State and Federal Marijuana Laws Collide

November 9, 2010 – People who use marijuana for medicinal purposes in states where it is legal are being penalized by the federal government because pot is still illegal under U.S. law.

At Denver unemployment offices, medical users fired for failing a drug test are denied unemployment benefits, says lawyer Kimberlie Ryan, who represents some of those applicants.

In California, Jim Lacy, 60, who has an arthritic hip and uses medical marijuana for pain relief, says he has had his stash confiscated and been threatened with arrest at Border Patrol checkpoints near his Jacumba home.

In Las Vegas, N.M., cancer patient Robert Jones, 70, says he has been notified that his federal rent subsidy is being revoked because he is a medical-marijuana user.

Marijuana dispensary operator Steve DeAngelo of Harborside Health Center in Oakland says his federally insured bank dumped his account because he deals in an illegal drug.

Problems occur at airport security checkpoints in medical marijuana states. Baggage screeners, who work for the federal Transportation Security Administration, turn medical marijuana users over to local police for prosecution, according to Ed Skvarna, chief of the Burbank airport police.

“It’s outrageous, but the government’s cannabis policies are outrageous,” says Bill Panzer, an Oakland lawyer who co-wrote the nation’s first medical-marijuana law, approved by California voters in 1996.

The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy website says smoking marijuana “is not considered modern medicine.” It says the drug has a high potential for abuse, the smoke can be as harmful as cigarettes, and it has not been proven effective under the standards of the Food and Drug Administration.

The Justice Department does not usually prosecute medical-marijuana users, but officials of other federal agencies say they are required to treat pot as an illegal drug.

“We’re charged with enforcing federal law,” says Border Patrol spokeswoman Kelly Ivahnenko.

Landlords “may exercise discretion” in deciding whether to evict tenants who use medical marijuana, says Helen Kanovsky, general counsel for the Department of Housing and Urban Development. New Mexico HUD administrator Mandy Griego says HUD’s policy is that pot, “for medicinal purposes or not,” is prohibited at HUD-subsidized properties, and termination for possession “must be applied consistently for all tenants.” By Oren Dorell. Source.

Further Reading:
LAWS: Conflicts trap patients on medical marijuana
MORE: Medical pot use, job rules can conflict

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