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Medical marijuana misconceptions debated

POSTED October 23, 2009 10:25 p.m.
In keeping with a newspaper’s commitment to accuracy, I want to point out errors and oversights in articles published in many newspapers across the country, regarding the Federal Governments recent guidelines on “medical marijuana” users.
First and foremost, newspapers have incorrectly stated that California became the first state to make it legal to sell marijuana to people with a doctor’s prescription. That is incorrect. No state in the U.S. allows a doctor to prescribe marijuana. People are getting a doctor’s “recommendation”, and they are coming from doctor’s who do not require physical exams, or any future follow up care.  Simply pay the fee, no questions asked.
Attorney General Eric Holder announced that it would no longer be a "priority" for the federal government to prosecute patients with serious illnesses. But that has never been a priority of federal law enforcement, which has been focused on people engaged in trafficking and growing operations of significant quantities of illegal drugs.  Let’s get the facts straight: The average quantity of marijuana that someone is in federal prison for is over 100 lbs.
This amount is not "personal use," nor is it a “patient” getting locked up in jail for smoking a joint for "medical" purposes. Besides the fact that medical policy is never determined by a ballot initiative, but rather by science, keeping the federal law enforcement focus on drug trafficking is nothing new — it is a continuation of the Bush and Clinton administration policies.
Holder’s memo itself is internally conflicted to the point of incoherence. While irresponsibly encouraging prosecutors to defer to state and local laws on marijuana, it also recognizes that federal "interest" can still allow the feds, at their discretion, to step in and prosecute. In fact, federal law remains completely unchanged.
The memo specifically states that the new policy should not be interpreted to mean that medical marijuana has been legalized, and that it does not provide a legal defense against federal prosecution. Moreover, it states that even if an individual complies with state laws, they still may be subject to federal prosecution.
The gap between newspaper headlines and the reality can only lead to further confusion. California municipalities are struggling with an explosion of store-front pot shops and grow operations. A newspapers incomplete reporting of the new guidelines, only adds to the confusion and excuses drug trafficker’s, and growers who have been abusing the "medical" label, for years. 

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