Reefer Reform The Need for Unambiguous Legislation
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Reefer Reform The Need for Unambiguous Legislation
Posted by CN Staff on October 23, 2009 at 09:51:55 PT
By Taylor Dalton
Source: Cornell Daily Sun
New York -- Marijuana law reform is back at the forefront of national debate after the Obama Administration’s new guidelines on medical marijuana investigation and prosecution came out Oct. 19. The federal government’s new stance comes as a relief to the many users and suppliers of marijuana for medical purposes and is seen by some as a move towards a more liberalized drug enforcement policy in the nation generally. However, with all the excitement over the new policy comes a wakeup call for the states which have legalized medical marijuana use or are considering such legislation. Inconsistent regulation, vague standards and patchwork enforcement are threatening to stall marijuana law reform.
Announcing that it will no longer target those who dispense or use marijuana for medical purposes in states where it’s legal, the U.S. Justice Department (DOJ) reversed past administrations’ approach to drug enforcement. For those that think this is tacit approval from the Feds to light up, the DOJ memo makes clear that the new approach will not eliminate investigations and prosecutions of illegal uses of marijuana. Reversal of past administrations’ approach to marijuana prosecution ironically seems to favor a “states’ rights” approach to medical marijuana regulation. Federal prosecutors are now directed to defer to local law regulating medical marijuana use. This deferential stance provides an invaluable opportunity for the states to take the lead in drug enforcement reform; however, with this opportunity comes the burden to adequately manage medical marijuana use.In this country, 13 states (not counting Maryland where the law only reduces the penalty of someone caught with marijuana for medical purposes) have legislation that supports the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes. Another seven states, including New York, have decriminalized marijuana use. The general trend among states is towards more liberalized drug laws and by allowing states to experiment with new policies will likely lead to innovative types of regulation.Justifiably, one state in particular has been at the center of the debate: California. In 1996, voters in my home state passed Proposition 215, laying out a system by which those who need marijuana for medical purposes can obtain it through legal channels. In parts of the state, dispensaries operate much like ordinary businesses under clear city ordinances. Oakland has taken advantage of the legal status of weed and will use a new tax to contribute to the city’s expanding deficit. The success of the “Oaksterdam” system follows from its clear and comprehensive regulations.Unfortunately in other parts of the state, inadequate legal regulation and ambiguous state laws are wasting resources and are failing to provide a guide to medical marijuana suppliers. Los Angeles is currently in a heated debate regarding stricter regulation of marijuana dispensaries. Vague state laws regulating medical marijuana dispensaries have failed to guide Angelino bureaucrats and ganja suppliers as to how these enterprises should be managed. Los Angeles is still without an ordinance regulating medical marijuana and a moratorium on the creation of new dispensaries has been held invalid by a county court. The failure of proper regulation in cities like Los Angeles has lead to unclear standards which hamper the establishment of legitimate dispensaries. As the successes and failures of California show, clear and comprehensive laws are essential in providing access to the herb for those who need to use it for its medicinal properties. It’s not enough to legalize the use of medical marijuana, each state must implement specific and clear regulations to allow suppliers the opportunity to establish themselves as a legitimate part of the community. Ambiguous and piecemeal regulations are worse than outright criminalization­­ because inevitably a legitimate user or supplier will be at risk violating it due to a misinterpretation.Now the federal government’s new stance to drug enforcement will likely foster pro-medical marijuana legislation in states that have yet to enact such laws. For instance, New Jersey is on the brink of passing such legislation. And if proposed, legislation supporting medical marijuana use here in New York would likely pass, since the state has already decriminalized the use of marijuana. Thus, legislators must look before they leap into enacting broad legislation legalizing medical marijuana use.As drug law reform continues to progress, it is essential that states and municipalities take the opportunity to craft careful and comprehensive legislation that gives clear guidelines to suppliers and users. Thanks to the administration’s new directive, states can now openly debate marijuana law reform and will hopefully take the time to produce unambiguous regulation of medical marijuana.Taylor Dalton, a third-year law student at Cornell, is the Senior Acquisitions Editor of the Journal of Law and Public Policy. Barely Legal, a column featuring a rotating cast of law students, appears alternate Fridays this semester. Source: Cornell Daily Sun, The (NY Edu)Author: Taylor DaltonPublished: October 23, 2009 Copyright: 2009 The Cornell Daily Sun, Inc.Contact: letters cornelldailysun.comWebsite: Medical Marijuana Archives 
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Comment #11 posted by runruff on October 24, 2009 at 05:46:34 PT
Keep law dogs in their place!
Holder says he will not tolerate illegal profiting on the sale of high priced illegal herbs!On the subject of illegal profiting He can osculum dare my gluteus maximus! Illegal profits, illegal profits! Why that..... Bank bailouts, Wall street bailouts, illegal wars for profit, no bid contracts for hired killers, the military industrial complex, the huge for profit War on Drugs, FDA approved killer drugs for profit, asset forfieture [robber profits] the IRS, Beer, Ciggs....Man lets not be so narrow in our scope Mr. Law Dog least you come across as a politico sans personal integrity.
