Obama Swings the Mailed Fist Against States 020112
The new American struggle is heating up. The Obama Administration continues to move against states with medical marijuana programs. Likely the outcome of this (hopefully) bloodless battle will define a new relationship between Washington and the states. So far, just as Obama has strengthened the executive branch in foreign policy, he has gone against his word and is wielding federal power against the states. This forces citizens to rely on their elected officials in Washington- always a frightening situation. However, elected state officials are making what stand they can.
Governor Jan Brewer of Arizona filed a lawsuit asking a federal court to decide if Arizona could enact the laws its people and legislature had created though cannabis is still illegal under federal law. The court dodged the question by saying the state didn’t have standing to bring the suit until a state employee was under direct threat of prosecution. Though Obama has prosecuted medical cannabis dispensaries in California, Montana and Washington, the administration hasn’t yet called on its power to bring force on state governments. As long as only citizens are persecuted, the feds will avoid a new venue for legal fighting. Still, Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy's National Marijuana Initiative Thomas LaNier has been quoted as saying that municipal and state employees would be prosecuted for their part in making medical marijuana available to sick people.
Meanwhile, Governor Brewer, a Republican who was against medical marijuana prior to the popular vote, has instructed state workers to implement the dispensary law the people enacted, a notable instance of a politician working for the people.
The Arizona law requires patients to buy from a dispensary unless they live too far away, then they may grow their own or appoint someone to grow. The Arizona Medical Marijuana law intends that patients have legal access, which runs afoul of Obama’s edicts on medical cannabis.
Several dispensaries were raided in Washington state. The law in Washington is nearly as vague as that of California, and dispensaries there are not specifically allowed or implicated in law. In that instance, the feds risked very little since the state does not have a thriving medical marijuana access system, the governor there was against medical marijuana, and the poorly written law does not specify how sick people are to get their ganja.
Colorado, even more than California, is likely to be the flash point of resistance against the heavy hand of the feds. The feds have not attacked the Colorado law directly, but instead targeted dispensaries that were within 1000 feet of a school, giving them 45 days to close down or get busted. Those dispensaries were allowed under Colorado law because they were in place before Colorado’s “1000 foot” law was enacted. It puts the state in a weak position to fight the “1000 foot” rule, since current legal and legislative custom allows “zones of reduced civil liberties and increased criminal penalties” around “wholesome” places like schools, libraries, churches and swimming pools. However, Colorado voters there were clear in their mandate, and the state made an organized effort to set up a system of safe, regulated medical cannabis; it might be a model for California.
It is possible that Attorney General Kamilla Harris was
seeking Colorado style structure, and the defense against the feds it might
provide, when, in early January, she sent a letter to the legislature asking
them to clarify and organize how medical marijuana patients in California are
to get their medicine.
Seal of the Great State of Ganjaforina. Available on a T-shirt (PHOTO LINK)
The California legislature is considering a bill which would make it illegal to discriminate against an employee who uses medical marijuana. The bill has support among voters, but there is a strong likelihood that Republicans in the legislature will complain “on behalf” of insurers and business owners, even though it is already illegal to discriminate against employees for medical conditions requiring prescription drugs. The bill would clarify several points, including allowing prisoners to use medical herb in jail, and allowing employers to prevent the use of medical marijuana during work hours. The bill has a fair chance of passing, and a similar bill passed in 2008 but Governator Schwarzenegger vetoed it. It remains to be seen if Brown will do better.
At the federal level, a group of governors of states with medical marijuana laws has approached Obama asking him to reschedule medical marijuana to allow doctors to dispense it. On analysis, that seems like a good plan for Obama to reschedule and “medicalize” cannabis, since it would essentially require the drug to go through the same testing and protocol as other drugs, removing it from the hands of the people and giving it to pharmaceutical factories, thus a “Devil’s deal” which gives the people what they ask for, but not what they want.
In the meantime, the people continue to lead, as there are more marijuana legalization and medical marijuana regulation bills before legislators and voters than ever. California recently reduced illegal possession of small amounts to an infraction.
Indeed, a November 2011 EMC poll showed continued strong support among the people for continued decriminalization and even legalization.
Key findings of the California voter survey:
By a large margin, California voters support the state’s law allowing the use of marijuana for medical reasons. More than 7 in 10 (71%) of voters favor the law, and only 26% oppose it.
Voters strongly support employment rights for medical marijuana patients. Two in three voters (66%) agree and only 28% of voters disagree with the statement employers should not be allowed to discriminate against workers who use medical marijuana off the job.
Voters also support changing criminal penalties for certain marijuana offenses from felonies to misdemeanors. A 58% majority say they support a change in the law that would reduce penalties for lesser marijuana sales, cultivation and transportation offenses from felonies to misdemeanors.
A majority of voters (52%) continue to support legalization of marijuana in general.
Research is showing that cannabis has many legitimate uses. An Italian study has shown that a cannabinoid can reduce colon cancer growth; an Israeli study demonstrates that for patients with inflammatory bowel disease cannabis improves quality of life and facilitates weight gain; a study published in Harm Reduction Journal says that cannabis might reduce the number of deaths associated with pain medications. A British study recently showed that cannabis use is not associated with long term cognitive changes, and a Journal of the American Medical Association shows no pulmonary impairment for moderate long term users. Still, Obama isn’t really creating the issue over cannabis, the issue is over federal control, and specifically, the control over the states by the executive branch.
Patriots can help by supporting efforts which restore the option of cannabis use for medicine, or for any reasonable purpose. Begin by allowing people who use medical cannabis to make a legitimate living. Support AB 129 by calling Ted Gaines at (916) 651-4001 and telling him to support the bill which restores ordinary rights to medical marijuana users.