Changing federal view of medical-marijuana laws creates opportunity

May 15th, 2009 – AT long last, policymakers in the nation’s capital have begun to draw a line between illicit drug use and the legitimate use of drugs as medicine. In March, President Obama’s attorney general announced the federal government will no longer prosecute medical-marijuana clinics that operate in compliance with state laws. This means lawmakers in Olympia are now free to decide — without federal interference — how to regulate medical marijuana within Washington state.

Thirteen states, including Washington, have pioneered the removal of criminal penalties for the use of medical marijuana and actively regulate how, with a medical doctor’s recommendation, marijuana is made available for patients with cancer, AIDS, multiple sclerosis, severe pain, glaucoma, epilepsy and other chronic conditions. Full article here.

Until now, federal agents have disregarded these state laws. For example, since California legalized medical marijuana in 1996, drug-enforcement agents have raided more than 100 marijuana-distribution centers there.

The first step has been taken with President Obama’s tacit acknowledgment that closing down state-regulated marijuana clinics is a misuse of taxpayers’ money and harmful to Americans coping with serious illnesses.

Many thousands of ill people attest that smoking, vaporizing or orally ingesting marijuana relieves pain, nausea and other symptoms far more effectively than Marinol, a pharmaceutically available synthetic version of marijuana. The federal government still officially maintains — contrary to solid medical evidence — that marijuana has no medicinal value.

Perhaps the pioneer states will now serve as public-policy laboratories for other states. According to the Marijuana Policy Project, a Washington, D.C.,-based advocate for legalizing medical marijuana, 14 states never have passed a law dealing with medical marijuana and 23 states have limited legislative experience with using marijuana for medical purposes.

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