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State, Federal Law Conflict Creates Marijuana Haze

Jim Finnel

Fallen Cannabis Warrior & Ex News Moderator
It's hard to blame the Kern County Board of Supervisors for its decision last week to take no action on the conundrum posed by conflicting laws related to medical marijuana dispensaries. Almost any action the supervisors might have taken would've run afoul of someone or something.

Supervisors should have taken this step, though: Demand that our state and federal elected officials provide some leadership in getting the dilemma resolved.

California became one of 12 states to legalize marijuana use for medical purposes when voters approved Proposition 215 in 1996. Like many laws enacted through the initiative process, Proposition 215 is full of loopholes and unforeseen consequences that make meaningful state and county regulation challenging at best.

The biggest challenge of all lies in the fact that federal law prohibits the sale and use of marijuana, period. The federal Drug Enforcement Agency has been having a field day over the past several months, arresting marijuana dispensary owners in possession of legitimately obtained county permits.

Sometimes, as has been the case in Kern County, the local Sheriff's Department is providing manpower support on DEA busts -- in effect, helping arrest suspects for crimes committed with the sheriff's tacit approval.

Does that make Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood a co-conspirator in a series of federal crimes? Clearly we've gone through the looking glass on this one. No wonder Youngblood eventually opted to stop issuing permits -- at the potential risk, we assume, of flouting state law.

We need to rectify this bizarre state of affairs by cleaning up the inadequacies of the law created by Proposition 215. Those voluntary medical marijuana ID cards need to be mandatory and foolproof, for the protection of the user if nothing else. As it stands, less than 2 percent of medical marijuana users apply for the ID cards.

Prescribing physicians need to be held to higher standards so that the fly-by-night quacks who travel up and down the state, renting motel rooms from which they issue prescription "recommendations" -- often without demanding compelling evidence of medical need -- are reined in. Regulations pertaining the dispensing of medical marijuana should be as stringent as those pertaining to other pain medications subject to abuse, such as OxyContin.

State law should also tighten the amount of marijuana a single patient can possess at any one time. California law currently allows much greater quantities than other states that allow medical marijuana possession. The larger the quantity, the bigger the likelihood that black-market abuse will take place, either among dispensaries or patients.

But before any of those steps can meaningfully address reform of the medical marijuana dispensing system, Congress must act to eliminate galling conflicts.

Some in Congress, including Reps. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Huntington Beach, and Maurice Hinchey, D-N.Y., are getting behind a bill -- similar to 2005's failed Hinchey Amendment -- that would cut off funding for the prosecution of medical marijuana patients in states that have approved such programs.

Until Congress takes that step, nothing undertaken by California voters, or by the state Legislature, can go anywhere -- except up in smoke.



News Hawk- User http://www.420Magazine.com
Source: lists.safeaccessnow.org
Contact: ASA
Copyright: 2007 The Bakersfield Californian
Website: ASA's medical marijuana discussion group for Los Angeles
 
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