Federal Lawmakers Should Pass Legislation To ‘Decriminalize’ Medical Marijuana, Sacramento Bee Says
Federal lawmakers should pass a bill (HR 2592) sponsored by Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) that would "decriminalize" the use of medical marijuana in states that allow the practice and establish a "narrow exception" to federal law, which prohibits marijuana use, according to a Sacramento Bee editorial (Sacramento Bee, 8/6). Under Proposition 215, a ballot measure approved by California voters in 1996, patients with chronic diseases such as cancer and AIDS can use medical marijuana to treat pain, and the state Supreme Court last month ruled that residents who cultivate or use medical marijuana with a physician's recommendation are protected from state prosecution under the law (California Healthline, 7/26). Although 11 other states have enacted similar laws, federal law prohibits the cultivation, distribution or possession of marijuana, the editorial states. The editorial points out that Frank has assembled a "strange Washington political coalition" of Democrats and Republicans -- some who "feel for the suffering patients" and others who "simply feel Washington has no business meddling in the medical affairs of their home states" -- to support his bill. The editorial concludes, "That's enough ... to make noise in Washington, but not necessarily pass a bill, particularly when it would face a near-certain veto from an administration that hasn't yet distinguished the war on drugs from the war on cancer pain" (Sacramento Bee , 8/6).
Although "Californians are rightfully aggrieved" by the actions of the federal government to prohibit the use of medical marijuana, the debate "has less to do with pot than it does principle," and the medical marijuana issue may become "one of the most significant federalism cases in decades," Jonathan Turley, a constitutional law professor at George Washington University, writes in a Los Angeles Times opinion piece. For example, in San Francisco, where the Board of Supervisors voted last month to place a measure on the November ballot that calls for the city to examine a program to cultivate and distribute medical marijuana, "ultraliberal" board members have "suddenly taken on states' rights -- normally a conservative stance -- as their cause celebre." Turley writes that the marijuana "controversy will show that liberals have much to gain from federalism, particularly in states like California with a history of bold social programs and experimentation." He concludes, "California may not be right about medical marijuana, but it has a right to be wrong" (Turley, Los Angeles Times, 8/6).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.