Wednesday, May 27, 2009

'USA: The battle over medical marijuana'

'USA: The battle over medical marijuana'
by Hoa Quach

[caption id="attachment_76703" align="alignright" width="180" caption="Photo by Neeta Lind on Flickr"][/caption]

In the United States, 13 states currently allow citizens to use marijuana for medicinal purposesa, but even these limited rights are under threat. In response, many Americans have created blogs to support and extend the legalization of marijuana.

The American debate over legalizing marijuana (cannabis) can be traced back to the early 1900s when people began using it for recreational purposes. More than one hundred years have passed and the debate hasn't loss one ounce of heat.

State vs. federal law in courts

In February, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the federal government would no longer raid medical marijuana clubs that abide by state laws. Despite this announcement, those opposing the drug are still fighting the battle. Most recently, a Republican Senator in Oklahoma, Tom Coburn, introduced an amendment to a bill that would force states to abide by the federal government, which has not yet passed a bill to legalize marijuana nationwide. The amendment failed to pass by a narrow vote on May 21.

A blogger for NORML Daily Stash, Dudemaster, quoted from an article on Opposing Views by Americans for Safe Access about the foiled attempt to stop medical marijuana:
"At present, the only way for medical marijuana to be properly evaluated by the FDA is for privately-funded sponsors to conduct FDA-approved clinical trials (like any other drug evaluation). If Senator Coburn's intentions with regard to the medical efficacy of marijuana were genuine, he would consider first removing the monopoly imposed by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) on licenses for the cultivation of medical-grade cannabis for research purposes. Currently, the DEA exclusively licenses the cultivation of medical-grade cannabis to the National Institute for Drug Abuse (NIDA), which primarily investigates only the negative effects of cannabis. This monopoly obstructs any investigation and research in the U.S. into the medical properties of cannabis and thwarts the normal drug approval process.
In California, a longtime legal battle also came to an end earlier this month. Two counties, San Diego and San Bernardino, attempted to overturn a 1996 state law that allows the medical usage of marijuana by bringing the case to the U.S. Supreme Court. They lost the case on May 18. Scott Morgan of the Stop the Drug War Organization blogged about the counties'  court loss:
"For the hundredth time, conflict with federal law is not an obstacle to passing and implementing state laws that permit medical marijuana. Federal law enforcement can come in and cause trouble, but that doesn't make state laws invalid. Those laws still apply and provide valuable protection against state police, who patients are more likely to come in contact with.

The very idea that federal law somehow cancels out state policies is just some made-up nonsense that enemies of medical marijuana have been spewing in desperation for several years now. Nice try, but you're wrong. Case closed."
[caption id="attachment_76799" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Medical marijuana club in San Francisco, by Thomas Hawk on Flickr"][/caption]

Joe Elford from Americans for Safe Access blogged about his experience in a court room in California on May 26 where he presented an oral argument in favor of medical marijuana. The case concerns a group of cannabis patients who claim to have been harassed by the sheriff's department.
I had an oral argument before the Court of Appeal for the Third Appellate District, which is a state court in Sacramento. The case is Williams v. Butte County , which involves a small patient collective, which was harassed by the Butte County Sheriff's Office. Specifically, Williams and six other patients pooled their labor and resources to maintain a 41-plant garden on Williams' property. During one of the notorious Butte County sweeps several years ago, Deputy Sheriff Jacob Hancock came to Williams' property without a warrant and required him to tear down all but twelve of the plants upon threat of arrest...
Blogging for marijuana rights

Although medical marijuana is legal in California, only 12 other states have adopted the same policy. This leaves many advocates constantly campaigning to legalize the drug nationwide. Advocates have taken their protest to the blogosphere, often listing the many reasons why marijuana is beneficial.

On the blog of the Marijuana Policy Project, MPP Blog, Bruce Mirken presents a study that shows cannabis can help against colorectal cancer, and insists that medical marijuana "is not just about getting high".

The Stimulist gives five reasons why he think marijuana will be legalized - including the fact that baby boomers are growing older; the decline in the popularity of the drug war; and the economic benefits:
"California's economy is hurting, and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is looking for any way he can to make some money. San Quentin and the L.A. Coliseum are for sale, but the most drastic measure he's taken is calling for a study on legalizing dope. "Creating extra revenues, I'm always for an open debate on it," he said earlier this month."
Entire online news communities about marijuana have been created, including maps that show users where to find the nearest cannabis clubs, photo sharing communities and forums.

Despite, its many supporters - opposition is still strong and therefore, a federal law legalizing marijuana may be far down the road.

Deb-HAS-grn blogs at Green Passion about a conversation she had recently with her son.
"I was talking to my son a few months ago about my love of growing and my new place on the internet, Green Passion, I also was saying to him, As I get older my desire to need to see pot legalized grows stronger and stronger. His words responding to that should not of surprised me as I have thought the same myself, but at the time when he said to me, Mom I am sorry to say this but I honestly don't think they will legalize marijuana for many many years to come. It kind of hit me hard hearing those words and thinking I may never see the day that I would be legal to grow and smoke as I please. And I am not talking about the first much needed legalization of medical marijuana in all countries, I am talking about the freedom to do as I please when I please when it comes to weed."

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