Pubdate: Fri, 2 Apr 1999
Source: Orange County Register (CA)
Copyright: 1999 The Orange County Register
Contact:  http://www.ocregister.com/
Section: Editorial

MEDICAL MARIJUANA STALLED

The news on the medical marijuana front, where things seemed to have
taken a turn for the better during the two-day news cycle following
the release of the Institute of Medicine report on what is known about
the science surrounding marijuana as medicine, has turned grim.
California Attorney General Bill Lockyer's meeting with "drug czar"
Barry McCaffery last week suggests that Mr. McCaffery is not only
inclined to continue to ignore the report he himself had commissioned,
he plans to interfere actively with any attempts to implement
California's medical marijuana law.

As the Sacramento Bee reported Saturday, after meeting with Mr.
McCaffery and Attorney General Janet Reno, Mr. Lockyer told reporters
that "both were very clear that medical marijuana use violates federal
law," and that McCaffery said a massive additional research effort is
needed before that status can be changed. Furthermore, when Mr.
Lockyer told Mr. McCaffery that state law authorizes him (Mr. Lockyer)
to conduct or sponsor certain kinds of marijuana-related research,
McCaffery told Lockyer he would be violating federal law and risking
arrest if he did so.

It is dismaying - an inversion of the democratic process - for an
unaccountable, appointed federal official to threaten an elected
California official with arrest for trying to implement a state law
passed by the people of the state. Mr. McCaffery's bullying attitude
is intolerable.

As it happens, Mr. McCaffery has not only set himself in opposition to
the relevant science and the wishes of the people of California and of
five other states who have recently approved the use of medical
marijuana he also may be on shaky legal ground, on several counts.

The Institute of Medicine report, which Mr. McCaffery commissioned not
only concluded that it does have present and potential value, it made
it clear that there is no legal basis for keeping marijuana on the
federal government's Schedule I, the strictest classification for the
most dangerous of drugs.

A petition to reschedule marijuana is now in the final stages of
consideration by the Department of Health and Human Services. A
spokesman for Mr. Lockyer said it was unclear as to whether Mr.
Lockyer can file a formal amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief on
behalf of this petition. But he can and should endorse it and urge HHS
to act quickly to reschedule marijuana. It will be almost impossible
for the research Mr. McCaffery claims to desire to occur until this
happens.

And, there is a second lawsuit that Mr. Lockyer could support.
Scientists Durk Pearson and Sandy Shaw and several doctors and medical
research organizations recently filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District
Court for the District of Columbia demanding that federal officials
stop trying to nullify state laws in California and elsewhere that
authorize licensed physicians to recommend or prescribe marijuana. The
suit claims the federal government lacks constitutional authority to
do so, on 1st, 9th and 10th amendment grounds, and that the
Constitution's commerce clause does not allow the federal government
to regulate medical practice or the distribution of medicine within
the borders of a state (the entire lawsuit can be viewed and
downloaded at http://www.emord.com/complain/htm

The people of five states have passed laws to permit the medical use
of marijuana under doctors' supervision. One appointed official is
trying to nullify those laws. It turns out that his opposition is not
just cruel to patients who are suffering, it is unscientific (as his
own report reveals) and perhaps even illegal under the federal law he
claims to be enforcing.

Attorney General Lockyer can be a hero. He should seize the
day.

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