Supreme Court Ruling on Medical Marijuana Has Little Effect
A month-old Supreme Court ruling prohibiting the distribution of medical marijuana seems to be having "little effect" in the eight states with medical marijuana laws, the AP/Nando Times reports. Authorities in Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Oregon and Washington -- all of which permit possession of marijuana for medical purposes -- say it is "up to federal authorities," not state officials, to enforce the decision (Kravets, AP/Nando Times, 6/13). On May 14, the Supreme Court ruled that "medical necessity" is not a valid defense against federal law prohibiting marijuana distribution, upholding the closure of an Oakland, Calif., cannabis club. But Jim Green, the operator of a San Francisco cannabis club, said that "business has thrived" since the ruling. The AP/Nando Times reports that some states have "even moved to expand marijuana laws" in the past month: On June 3, Colorado moved to comply with a state voter initiative requiring the licensing of medical marijuana users; on June 4, Nevada lawmakers followed a voter referendum and adopted a medical marijuana measure that Gov. Kenny Guinn (R) has said he will sign; and on June 6, the California Senate approved a bill "legalizing marijuana cooperatives for the sick." Maine attorney general spokesperson Chuck Dow said state prosecutors "aren't too involved with enforcing the federal law," although Maine lawmakers have "shelved" a plan to distribute the drug to sick residents in response to the ruling.
To date, the Bush administration has taken "no public action" on the ruling. "I think they are biding their time and being very careful for which organizations or persons they are going to target first ... because that is what is going to get all the media attention," Tim Lynch, Cato Institute director of criminal justice studies, said. Others speculate that the Justice Department is hoping the "decision will scare medical marijuana providers out of business," or that the White House simply "has more important issues to handle." Robert Raich, an attorney for the Oakland Cannabis Buyers Cooperative, noted that federal enforcement of the ruling might "open a Pandora's box of new legal questions," since the decision left open several constitutional questions, including Congress' right to interfere with interstate commerce and states' right to "experiment with" their own laws (AP/Nando Times, 6/13).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.