[Hpn] Nyah, nyah!! [off topic]
Wed, 13 Jun 2001 16:33:36 -0700
Dispensing of Medical Pot Continues
By David Kravets
Associated Press Writer
Wednesday, June 13, 2001; 2:49 PM
SAN FRANCISCO In the month since the U.S. Supreme Court said it's illegal
to sell or possess marijuana for medical use, the decision appears to be
having little effect in the eight states with medical marijuana laws.
"I dispense a couple pounds a month," said Jim Green, operator of the Market
Street Club, where business has thrived even after the May 14 ruling. "All
of my clients have a legitimate and compelling need."
Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Oregon and Washington
allow the infirm to receive, possess, grow or smoke marijuana for medical
purposes without fear of state prosecution.
Those states have done little to change since the Supreme Court ruled
federal law prohibits people from dispensing marijuana to the ill. Some
states have even moved to expand marijuana laws despite the ruling.
State prosecutors say it's up to federal authorities, not them, to enforce
the court's decision.
"If the feds want to prosecute these people, they can," said Norm Vroman,
the district attorney in Northern California's Mendocino County, where the
sheriff issues medical marijuana licenses to residents with a doctor's
recommendation, or to people who grow the marijuana for them.
In Maine, "state prosecutors aren't too involved with enforcing the federal
law," said state attorney general spokesman Chuck Dow.
In response to the high court's decision, however, Maine lawmakers shelved
an effort to supply marijuana to the ill.
The Bush administration, which inherited the medical marijuana fight from
President Clinton, has taken no public action to enforce the ruling and has
been silent about its next move.
"There's generally no comment about what the government will do in the
future in any context," said Mark T. Quinlivan, the Justice Department's
lead attorney in the Supreme Court case.
Leslie Baker, head of the U.S. attorney's Portland, Ore., drug-enforcement
unit, said last week that U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft's office has
not given her guidance on how to respond to the ruling. Oregon allows
"caregivers" to grow and dispense marijuana for patients who have a doctor's
Baker declined to say what federal authorities may do in the state.
Meanwhile, Nevada lawmakers, abiding by a voter referendum, on June 4
adopted a medical marijuana measure that Gov. Kenny Guinn said he would
In California, the nation's first state to approve medical marijuana in
1996, the Senate approved legislation June 6 legalizing marijuana
cooperatives for the sick.
Three days earlier, Colorado expanded its medical marijuana law, complying
with a state voter initiative that requires the state to license medical
marijuana users. That was despite the opposition of Gov. Bill Owens and the
state's attorney general, who urged federal authorities to prosecute anybody
who sells, distributes or grows medical marijuana, even if they qualify for
the state program.
At the Market Street Club in California, the marijuana goes to patients such
as Grant Magner, 49, of Novato, who says it reduces nausea and headaches
resulting from AIDS and gives him enough of an appetite to eat.
"It gives me a slight feeling of wellness. I can not smoke marijuana, and
watch my body waste away," he said.
The absence of federal action has led to speculation about the Bush
"I think they are biding their time and are being very careful for which
organizations or persons they are going to target first after this U.S.
Supreme Court decision because that is what is going to get all of the media
attention," said Tim Lynch, the Cato Institute director of criminal justice
The Justice Department may take no action in hopes that the decision will
scare medical marijuana providers out of business, said Mark Kleiman, a drug
policy expert at the University of California at Los Angeles.
The public silence also may reflect that the White House has more important
issues to handle.
"That is not what they're talking about in the Capitol and the corridors of
the White House," said presidential analyst Stephen Hess of the Brookings
Any federal crackdown may open a Pandora's box of new legal questions, said
Robert Raich, the lawyer for the Oakland Cannabis Buyers Cooperative.
Justice Clarence Thomas wrote that the Oakland club could not defend its
actions against federal drug laws by declaring it was dispensing marijuana
to the medically needy.
But the justices said they addressed only the issue of a so-called "medical
necessity defense" being at odds with a 1970 federal law that marijuana,
like heroin and LSD, has no medical benefits and cannot be dispensed or
prescribed by doctors.
Important constitutional questions remain, such as Congress' ability to
interfere with intrastate commerce, the right of states to experiment with
their own laws and whether Americans have a fundamental right to marijuana
as an avenue to be free of pain. Justice Thomas wrote that the court would
not decide those "underlying constitutional issues today."
The case is United States v. Oakland Cannabis Buyers Cooperative, 00-151.
On the Net:
Supreme Court site: http://www.supremecourtus.gov
Oakland Cannabis Buyers' Cooperative: http://www.rxcbc.org
© 2001 The Associated Press
**In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, this material is
distributed without charge or profit to those who have expressed a prior
interest in receiving this type of information for non-profit research and
educational purposes only.**
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