California Medical Marijuana Bill Calls for End to Federal Interference

June 09, 2009
Sacramento, CA -- State Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) introduced a joint resolution late yesterday that urges the federal government to end medical marijuana raids in California and to "create a comprehensive federal medical marijuana policy that ensures safe and legal access to any patient that would benefit from it." The resolution, SJR 14, is coming at a time when the Obama Administration has signaled a willingness to change federal policy, but has yet to come forward with an actual implementation plan.

Despite such willingness by the Obama Administration, Senator Leno points out that, "Patients and providers in California remain at risk of arrest and prosecution by federal law enforcement and legally established medical marijuana cooperatives continue to be the subjects of federal raids." However, once passed, "this resolution will clearly state the Legislature's opposition to federal interference with California's medical marijuana law and support for expanded federal reform and medical research," continued Leno.

Introduction of the joint resolution comes on the heels of repeated statements made by the Obama Administration for a "new American policy" with regard to medical marijuana. However, several Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) raids have occurred in California since the president took office. "Not only do we need an end to federal interference in the implementation of California's medical marijuana law," said Don Duncan, California Director of Americans for Safe Access, the national medical marijuana advocacy group sponsoring the legislation. "The entire country need a sensible, comprehensive medical marijuana policy."

The joint resolution urges President Obama and Congress to "move quickly to end federal raids, intimidation, and interference with state medical marijuana law." But, it goes further by asking the government to establish "an affirmative defense to medical marijuana charges in federal court and establish federal legal protection for individuals authorized by state and local law..." Because of the 2005 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Gonzales v. Raich, federal medical marijuana defendants are prevented from using a medical or state law defense. "With more than two dozen of these defendants currently being prosecuted by the Justice Department, each of them facing years in prison, such a change to Justice Department policy would be timely, relevant and critically important," continued Duncan.

The resolution also addresses the need to expand research into the medical benefits of marijuana, a recommendation of the White House-commissioned Institute of Medicine report from 1999. Currently, a federal monopoly on the cultivation of marijuana for research purposes has stifled the ability to conduct FDA-approved scientific studies. To address this, the resolution urges the President and Congress "to adopt policies and laws to encourage advanced clinical research trials into the therapeutic use of marijuana."

Further information:
Senate Joint Resolution on medical marijuana: http://www.AmericansForSafeAccess.org/downloads/SJR_14.pdf
ASA fact sheet on SJR 14: http://www.AmericansForSafeAccess.org/downloads/SJR14_Fact_Sheet.pdf

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