Rep. Bob Filner and congressional colleagues are urging President Barack Obama to reschedule marijuana as a legitimate controlled substance for medicinal purposes.
In a letter dated Oct. 28, the lawmakers expressed concerns with the Justice Department’s recent crackdown against California medical marijuana dispensaries that are operating legally under state law. State and local governments must be allowed to develop and enforce their own public health laws with regard to medical cannabis, they wrote.
“During your presidential campaign, you repeatedly pledged to end federal raids against the individuals and collectives authorized by state law to use or provide medical cannabis, giving hope to patients who legitimately use medical cannabis to treat their conditions that their long struggle to safely access their medicine was finally over,” the letter states.
“By pursuing the same harsh policies that have been in place for years, we fear that the federal government will push legitimate patients back into the uncertainty and danger of the illicit market.”
California’s four U.S. attorneys held a news conference last month to announce statewide raids along with the mailing of letters to dozens of medical marijuana dispensary directors and their landlords warning them to close in 45 days or risk criminal prosecution and property confiscations.
U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy, whose district includes San Diego and Imperial counties, confirmed that her office has mailed similar letters to hundreds of property owners. In announcing the effort, Duffy referred to the state’s cannabis trade as a “pervasive, for-profit industry” that violates federal law and has little to do with providing medicine to the sick.
The Justice Department did not respond to requests for comment. The White House also would not comment on the Oct. 28 letter but pointed to a recent statement from the director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy on regulating marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol.
Gil Kerlikowske, responding to a petition on the White House website, cited National Institutes of Health research that marijuana use is associated with addiction, respiratory disease, and cognitive impairment.
“Simply put, it is not a benign drug,” he wrote.
Kerlikowske said his office remains interested in the potential marijuana may have in providing relief to those with serious illnesses and supports ongoing research to determine what components of the cannabis plant can be used as medicine.
“To date, however, neither the FDA nor the Institute of Medicine have found smoked marijuana to meet the modern standard for safe or effective medicine for any condition,” Kerlikowske said.
But in their letter, the representatives said physicians would continue to recommend marijuana to alleviate several serious illnesses and medical conditions that have not responded to other medications and treatments.
“The actions mandated in these letters and echoed at the ensuing news conference directly interfere with California’s 15-year-old medical cannabis law by eliminating safe access to medication for the state’s thousands of medical cannabis patients,” they wrote.
Approved as a ballot measure in 1996, Proposition 215 allows patients with a doctor’s approval to use marijuana and receive it from their caregivers. The measure passed 56 percent to 44 statewide and 52 percent to 48 percent in San Diego County.
State legislation in 2003 and guidelines from then-Attorney General Jerry Brown in 2009 authorized distribution by nonprofit collectives, but much of that was not delineated in law.
On Friday, Secretary of State Debra Bowen announced that proponents of an initiative to decriminalize marijuana — “Regulate Marijuana Like Wine” — can begin collecting petition signatures for the November ballot. They have until March 26 to collect 504,760 signatures from registered voters.
Filner, D-San Diego, is the first local lawmaker to publicly oppose the Obama administration’s recent enforcement efforts. Filner, who is running for mayor of San Diego, did not respond to several requests for comment.
In a statement, District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis said she supports California’s medical marijuana laws. But Dumanis, a mayoral candidate, said the state remains at a crossroads in part because the voter-approved proposition and subsequent Senate bill were both poorly written laws that continue to need clarification through additional state legislation.
“Voters passed the Compassionate Use Act 15 years ago,” said Dumanis, who pledged to bring all levels of government together to coordinate a lasting, legal solution. “This has been going on too long for us not to get it right.”
Filner and the eight congressional colleagues who signed the letter noted that threats against property owners in California come after several months of “federal interference” in other states with laws that permit medical marijuana for the ill. That includes SWAT-style federal raids in at least seven such states and threats of criminal prosecution against state and local officials there.
Last week, the marijuana advocacy organization Americans for Safe Access sued the federal government, arguing that the Obama administration was attempting to subvert state and local medical marijuana laws. The group, which represents some 20,000 patients, alleges that the administration instituted a policy to dismantle local laws and coerce municipalities to pass bans on dispensaries.
Americans for Safe Access cites examples in Sacramento and Eureka where officials suspended plans to issue operating permits for approved medical marijuana collectives. Meanwhile, separate lawsuits from patients, dispensaries and their landlords challenging the crackdown are expected soon.
The bipartisan group of congressional members detailed campaign statements by Obama and later memos from his administration signaling plans not to focus federal resources on individuals who were obeying state and local medical marijuana laws.
The letter called Obama to reclassify marijuana from a Schedule I drug to a Schedule II or III drug to effectively harmonize federal law with the laws of states. Or, it asked the president to publicly support legislation such as House Resolution 1983, the States’ Medical Marijuana Patient Protection Act, that would change federal statute to achieve this same goal.
Filner and California Democrats Sam Farr, Mike Thompson, Pete Stark, Barbara Lee and Lynn Woolsey signed the letter. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Costa Mesa, and Democrats Jared Polis of Colorado and Steve Cohen of Tennessee joined them.
News Hawk- Jacob Ebel 420 MAGAZINE
Author: Christopher Cadelago
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Website: Filner urges Obama to back off medical pot