Wednesday, July 15, 2009

No More Federal Marijuana Raids Under President Obama

Raids by the federal government on legally sanctioned medical marijuana facilities will become a thing of the past. President Obama is averse to using federal funds for this purpose, particularly when state law provides for medicinal marijuana use. Moving forward, decisions on medical marijuana raids will be left up to state government. Most states individually have their own laws regarding medical marijuana distribution and supply, but to the federal government it is illegal and under President Bush the federal government had used their laws and power to override the individual state laws regarding medical marijuana.

During a press conference on Wednesday, the new U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder was questioned about drug raids implemented in California on marijuana dispensaries since President Obama took office. Holder said these raids will not be a part of President Barack Obama's policies. According to White House spokesperson Nick Schapiro, in his response to an advocacy groups’ protests to the raids, Obama had not yet appointed his drug policy team when these raids took place. He said, "The president believes that federal resources should not be used to circumvent state laws" and plans to execute this as a policy.

During previous presidencies, policies were passed in an attempt to circumvent medical marijuana use and distribution. During the Clinton administration, there was a Supreme Court case which shut down nonprofit organizations supplying marijuana to its members. Bush’s administration also blocked attempts to grow marijuana for research studies to determine its medical properties.

President Obama’s view seems a little different from his most recent predecessors. He explained during one of his candidacy appearances how his mother had succumbed to cancer and explained that he did not see a difference between doctor-prescribed pain relievers such as morphine and marijuana. While on the campaign trail he also explained that he felt it was “entirely appropriate" for states to legalize medical use of marijuana, "with the same controls as other drugs prescribed by doctors." Bill Piper, national affairs director of the Drug Policy Alliance, a marijuana advocacy group said, "I think it definitely signals that Obama is moving in a new direction, that it means what he said on the campaign trail that marijuana should be treated as a health issue rather than a criminal justice issue."

Some states, such as California have already legalized the use of medical marijuana distribution and use. However, in the past, the DEA had the legal authority to make arrests, even shutting down operations, overriding individual state laws allowing the growth and distribution of medical marijuana. Based on President Obama and the new Attorney General’s recent statements, this will no longer be the policy. The states will be left to implement their laws and policies in regards to medical marijuana. Marijuana advocates are excited and hopeful that this new way of thinking by our top leaders may help to allow for more research and eventually lead to medical marijuana being available at neighborhood pharmacies.

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