Federal Medical Marijuana Policy Needs Clarity

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Shortly after taking office, the Barack Obama’s Attorney General announced new Department of Justice guidelines for medical marijuana in states that had laws permitting its dispensing.

U.S. Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. said Wednesday that the Justice Department has no plans to prosecute pot michigan dispensaries like that are operating legally under state laws in California and a dozen other states — a development that medical marijuana advocates and civil libertarians hailed as a sweeping change in federal drug policy

Well, apparently the word didn’t get out to the field and in the last two weeks there have been 28 raids on medical marijuana clinics in Montana where 26 raids took place:

GREAT FALLS, Mont. – Federal agencies conducted 26 raids on medical marijuana facilities in 13 Montana cities this week, as agents seized thousands of marijuana plants and froze about $4 million in bank funds.

The raids stunned medical marijuana advocates, many of whom believed the Obama administration’s policy was to leave states with medical marijuana laws alone. The latest set of raids may make it more difficult for owners of an ohio green releaf medical marijuana card to obtain marijuana from dispensaries across their state.

That belief stemmed from Attorney General Eric Holder’s announcement in October 2009 that the pursuit of “individuals whose actions are in clear and unambiguous compliance” with existing state medical marijuana laws would be the lowest priority of U.S. law enforcement.

and California:

Federal drug enforcement agents Tuesday raided two West Hollywood medical marijuana stores in the first such action in the city since the Obama administration decided two years ago to take a hands-off approach to dispensaries that abide by state laws.

The dispensaries — Alternative Herbal Health Services and Zen Healing on Santa Monica Boulevard — are among four that the city has authorized to operate a medical marijuana dispensary. As the rule and regulations in this field are very strict, it is important that people stick to it, as it is not worth breaking the law for, and especially as cannabis-related products can assist in helping people deal with ailments/conditions. West Hollywood was one of the first California cities to regulate medical marijuana sales and is often cited as a model.

In the tradition of the previous administration, the DOJ and the IRS began the raids after new memo (pdf) was issued that is up front about the new policy. The memo issued on February 1st by US Attorney Melinda Haag (who, ironically, represents Northern California) directly contradicts Holder’s edict. She declares that ANYONE engaging in the buying or selling of marijuana, regardless of their protection under state laws, will be punished by the federal government.

As the Department has stated on many occasions, Congress has determined that marijuana is a controlled substance. Congress placed marijuana in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) and, as such, growing, distributing, and possessing marijuana in any capacity, other than as part of a federally authorized research program, is a violation of federal law regardless of state laws permitting such activities.

The prosecution of individuals and organizations involved in the trade of any illegal drugs and the disruption of drug trafficking organizations is a core priority of the Department. This core priority includes the prosecution of business enterprises that unlawfully market and sell marijuana. Accordingly, while the Department does not focus its limited resources on seriously ill individuals who use marijuana as part of a medically recommended treatment regimen in compliance with state law as stated in the October 2009 Ogden Memorandum, we will enforce the CSA vigorously against individuals and organizations that participate in unlawful

manufacturing and distribution activity involving marijuana, even if such activities are permitted under state law. The Department’s investigative and prosecutorial resources will continue to be directed toward these objectives.

Schedule I drugs are determined to have “no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.” and carry the harshest penalties resulting in a prison population in which 1 in 8 prisoners in the U.S. is locked up for a marijuana-related offense. However, recently a federal agency has determined that marijuana does have a medicinal purpose, which is why something like a Pennsylvania marijuana card would be necessary if you lived in and around this state and suffer from ailments such as chronic pain or PTSD. The National Cancer Institute (NCI), a division of the National Institute of Health, which is itself one of the 11 component agencies that make up the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, added to its treatment database a summary of marijuana’s medicinal benefits, including an acknowledgment that oncologists may recommend it to patients for medicinal use:

The potential benefits of medicinal Cannabis for people living with cancer include antiemetic effects, appetite stimulation, pain relief, and improved sleep. In the practice of integrative oncology, the health care provider may recommend medicinal Cannabis not only for symptom management but also for its possible direct antitumor effect.

The Supreme Court ruled in 2001 that medical use of marijuana cannot be considered in any federal court deliberating on a marijuana possession or distribution case. While a solution to this would be to reschedule marijuana and put it under the regulation of the FDA but the possibility of this Congress acting on this anytime soon is nil to zero.

That leads to the question of the administration’s policies which are conflicting to say the least and appear to have some political motivation to modify the criticism of the hard right-wing that is now dominating the conversation. It begs to question whether Holder is being dishonest and hypocritical? Or does he simply lack strong leadership among US Attorneys General? Either way, this isn’t the way this administration is winning any support.

The Just Say Now campaign at FDL has a petition telling Holder to enforce his memo and stop raiding marijuana clinics.

Tell Attorney General Holder: Stop Raiding Medical Marijuana Dispensaries

4 comments

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    • TMC on March 29, 2011 at 3:17 am
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    • RiaD on March 29, 2011 at 3:49 am

    this needs to be on the rec list fer sure!

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