Drug Law

L.A. Police Chief Gets it Wrong -- Medical Marijuana is Legal

| by ASA

LA Police Chief William Bratton’s rant of 4/2/09 (AP: LA chief calls state marijuana laws ‘Looney Tunes’) is misunderstood and misguided. Marijuana cannot be prescribed or regulated in the same way as Lipitor or Viagra because the federal government has classified marijuana as a schedule I substance with no medical value.

Despite Chief Bratton’s full support of marijuana “for medicinal use,” along with 80% of the American public, not to mention the mountain of evidence both in the U.S. and abroad that clearly shows marijuana’s medical efficacy, the federal government still has a policy based on politics, not science. Now, that’s “Looney Tunes.”

In addition, Chief Bratton misses the target when condemning dispensaries in LA and fails to recognize the city’s responsible effort to regulate such facilities. Medical marijuana providers ought to be commended for their tenacity and commitment in trying to bring medical marijuana to the thousands of patients living in southern California.

The federal government’s attempt to shut down dispensaries in places like LA and San Diego counties has resulted in dozens of closures in the former county and a complete prohibition of dispensaries in the latter county. This is the case despite Attorney General Jerry Brown’s 2008 guidelines recognizing the legality of dispensaries under state law and outlining a set of recommendations for compliance.

Chief Bratton doesn’t get to choose which laws to enforce. If he doesn’t like state or local law, he cannot merely ignore them for the less discerning federal law, especially now that the Obama Administration has decided not to use Justice Department funds to enforce federal marijuana laws in medical marijuana states like California. It would be more prudent for Chief Bratton to work with the City of LA to ensure safe and legal access to medical marijuana rather than buck the popular and scientific sentiment that is guiding sound public policy.