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Comment #10 posted by Sinsemilla Jones on October 24, 2009 at 01:44:54 PT
Pardons & Commutations 
That's something else Obama could do."The President...shall have Power to Grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offenses against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment."It would seem to make sense, if the federal government is not going to prosecute people who are following state medical marijuana laws, should not the President pardon those who the federal government has already prosecuted?I appreciate what Obama has done, but that doesn't mean he can't or shouldn't do more.On the other hand, Congress has done absolutely NOTHING to reform federal cannabis laws, despite the individual efforts of Barney Frank and too few others.I believe if Congress gives Obama the opportunity to sign progressive cannabis law reforms, he will do so.In the meantime, the President could clear the record for Charles Lynch.The President could let Marc Emery go home to Canada.And President Obama could free Eddy Lepp.
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Comment #9 posted by John Tyler on October 23, 2009 at 20:06:39 PT
atmosphere changed
Obama's DOJ directive was just what he had said earlier, but it reignited media interest. It changed the political atmosphere. The general public’s perception, true or not, is now that the legal states can pretty much proceed as they please. (Perception is reality.) I’m not saying that is legally true, but that is how it is coming across. There has been no backlash. I thought the prohibitions and their ilk would go bezerk. There was nothing. It either went over their heads, or they didn’t care. States on the verge of doing medical cannabis are more likely going to do so. States like California that are wanting to go totally legal are more likely to do so knowing the Fed have been ordered to back off. I think what we are seeing is a quiet, green revolution at the grass roots level. No one politician is exactly responsible for it, so there is no one to catch any blame (by opponents). All we have is a few sensible policy changes here and there and the whole thing starts to have a change we can believe in. City by city and state-by-state we are seeing the greening of America. I’m as impatient as anyone, but compared to last 24 years of asinine Drug Warrior crap this is a breath of springtime. The industry is just too big. It will happen.
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Comment #8 posted by FoM on October 23, 2009 at 17:10:41 PT
I don't know what he can do but he's got the ball rolling. It's really a miracle that this much happened with the very angry Republicans trying to trip him up every step he makes towards the necessary reform of health care. I can imagine they would be really angry if he went too far with marijuana. I am very happy that he went as far as he did. 
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Comment #7 posted by EAH on October 23, 2009 at 17:00:10 PT:
As the head of the Executive branch, there's plenty more Obama could do.
For one thing the 3 page statement issued on monday basically told federal DAs that it is recommended they put their resources to other things, but they still can go after clubs and patients if they want to. He and his Attorney General could have issued a much stronger less equivocal statement.Aside from that, the FDA, the DEA, the Justice Dept. are all under him, the chief executive. He could direct FDA or DEA to reschedule cannabis out of schedule 1 to 2 or 3. Now that would be a major change. He could order them to allow institutions or organizations to grow and conduct 
more extensive research. As President he could do far more than he is doing.
He could call for Congress to enact legislation to Federally recognize medical cannabis, or even to end prohibition. He could announce that he is ordering 
the TSA to allow patients to carry cannabis on planes when traveling from one 
mm state to another. He could start announcing judicial appoints of judges that he feels will not be hostile to cannabis in Federal courts.
There's plenty more he do if wanted to.
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Comment #6 posted by FoM on October 23, 2009 at 16:58:13 PT
News Article From Reuters
U.S. To End War on Medical Marijuana in Legal StatesURL:
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Comment #5 posted by FiddleMan on October 23, 2009 at 12:40:34 PT
Want "Unambiguous Legislation"?
Want "Unambiguous Legislation"?Legalize Cannabis Now!
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Comment #4 posted by dongenero on October 23, 2009 at 12:35:18 PT
Presidential role in legislation... to sign legislation into law or veto legislation.
The President does wield significant influence on the legislative agenda, which I feel he has done with his statement.Now, we need our representatives in Congress to propose legislation in keeping with the President's stated position.
Step right up Senators, you've seen the polls regarding public support time and time again. Find a pair.
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Comment #3 posted by FoM on October 23, 2009 at 12:15:48 PT
I am not up on laws but how could Obama do more then he just did? We don't have a Dictator in America but a President. I think if he could do more he would. What if we had a mean President and he decided to make long term prison sentences for anyone that uses marijuana? We would be furious. 
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Comment #2 posted by EAH on October 23, 2009 at 12:04:24 PT:
Time to get figured out
"Ambiguous and piecemeal regulations are worse than outright criminalization because inevitably a legitimate user or supplier will be at risk violating it due to a misinterpretation."This is California's problem. What most people don't understand is that even though everybody thinks dispensaries are allowed to "sell" cannabis legally. 
They aren't. The state Supreme court ruled that "sales" are not legal in CA in the Mentch case. He claimed he had formed a collective and as caregiver he could sell to the members. The court said nowhere in state law does it make that OK. The only reason dispensaries can sell now is because local authorities either don't understand the laws as they are now or just choose to not act and just allow the clubs to sell anyway, as long as they are doing everything else in a way that follows the rules. 
That is not a good legal situation. IF for any reason dispensary owners or employees find themselves charged with "sales" in a CA court they have no 
defense. Every judge in the state refers to the Supreme Court ruling and 
won't allow a medical defense for "sales". I know because it happened to me.
This whole federal vs state vs medical vs recreational situation of laws is a total mess. All these people think Obama did something significant the other day, but the reality is that no laws were changed, no intent to change any laws was stated, and all the same crap that has been happening will keep on happening.
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Comment #1 posted by runruff on October 23, 2009 at 11:50:37 PT
Obama, he thinks like a sportsman do!
I love the end 'round maneuver he pulled on the Fascist Five on the Supreme Court!Brilliant!
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