June 11th, 2009 By: Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director
Massachusetts Democrat Barney Frank, along with over a dozen cosponsors, reintroduced legislation in Congress today to strengthen legal protections for state-authorized medical marijuana patients.
The bill, entitled the Medical Marijuana Patient Protection Act of 2009, seeks to amend the discrepancy between federal law and the laws of over a dozen states that have enacted regulations governing the therapeutic use of cannabis.
Thirteen states – Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Michigan, Montana, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington – have enacted laws prohibiting medical marijuana patients from state prosecution. Passage of the the Medical Marijuana Patient Protection Act would ensure that medical cannabis patients or providers who are compliant with state law, such as Charles Lynch (who was sentenced today in federal court), would no longer have to fear arrest or prosecution from federal law enforcement agencies.
Previous versions of the Medical Marijuana Patient Protection Act were introduced in both the 108th and 109th Congress, but failed to receive a public hearing or a committee vote.
While campaigning for the presidency, Barack Obama promised not to use Justice Department resources “to try and circumvent state (medical marijuana) laws” — a pledge that has been repeated in recent months by US Attorney General Eric Holder. Nevertheless, agents from the US Drug Enforcement Administration have continued to target medical marijuana providers in states that allow for the drug’s use, and federal prosecutors have continued to bring federal anti-drug charges against defendants who were acting in accordance with their state’s cannabis laws.
To support the Medical Marijuana Patient Protection Act of 2009, please log on to NORML’s Take Action Center here.
This legislation seeks to amend the discrepancy between federal law and the laws of over a dozen states that have enacted regulations governing the therapeutic use of cannabis. At the same time, passage of The Medical Marijuana Patient Protection Act of 2009 will not alter or interfere with already existing federal laws discouraging the non-medical, recreational use of marijuana, nor would it legalize the physician-supervised use of medical cannabis in states that have not already approved it.
The use of marijuana as medicine is a public health issue; it should not be part of the war on drugs. Nearly half of all doctors with opinions support legalizing cannabis as a medicine, and over 80 state and national health care organizations -- including the American Nurses Association, American Public Health Association, the American College of Physician, and The New England Journal of Medicine -- support granting qualified patients immediate legal access to medical cannabis.
To deny an effective medication to the sick and dying in order to "send a strong message to kids" against drug abuse is cruel and unconscionable, and improperly interferes with the relationship between a patient and his or her physician. State and federal laws already allow the medical use of many drugs, such as cocaine and morphine, which can be abused in a non-medical setting. Basic compassion and common sense demand that we allow the seriously ill to use whatever medication provides safe and effective relief. That is why 8 out of 10 American voters now say they support the legalization of cannabis for medical purposes.
Thirteen states -- Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Vermont and Washington -- have enacted laws protecting medical marijuana patients from state prosecution. The citizens and representatives from these states, as well as from additional states that seek to regulate the controlled use of medicinal marijuana, should be allowed to act in a manner that is free from federal interference.
Once again, I urge you to support HR 2835, The Medical Marijuana Patient Protection Act of 2009.