years ago, when California voters approved Proposition 215, which
legalized the medical use of marijuana, thenGov. Pete Wilson struggled to
reconcile the contradiction between the measure and federal drug laws that
forbade marijuana use. Gov. Gray Davis has tried to avoid the quagmire by
pointing out that federal laws trump state laws and that it would be
illegal for his administration to sanction any use of the drug.

On Monday, however, three federal appeals court judges deprived Davis of
that evasive bit of reasoning. The court essentially ruled that the handful
of cannabis clubs that distribute medical marijuana in the state can do so
as long as they can prove that the drug is needed to protect sick people
from serious harm. The decision does not change federal drug rules, which
classify marijuana as a "Schedule 1 drug," meaning a substance without
medicinal value.

The decision should prompt state Atty. Gen. Bill Lockyer to comply with the
spirit of Proposition 215 by issuing guidelines to help local law
enforcement officials monitor whether cannabis centers are distributing
medical marijuana responsibly.

Lockyer's guidelines should be based not on the measure itself, for while
its backers say it restricts marijuana to patients with "serious
illnesses," it in fact allows doctors to prescribe it for minor ailments
like nausea. The attorney general should follow the appeals court ruling,
which supports mainstream medical opinion that marijuana is demonstrably
superior to other drugs only for those suffering from particularly severe
illnesses like AIDS and cancer.

Some legislators argue that any sort of state guidelines on Proposition 215
would encourage recreational as well as responsible use of marijuana. In
fact the opposite is true. Cannabis clubs are already implementing the
measure, and local law enforcement officials, without guidelines from the
state, cannot ensure they are acting responsibly.
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