Impact of federal threats felt by marijuana patients

January 30, 2012

Mary Anderson, Redwood Times

With Humboldt County extending their dispensary moratorium for a year and Mendocino County ending its zip tie medical marijuana program, medical marijuana patients have lost their access to safe, legal medicine and attempts to implement Prop 215, which was approved by the voters 15 years ago, have come to an impasse.

The announcement by U.S.

Attorney Melinda Haag that her office intended to go after dispensary owners and county officials effectively ended the efforts of local jurisdictions, working with groups such as the Humboldt Growers Association and Mendo Grown, to build a framework for medical marijuana.

”The patients should always be out front,” says Emerald Growers Association executive director Alison Sterling Nichols. Emerald Growers Association is a new coalition formed by the Humboldt Growers Association and Mendo Grown to continue their work on medical marijuana. It’s working with more than 20 other state groups on the California Medical Marijuana Regulation and Control Act, an initiative to give what Nichols calls “definition” to Prop 215. That initiative is working its way towards the ballot and Nichols says the backers expect it to be on the November, 2012 ballot.

The feeling behind the initiative is that having individual counties and cities drafting the ordinances makes everybody more vulnerable to federal attack. Having a statewide system will be a more defensible system and will make clear what is allowed and what is not. The initiative is also being drafted to be more acceptable at the federal level.

Features of the initiative include protection for small farmers and the goal of a healthy industry.

Nichols says that there is a lot of skepticism among some law enforcement personnel and people who have never known anyone who benefited from medical marijuana. Nichols, a former resident of Salmon Creek, says her father used marijuana to control his nausea while receiving radiation treatments for the cancer that took his life. Knowing someone who has benefited from medical marijuana changes people’s attitudes towards it, she says.

The federal government continues to maintain that marijuana has no medical value at a time when research into the various constituents of cannabis and its use by thousands of patients indicates it does have medical value.

Nichols says that it comes down to a case of state law versus federal law and that states have a right to uphold their own laws. But she sympathizes with the county officials who are being threatened with prosecution for trying to regulate medical marijuana.

Americans for Safe Access, which represents medical marijuana patients, has taken their cause to court. They have a filed a brief in federal court to seek a change in the classification of cannabis.

The appeal is directed at the Obama Administration’s decision to deny a nine year old petition to reclassify cannabis under federal law. The action is intended to force the federal government to move medical cannabis off the list of drugs that are considered dangerous and have no accepted medical use.

According to a release from Americans for Safe Access, the Institute of Medicine at the National Academy of Science has published a definitive report on medical cannabis and numerous professional organizations have adopted policies acknowledging medical cannabis, including the American Medical Association and the American College of Physicians.

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