|Photo: My Life, My Muse|
|Californians protest a DEA medical marijuana dispensary raid|
California may soon urge the federal government to end medicinal cannabis raids and to “create a comprehensive federal medical marijuana policy that ensures safe and legal access to any patient that would benefit from it.”
The California State Assembly Committee on Health voted 10-3 Tuesday to pass the resolution, which urges the federal government to change its pot policy. The full state Senate already passed the measure in August 2009 by a vote of 23-15.
|Photo: Political Blotter|
|California State Senator Mark Leno: “Patients and providers in California remain at risk of arrest and prosecution by federal law enforcement”|
State Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) introduced Senate Joint Resolution 14 last year, and despite a Justice Department policy issued in October 2009 which discourages federal enforcement in medical marijuana states, advocates and state lawmakers are still pushing for a binding change to federal law.
“This legislation is needed now more than ever,” said Don Duncan of Americans for Safe Access (ASA), a medical marijuana patient advocacy group and a sponsor of the legislatioin.
“Lest federal officials think their job is done, they need to know their work addressing medical marijuana as a public health issue has only just begun,” Duncan said.
Duncan testified on behalf of patients Tuesday before the Assembly Health Committee.
“Patients and providers in California remain at risk of arrest and prosecution by federal law enforcement, and legally established medical marijuana cooperatives continue to be the subjects of federal raids and prosecutions,” said Sen. Leno.
Federal raids reached a peak during the Bush Administration, with more than 200 Drug Enforcement Administration raids in California alone, but some raids have still continued under the Obama Administration.
More than two dozen patients and providers are currently being prosecuted under federal law and face decades in prison, according to ASA.
One such medical marijuana provider, James Stacy, whose dispensary was raided by the DEA in September 2009 — just a month before the new Justice Department policy was issued — is scheduled to go on trial next month.
“Not only do patients in California deserve to be free from federal intrusion,” Duncan said, “but, patients across the country would benefit from a sensible and comprehensive federal medical marijuana policy.”
SJR 14 urges President Obama and Congress to “move quickly to end federal raids, intimidation, and interference with state medical marijuana law.”
But it goes further by asking the government to establish “an affirmative defense to medical marijuana charges in federal court and establish federal legal protection for individuals authorized by state and local law…”
Because of a U.S. Supreme Court decision, defendants in medical marijuana cases are prohibited from using a medical or state law defense in federal court. The Truth in Trials Act, HR 3939, which would correct this problem, is currently before Congress.
SJR 14 now proceeds to the California Assembly floor and, if passed, the non-binding resolution will be enacted without Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s signature or approval.
The resolution will then be sent to the President, Vice President, Speaker of the House of Representatives, and to each Senator and Representative of the California Congressional delegation.