Medical marijuana advocates say lawmakers provide protection against federal prosecution

John Agar, MLive

Attorneys who specialize in marijuana cases say a “bizarre” conflict that allows medical marijuana under state laws but prohibits it under federal law could be coming to a close.

In a federal spending bill, Congress said it would prohibit the U.S. Department of Justice from going after medical-marijuana patients or caregivers who are compliant with their state’s laws. The bill awaits the president’s signature.

“It’s about time,” Grand Rapids attorney Bruce Block said Monday, Dec. 15. “The federal government has been on the wrong side of history for the last 10 years, at least. It’s encouraging to hear the feds are going to back off the war. The war on marijuana has been just an abysmal failure.”

He said the law has a “bizarre effect: States say yes, feds say no.”

Others said such action was overdue.

Americans for Safe Access, or ASA, called the bill a “historic” measure that, if passed, will end federal raids, arrests, prosecution and forfeiture of assets of medical-marijuana growers.

"This is truly a long-fought victory for medical marijuana patients who have lived in fear of being caught in the crossfire of conflicting state and federal laws for nearly two decades," said Steph Sherer, ASA’s executive director.

“This is a great day for patients and for public safety,” said retired Major Neill Franklin, executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition.

“Congress has finally listened to the vast majority of Americans who believe the federal government has no right to interfere in the personal decision to use medical marijuana made by a patient in consultation with his or her doctor.”

Daniel Grow, a former Kalamazoo attorney now working in St. Joseph, said he is hopeful but wary.

“In a general sense, I am very happy that the federal government seems to be recognizing the primacy of state law relating to medical marihuana, but I am still very concerned that in some jurisdictions the intent of the language will not be respected, and efforts to convict under federal law patients and their caregivers will continue.

“Given complicated funding schemes for state and local drug enforcement teams, I am also concerned that federal money will nevertheless benefit law enforcement’s efforts to prosecute patents and their caregivers in states that should be protected. While I still have concerns, it is clearly a step in the right direction.”

Block said marijuana use as medicine will grow in other states. Marijuana, already legal in Colorado and Washington, is headed for legalization in other states.
“I think it’s inevitable,” Block said.

“I’m all about putting the Mexican cartels out of business. The genie’s out of the bottle. It’s obvious there’s medical benefit. Is it abused? Tell me one drug that isn’t.”

Block said he isn’t an advocate for marijuana or an opponent. He just thinks the government ought to have a different response to those who use the drug. He and others think it should not be classified as a Schedule 1, with the most dangerous level of drugs such as heroin and cocaine.

He has concerns about drugs reaching children, but say they already get it.

“I’m not a big advocate of it, but it can’t possibly get worse than alcohol and tobacco. Regulate it.”