Recent Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) activity in Lake County, Los Angeles, and Colorado is cause for concern for medical cannabis patients and advocates. We hoped that federal raids were over when the White House and US Attorney General Eric Holder signaled a willingness to develop a new policy on medical cannabis earlier this year. The circumstances for each of the recent raids differ, but each illustrates a need for the Administration to move more quickly in crafting and implementing that new policy.
This week, the California Senate approved Senate Joint Resolution 14 (SJR 14), a resolution authored by Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) and sponsored by Americans for Safe Access (ASA) that calls for specific changes in federal law. SJR 14 calls for an end to federal interference and intimidation, an affirmative defense for medical cannabis defendants in federal court, and an end to barriers to scientific research. The resolution also calls on the President and Congress to develop a comprehensive federal policy to protect every patient in the United States who uses cannabis to treat HIV/AIDS, cancer, Multiple Sclerosis, chronic pain, or other serious illness.
SJR 14 is part of a strategic plan at ASA to coordinate state and federal advocacy at an historic moment in history. We are far from finished with this work, and we can expect more DEA raids and other federal intimidation before we succeed in harmonizing federal law with state law. But we should not be discouraged that the promise of the new federal policy is still unfulfilled. We are making progress. DEA raids have diminished dramatically from the dark days of the Bush Administration, federal threats against property owners in California have stopped altogether, and we are even seeing movement in Congress.
After the California Assembly approves SJR 14, ASA staff and members will work hard to be sure that Democratic leaders in the US Congress have the California legislature’s instruction in mind when they consider new legislation like US Representative Barney Frank’s HR 2835. That bill will would provide federal legal protections for all qualified patients and caregivers in states that have legalized the use of medical cannabis, as well as any entity authorized under local or state law to distribute medical cannabis.
SJR 14 is one example of how ASA’s strategic coordination can make a difference nationwide. Do not be discouraged when medical cannabis opponents push back. Our persistent work is paying off, and you are helping to make a difference.