San Francisco senator Mark Leno recently introduced SJR 14—a senate joint resolution—urging the federal government to quit raiding cannabis clubs and harassing growers, while revising federal policy to ensure safe access for legitimate patients and permit the scientific research necessary to validate the medicine’s efficacy.
Senator Leno explained to the Examiner that the basis for SJR 14 is an ongoing problem. “We here in California along with the other dozen or so states which have by a vote of the people determined that there should be the allowance for the compassionate or medical use of marijuana. The discord of course is with the federal government, which does not recognize any legal use of marijuana and has not deemed there to be any medical value to the use of marijuana, and that’s where the problem exists,” Leno said. “California voters back in 1996 passed Proposition 215, which does allow for the compassionate use of marijuana.”
Then-assemblyman Leno worked with Senator John Vasconcellos as co-author of the senator’s SB 420, passed in 2003, partly an extension of cannabis laws drafted in San Francisco. Leno had authored the first-of-its kind medical marijuana identification card program, and he and Senator Vasconcellos thought it would benefit Californians to have such a program in place throughout the state.
“In fact, SB 420 requires all 58 counties in California to replicate the program that we established in San Francisco. And that is beneficial for everybody. It is beneficial for the patient because it allows the patient the opportunity to show to law enforcement, when necessary, that the patient is using marijuana under the auspices of a voter-enacted state law (Prop 215),” Leno said. Additionally, he said it allows for qualified patients and their primary caregivers to collectively and cooperatively cultivate marijuana for medical use without harassment or prosecution, so it fills in a blank that was left in Prop 215. While there was an allowance for compassionate use, patients had trouble obtaining cannabis medicine since it was still illegal to cultivate and to distribute. Those flaws were resolved in SB 420.
“Now we have the problem—especially though the very dark eight years of the Bush Administration where federal agents would come in—completely disrespecting the will of the voters of the state of California and would raid dispensaries and raid those who are cultivating under the auspices of state law,” Leno said. “So the good news is that as a candidate Barack Obama spoke about a renewed, comprehensive, and more thoughtful federal medical marijuana policy where there has not existed one, and when he appointed Eric Holder as his new Attorney General, there were statements made, unequivocally, that the federal raids would stop.”
Unfortunately, Leno added, we have not seen that actually happen. In fact, only a week after Attorney General Holder’s promise to lay off the cannabis clubs, San Francisco’s
“Emmalyn’s” dispensary was raided by DEA agents, in what San Francisco Assemblyman Tom Ammiano told the Examiner he thought might be a warning to him as well as the Obama Administration. Ammiano had announced earlier in the year his intention to legalize marijuana outright in California and to tax and regulate it like alcohol.
Leno says that what his resolution—SJR 14—does is urge the federal government to end medical marijuana raids in California and to create a comprehensive federal medical marijuana policy that ensures safe and legal access for any patient who would benefit from it. It would also compel the federal government to allow defendants in federal marijuana cases to assert their actions are legal according to their state’s law. This option is currently denied.
Senator Leno also hopes the federal government will appropriately invest in research so that we can once and for all put that debate behind us. “Everyone and anyone familiar with the issue has long known the very beneficial aspects of medical marijuana; the federal government has not taken steps to make that statement itself,” Leno said. “Invest a few bucks, get the science done, and we can put that discussion to an end.”
SJR 14 will be heard in committee later this month.
Friday 19 Jun 2009