Farr seeks additional protection for medical marijuana users

By chillinwill · Oct 27, 2009 · ·
  1. chillinwill
    Rep. Sam Farr wants to make sure President Barack Obama's decision to keep federal drug agents from harassing medical marijuana users is a lasting one.

    Legislation the Carmel Democrat plans to introduce this week, the Truth in Trials Act, seeks to commit the president's directive to law by making it tougher to prosecute people who smoke or sell pot for medical reasons in states where it is legal. In California and 13 other states, local laws permit the drug, though federal law bans it.

    "This (directive of the president) isn't an executive order. It's not law, and it could change with a new attorney general or a new president," said Farr, who represents most of Santa Cruz County. "Our bill would codify this (directive)."

    The Obama administration's policy on medical marijuana came last week when U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder advised federal prosecutors not to crack down in states where the drug is legal, citing a drain on government time and resources.

    While the move was widely praised by medical marijuana advocates, policy observers questioned how much effect the policy change would really have. Not only is the policy limited to the current administration, observers noted, but it offered few new standards for prosecution, leaving discretion over marijuana crimes with U.S. attorneys.

    "As long as there is some ambiguity in the (administration's) guidelines, there's going to be a way to prosecute," said Caren Woodson,

    director of government affairs with Washington, D.C.-based Americans for Safe Access. "We think (Farr's) legislation is a necessary complement to the recently issued Department of Justice guidelines."

    Farr's bill, while stopping short of offering immunity to those who are following state law, allows local laws to come to the defense of users or providers prosecuted under federal statute. Individuals charged with federal marijuana crimes currently are barred from arguing that their actions are legal in their home state, and jurors are prohibited from weighing that argument.

    Allowing courts to admit this information, supporters of the bill say, would likely vindicate those charged with medical pot offenses. It would also discourage prosecutors from pursuing charges in the first place, they say.

    "If you can't address the medical application of marijuana, you're just a felon," said Valerie Corral, head of the Santa Cruz marijuana collective Wo/Men's Alliance for Medical Marijuana. "If state law is considered, the cases aren't going to be taken up."

    In addition to boosting the defense of medical pot, Farr's legislation would bar seizure of the drug among medical marijuana users in states where such use is permitted. The bill would not affect prosecution of marijuana crimes that are against state law.

    Farr has introduced similar legislation before. His first effort to give greater standing to state marijuana laws followed the high-profile prosecution of medical marijuana advocate Ed Rosenthal.

    The Oakland resident was one of the first well-known pot activists brought to trial by federal attorneys after California voters legalized medical marijuana in 1996. The voter-approved law was not admissible in court and Rosenthal was found guilty - though the judge ultimately handed Rosenthal a particularly light sentence of one day in jail.

    Farr said a growing acceptance of medical marijuana nationwide and new political winds in Washington bode well for his latest version of the bill. "You've got a lot of groups that are supporting this now," he said.

    By Kurtis Alexander
    October 27, 2009
    Santa Cruz Sentinel

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  1. chillinwill
    Medical Marijuana "Truth in Trials" Bill Introduced in House

    Last week the Department of Justice issued new guidelines to U.S. Attorneys concerning investigations and prosecutions in states that have authorized the use of cannabis for therapeutic purposes. These guidelines are a positive step in the right direction, but more needs to be done to ensure real and lasting protection for patients and their providers in medical cannabis states. In particular, individuals accused of violating federal marijuana laws must be permitted to use evidence in federal court to demonstrate that their use of medical marijuana followed state law and was used to alleviate suffering. To that end, U.S. Representative Sam Farr (D-CA), and a bipartisan group of his colleagues, re-introduced the “Truth in Trials” bill in the U.S. House of Representatives today.

    The “Truth in Trials” Act establishes an affirmative defense for individuals who are authorized to use and provide medical cannabis in accordance with state and local law. Under the provisions of the bill, patients and their caregivers would be permitted to introduce evidence for the court’s consideration which may demonstrate compliance with a state medical marijuana law. Indeed, the “Truth in Trials” bill is a logical and necessary legislative complement to the DOJ’s new policy.

    According to the bill’s lead sponsor, California Congressman Sam Farr:

    “This is a common sense bill that will help stop the waste of law enforcement and judicial resources that have been spent prosecuting individuals who are following state law.”

    He added:

    “We need strict drug laws, but we also need to apply a little common sense to how they’re enforced. This legislation is about treating defendants in cases involving medical marijuana fairly, plain and simple.”

    By Americans for Safe Access
    October 27, 2009
    Opposing Views
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