Posted by Kris Hermes
Americans for Safe Access (ASA) is currently working with the Obama Administration to change federal policy with regard to medical cannabis (marijuana). So, it was with unbridled enthusiasm that I explained to the editorial department of the Los Angeles Times last week what it meant for the recently seated Attorney General Eric Holder to embrace a “new American policy.” As I extolled the virtues of suspending the federal government’s enforcement policy of raiding medical cannabis dispensaries in California, I also explained that we were not stopping there with what we expected from a new federal policy.
In advance of President Obama taking office, ASA put together a set of policy recommendations so that we had a vehicle to advance sensible changes to what has been an incredibly harmful strategy of attacking medical cannabis patients and undermining the laws of California and other states. With President Obama’s campaign promise that he “would not have the Justice Department prosecuting and raiding medical marijuana users,” advocates had something with which to hold the new president’s feet to the fire. It was further gratifying for the White House to make a statement to the Washington Times after President Obama took office clarifying that, “federal resources should not be used to circumvent state laws.” And, most recently, in a press conference on February 25th, Holder affirmed earlier statements in regard to suspending the use of Justice Department funds to enforce federal marijuana laws in states that have adopted protections for medical cannabis patients.
Therefore, it was with great excitement that I read in Monday’s Los Angeles Times an editorial that agreed with the direction of the Justice Department in this regard, but also stated the need to advance beyond simply suspending enforcement. If the new Administration wanted to curtail enforcement, why would it want to continue prosecuting the more than twenty pending federal cases involving medical cannabis? And, why would it want to let state law-abiding citizens languish in federal prison for sentences ranging from 5 to 20 years? And, why was the Justice Department still threatening landlords of medical cannabis providers with criminal prosecution and seizure of their property? The Times rightly concluded that, “Stopping the raids is certainly worthwhile…but as a long-term policy, it is unworkable,” and that, “The country needs a comprehensive policy, not just a wink and a nod.”
And, it was with even greater excitement that I read in today’s Los Angeles Times a follow-up editorial that the federal government should end its monopoly on the cultivation of medical cannabis used for research, which has created “a dearth of academic research into its therapeutic properties.” Again, the Times rightly concluded that instead of obstructing it, “the DEA should encourage cannabis research.”
It is opinions like that of the Los Angeles Times editorial board that will help push the Obama Administration into an era of common sense and compassion for our most vulnerable citizens. Medical marijuana is not a band-aid for otherwise effective treatment protocols; it is a treatment protocol itself. Likewise, Holder and the rest of the Obama Administration should not look to a band-aid-like quick fix for medical marijuana. It should develop the long-term comprehensive policies being called for by advocates and the Los Angeles Times alike.