California Senate Health Committee Urges New Federal Policy on Medical Marijuana

July 16, 2009
Sacramento, CA -- The California Senate Health Committee voted 7-3 late yesterday on a joint resolution that urges the federal government to end medical marijuana raids in the state and to "create a comprehensive federal medical marijuana policy that ensures safe and legal access to any patient that would benefit from it. " Senate Joint Resolution (SJR) 14, introduced in June by State Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), comes 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.

In a previous statement, Senator Leno said "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." 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.

The Health Committee heard testimony yesterday from Don Duncan, California Director with Americans for Safe Access, the nationwide medical marijuana advocacy group sponsoring the legislation and Lanette Davies, a local Sacramento patient and activist. The resolution now proceeds to the Senate Judiciary Committee then, if passed, to the Senate floor.

Introduction of the joint resolution comes on the heels of repeated statements made by the Obama Administration about a new federal policy with regard to medical marijuana. Yet, several Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) raids that have occurred in California since the president took office have advocates seeking concrete changes. "Not only do we need an end to federal interference in the implementation of California's medical marijuana law," said Duncan "The entire country needs a sensible, comprehensive medical marijuana policy."

The 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 many 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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