California Bill Urging New Federal Policy on Medical Marijuana Close to Adoption
Resolution passed by Assembly Health Committee today, now moves to floor for final vote
SACRAMENTO -- The California State Assembly Committee on Health voted 10-3 today to pass a resolution urging the federal government to end medical marijuana raids and to "create a comprehensive federal medical marijuana policy that ensures safe and legal access to any patient that would benefit from it." State Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) introduced Senate Joint Resolution (SJR) 14 in June 2009 and, despite a Justice Department policy issued in October 2009, discouraging federal enforcement in medical marijuana states, advocates and state lawmakers are still pushing for a binding change to federal law. The full Senate passed the measure in August 2009 by a vote of 23-15.
"This legislation is needed now more than ever," said Don Duncan of Americans for Safe Access (ASA), the country's largest medical marijuana patient advocacy group and a sponsor of the legislation. "Lest federal officials think their job is done, they need to know their work addressing medical marijuana as a public health issue has only just begun." Duncan testified today before the Assembly Health Committee on behalf of patients.
"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 and prosecutions," said Senator Leno in a prior statement. Federal raids reached a peak during the Bush Administration, with more than 200 DEA raids in California alone, but raids have still continued under the Obama Administration. More than two-dozen patients and providers are currently being prosecuted under federal law and face decades in prison. One such medical marijuana provider, James Stacy, whose dispensary was raided by the DEA in September 2009, a month before the Justice Department policy was issued, is scheduled to go to trial next month.
"Not only do patients in California deserve to be free from federal intrusion," continued Duncan. "But, patients across the country would benefit from a sensible and comprehensive federal medical marijuana policy." SJR 14 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 a U.S. Supreme Court decision, defendants in medical marijuana cases are prevented from using a medical or state law defense in federal court. The Truth in Trials Act, HR 3939, which would correct this problem, is currently pending before Congress.
SJR 14 now proceeds to the Assembly floor and, if passed, the non-binding resolution will be enacted without the Governor's signature or approval. The resolution will then be sent to the President, Vice President, Speaker of the House of Representatives, and to each Senator and Representative of the California Congressional delegation.