October 21, 2009
After almost a year in office, the Obama administration made a decision this week.
The Justice Department on Monday issued a memo to federal prosecutors in 13 medical marijuana states —Michigan among them — telling them to stop enforcing federal marijuana laws against medical marijuana patients. This should result in an end to the mean-spirited and bizarre federal attacks on people treating conditions such as glaucoma and chronic pain with a natural drug that’s far less harmful than an array of hard drugs the pharmaceutical giants push like candy.
The next logical step is to eliminate marijuana from the list of drugs no doctor can legally prescribe — a step arguably called for by the Controlled Substances Act itself — and allow doctors nationwide to prescribe cannabis for patients who can benefit from it. In Ohio, state lawmakers should grant patients the same access to a treatment for painful conditions as they could find as close as Michigan.
Despite 13 states having passed laws permitting physicians to recommend marijuana to patients, and despite a growing body of evidence documenting the efficacy of marijuana at alleviating certain medical conditions, the Drug Enforcement Administration has conducted occasional raids on cannabis patients and medical cannabis distribution facilities.
These activities have encouraged some local officials, who never have quite accepted this law, to harass patients, and discouraged intelligent implementation of state laws. For the Justice Department to notify its prosecutors in states with medical cannabis laws that prosecution of patients and providers “is unlikely to be an efficient use of limited federal resources” is a very significant step.
From the memo: “Prosecution of individuals with cancer or other serious illnesses who use marijuana as part of a recommended treatment regimen consistent with applicable state law, or those caregivers in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state law who provide such individuals with marijuana, is unlikely to be an efficient use of limited federal resources.”
Imagine how free some states would become if federal authorities respected all state laws, including those protecting gun and property rights.
Although the memo was clear in directing federal authorities to respect state medical marijuana laws, it emphasized the federal government’s commitment to continuing the drug war. Prohibition has created a black market, in the form of Mexican cartels that are willing to kill in order to trade in common weed. Yet the federal government plans to continue that losing war.
The administration’s memo at least is a step in the direction of ending prohibition. It’s a small step, but first steps are milestones.