State Should Serve as Official Distributor of Medical Marijuana To Prevent Federal Prosecutions, Advocates Say
The San Francisco Chronicle yesterday examined a recommendation from medical marijuana advocates that the state government take responsibility for the oversight of medical marijuana distribution in the California or become the official distributor to help address the legal challenges against Proposition 215 by the federal government (Egelko, San Francisco Chronicle, 2/6). Under Proposition 215, a ballot measure approved by California voters in 1996 and upheld by the state Supreme Court last July, patients with chronic diseases can use medical marijuana to treat pain. However, federal law prohibits the cultivation, distribution or possession of marijuana (California Healthline, 2/3). Local advocates and government officials have taken responsibility for the oversight and distribution of medical marijuana under Proposition 215 through a number of agreements. However, the agreements often depend on "semi-official dispensaries as well as growers ... that have proved too big for federal prosecutors to ignore, but too small to withstand a legal onslaught," according to the Chronicle. Advocates maintain that a medical marijuana distribution system operated by the state or local governments would make participants "less vulnerable" to federal prosecution, the Chronicle reports. "You need the state to step in before the feds are going to blink," Dave Fratello, a spokesperson for the Campaign for New Drug Policies, said. Dan Abrahamson, legal director of the Drug Policy Alliance, added, "If the (state or local) government is helping with the distribution of medical marijuana and also taking great pains to ensure that it does not cross state lines, the federal government may not have jurisdiction." However, Richard Meyer, spokesperson for the Drug Enforcement Administration San Francisco office, said, "Regardless of the individual or institution, cultivation and distribution of marijuana is illegal, and anyone who engages in it is in harm's way" (San Francisco Chronicle, 2/6).
The federal prosecution of medical marijuana advocate Ed Rosenthal was "shameful" and should "cost President Bush and Attorney General John Ashcroft dearly in the court of public opinion," a Sacramento Bee editorial states (Sacramento Bee, 2/6). Last week, a federal jury found that Rosenthal conspired to cultivate more than 100 marijuana plants, a crime that carries a minimum five-year sentence (California Healthline, 2/3). Medical marijuana "is a situation where the court of public opinion is relevant to the courts of justice," and Proposition 215 "clearly conveyed a prevailing public sentiment that distinguishes between recreational use of marijuana and consumption to stimulate an appetite after a grueling round of chemotherapy," the editorial states. "State courts are not blind to this difference, for Proposition 215 and all its vagaries can be fully vetted in a state trial," but federal courts "can ignore state and local medicinal marijuana policies," the editorial states. According to the editorial, Congress should "right this wrong by passing a law allowing state medicinal marijuana statutes to be introduced as evidence in federal courts if they are relevant to the particular case" and "bring to an end federal prosecution of medicinal marijuana cultivators such as Rosenthal." The editorial concludes, "That would all be good for the real war on drugs" (Sacramento Bee, 2/6).
The Washington Post today profiles the Wo/Men's Alliance for Medical Marijuana, a medical marijuana cooperative that "made news around the world" last year when federal agents arrested the founders of the group and seized the group's marijuana plants (Nieves, Washington Post, 2/7).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.