A little ray of sanity from President Obama: the feds won’t be going after legitimate users of medical marijuana. This will be welcome news in San Francisco, where federal raids on legal suppliers during the Bush administration met with widespread protests; possibly unwelcome news in Los Angeles, which is cracking down on its over-supply of dispensaries; and interesting news in the U.K., where guardian.uk.com reported on it Monday.
The US justice department today told federal law enforcement officials to shift resources away from investigation and prosecution of medical marijuana users and suppliers.
In a memo sent this morning to federal prosecutors, officials at president Barack Obama’s justice department said that prosecutions of individuals who are clearly using or supplying marijuana for medical purposes are “unlikely to be an efficient use of limited federal resources” if the targets otherwise comply with state and federal laws.
Fourteen states allow some use of marijuana for medical purposes, though it remains banned under federal law. The Bush and Clinton administrations – the first to grapple with the conflict – essentially ignored the state laws, treating medical marijuana as illegal.
“The federal government is no longer at war with the 13 states that have chosen to allow patients to use marijuana for medical purposes,” said Bruce Mirken, spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project, which favours decriminalisation of the drug.
“It’s going to provide relief to a lot of people who have been anxious about whether or not they’re going to be arrested for helping patients get their doctor-recommended medicine,” said Tom Angell, a spokesman for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, which claims 1,500 former police, prosecutors, border patrol agents and other one-time fighters in the war on drugs among its membership.
This would’ve been good news for my sister, whose brief search for relief a few decades ago was mentioned in the post below. It would’ve made life a little easier for a lot of people with AIDS in recent decades. Set aside the arguments pro or con recreational use; when a drug is known to help suffering people, and is legal in a particular city or state, wasting federal tax dollars to interfere seems to make very little sense.
The memo doesn’t legalize marijuana or end prosecution of illegal, for-profit sales etc. It does, though, leave these to local federal officials. And clarifies the federal government’s position.
It puts into writing remarks by attorney general Eric Holder, who in March said the federal government would end raids on legitimate medical marijuana dispensaries. Obama has indicated he is sympathetic to medical marijuana use, noting during the presidential campaign that his mother had died of cancer and that he saw no difference between morphine prescribed by doctors and marijuana used to relieve pain.
I don’t do pain very well. Given its prevalence in long, drawn-out illnesses today, I’m in favor of whatever palliative care and pain-relieving medicines there are. It is nice to have a president who understands.