Drug Law

Calif. Medical Marijuana Bill Would End Federal Interference

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-- Resolution urges the
President and Congress to develop comprehensive policy


SACRAMENTO ---
State Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco)
introduced a joint resolution late yesterday that urges the federal government
to end medical marijuana raids in California and to "create a
comprehensive federal medical marijuana policy that ensures safe and legal
access to any patient that would benefit from it." The resolution, SJR 14,
is coming at a time when the Obama Administration has signaled a willingness to
change federal policy, but has yet to come forward with an actual
implementation plan.

Despite such willingness by the Obama Administration, Senator Leno points out
that, "Patients and providers in California remain at risk of arrest and
prosecution by federal law enforcement and legally established medical
marijuana cooperatives continue to be the subjects of federal raids."
However, once passed, "this resolution will clearly state the
Legislature's opposition to federal interference with California's medical
marijuana law and support for expanded federal reform and medical
research," continued Leno.

Introduction of the joint resolution comes on the heels of repeated statements
made by the Obama Administration for a "new American policy" with
regard to medical marijuana. However, several Drug Enforcement Administration
(DEA) raids have occurred in California since the president took office.
"Not only do we need an end to federal interference in the implementation
of California's medical marijuana law," said Don Duncan, California
Director of Americans for Safe Access, the national medical marijuana advocacy
group sponsoring the legislation. "The entire country need a sensible,
comprehensive medical marijuana policy."

The joint resolution urges President Obama and Congress to "move quickly
to end federal raids, intimidation, and interference with state medical
marijuana law." But, it goes further by asking the government to establish
"an affirmative defense to medical marijuana charges in federal court and
establish federal legal protection for individuals authorized by state and
local law..." Because of the 2005 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Gonzales
v. Raich
, federal medical marijuana defendants are prevented from using a
medical or state law defense. "With more than two dozen of these
defendants currently being prosecuted by the Justice Department, each of them
facing years in prison, such a change to Justice Department policy would be
timely, relevant and critically important," continued Duncan.

The resolution also addresses the need to expand research into the medical
benefits of marijuana, a recommendation of the White House-commissioned
Institute of Medicine report from 1999. Currently, a federal monopoly on the
cultivation of marijuana for research purposes has stifled the ability to
conduct FDA-approved scientific studies. To address this, the resolution urges
the President and Congress "to adopt policies and laws to encourage
advanced clinical research trials into the therapeutic use of marijuana."