Federal Sanity on Medical Marijuana?

After several false starts, the Obama administration is making all the right noises on federal medical marijuana policy.

Federal drug agents won't pursue pot-smoking patients or their sanctioned suppliers in states that allow medical marijuana, under new legal guidelines to be issued Monday by the Obama administration. Two Justice Department officials described the new policy to The Associated Press, saying prosecutors will be told it is not a good use of their time to arrest people who use or provide medical marijuana in strict compliance with state law.The guidelines to be issued by the department do, however, make it clear that agents will go after people whose marijuana distribution goes beyond what is permitted under state law or use medical marijuana as a cover for other crimes, the officials said.The new policy is a significant departure from the Bush administration, which insisted it would continue to enforce federal anti-pot laws regardless of state codes.

Read the whole article here.

The devil is in the details, of course, and how the policy is enforced (or not). But it represents the most compassionate and sensible policy to come out of Washington in a very long time.

For a damning look at medical marijuana policies that started up Bill Clinton and continued under Bush, all while harming patients and doing nothing to combat the drug trade, watch "Raiding California" from Reason.tv:

Update: Even as the feds seem about to pull back, local and state police in Southern California are stepping. From the AP:

Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley said last week he wants to shutter clinics that sell pot for profit. Cooley's plan is the latest salvo in a prolonged conflict in California over whether medical marijuana is truly having its intended effect or is being abused by the larger population.

Until recently, raids on clinics typically led to federal prosecutions, but Cooley's remarks and similar ones from Attorney General Jerry Brown signal a new approach to clear the haze left by Proposition 215, the 1996 state ballot measure that allowed sick people with referrals from doctors and an identification card to smoke pot.

More here, via Drudge.

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  • Hacha Cha||

    why don't they just fucking reschedule it? they may be coming soon if Sativex finally gets FDA approval. all that must be done to change the DEA's policy is have the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services to reschedule cannabis (likely CII or III) or deschedule it altogether.

  • ||

    I know the US is bound by international treaty for some drug classifications. I'm not sure if Marijuana is on that list.

  • Zeb||

    They are certainly not bound to have it on the most restrictive schedule.

  • Hacha Cha||

    yeah not to mention there are other nations that have signed the same treaties and have legal medical cannabis and sometimes even legal recreational cannabis too. if opium can be prescribed why not cannabis?

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    But it represents the most compassionate and sensible policy to come out of Washington in a very long time.

    My leg, too, gets all tingly when the Obama Administration tells me a lie I want to hear.

  • ||

    If this is true and some bullshit PR stunt that is contradicted in the details, good for the Obama. Let no one say he didn't get one thing right or do at least one thing differently and better than Bush.

  • Xeones||

    I'll believe it when i see it.

  • ||

    Read the fine print, boyos:

    Two Justice Department officials described the new policy to The Associated Press, saying prosecutors will be told it is not a good use of their time to arrest people who use or provide medical marijuana in strict compliance with state law.

    Hardly a strong prohibition on prosecutors going after med pot users, no? And I like the implication that it is a good use of their time to piggyback federal felony charges onto any violation of state law.

    And, of course, we have our old friend "strict compliance with state law," the same loophole that greenlights DEA med pot raids whenever and wherever.

    Color me unimpressed.

  • ||

    It's the same theory that places like Columbia MO have used to effectively decriminalize pot. It's probably as good as its going to get.

  • ||

    Now for this alone he deserves the Noble Peace prize. Drug laws cause more deaths than drugs them selves. In 20-30 years all drugs will be legal as they should be. I mean if alcohol is legal..ALL drugs should be legal. Drink responsibly. Use Drugs responsibly. I do.

  • ||

    Ah, youth! I remember distinctly saying the same thing when Carter made similar pronouncements about marijuana in the Seventies. How'd that work out for us?

  • ||

    I would say you have to be massively biased (wait a second- I am massively biased, make that SUPER MASSIVELY BIASED,) against Obama to think that this is a good thing.

    Great news, and a very clear statement of support for state's rights in this issue.

    When I think of the step this signals I really start to have deep respect for Obama, unfortunately I then think of the healthcare plan.

  • ||

    I meant "to 'doubt' that this is a good thing"

    Bloody medical marijuana

  • ||

    Harry, it would be a good thing if it was any more than a press release.

    As a mere press release, rather than an actual change in existing policy, a policy that has seen continued medical marijuana raids, it falls somewhere on the scale from neutral to bad.

  • Anne||

    This is likely to be some sort of bait and switch. People make a lot of money from the illegal droug trade, and a lot of that money goes to politicians. If you want to know who the guilty parties are, just look at which politicians work the hardest to protect the black market at the expense of their own constituents. If we really want to end the drug war, we need to take an honest look at the true motives of the "drug warriors" who support it.

  • ||

    It's great that the federal government has instructed its thugs to voluntarily honor the Tenth Amendment for the time being. Delightful.

    Now, LEGALIZE it.

    [San Jose California]

  • reason staff||

    This time he'll do it! We just know he will! There's no way he's lying this time!

  • miche||

    The tin-foil hatter in me thinks that this is how they will reign in med pot dispensaries... close down the businesses that are up already a la Cooley in L.A. and create a licensing nightmare that makes it so only politically connected peeps can operate.

    Can't have the unwashed doing a good biz now can we?

  • ||

    This is no more an example of Federal Sanity than the addict's pledge to get clean is an example of newly-found sobriety. It's just an example of saying what is necessary to get somebody off your back, long enough to buy some time and breathing room. For what, I wonder?

    It is time to increase the pressure, not reduce it. It is time to stand up for the principle of self-ownership of one's own body, not be satisfied with some "pragmatic" arrangement that leaves the government free to resume its unconstitutional persecution of users and producers of politically incorrect substances at any time.

  • ||

    As a former sufferer of chronic depression I cannot state any more emphatically how much of a good idea this is. Marijuanna is not only used to treat cancer. There are a plethora of disabilities that seemingly get better with a simple bowl. My little brother also has terrible cerebral palsy. If he gets even the least bit upset, he could swing into a ceasure and possibly die. Watching people with disabilities consume the drug is all the proof I need for legalization. people in this country do plenty of LEGAL things everyday, each one more worse than Marijuana. As a poster abover stated, you cannot impose a drug law on a substance and then rule out another completely without any empirical evidence to support it. Honestly, if it helps people, relaxes them, helps them get over this economy a bit more stress-free and with any sense of peace, then go for it.

  • ||

    After several false starts, the Obama administration is making all the right noises on federal medical marijuana policy.

    I see the liberaltarians at Reason are still Hoping For Change™!

  • whodat||

    Always fun to see some of the delightful commenters here try to out-cynic each other. If they legalized weed tomorrow, half the posts would be about how they didn't legalize everything. But maybe you're right. Maybe the political rules don't apply and we should expect policies that adhere to our best-case scenarios. Maybe our new horse needs dental x-rays.

  • SunflowerPipes||

    Someday I imagine we will all live in a land were men and women alike are free to do what they choose to do with their own bodies. A world were one really does have right to pursue happiness as they see fit. Even if it is sitting at home smoking from a glass pipe.
    Sunflowerpipes.com

  • Erick||

    Let’s develop some sensible guidelines about how much marijuana a person can possess for non-medical purposes. The tax money wasted on arresting, prosecuting, imprisoning, and the forced “treatment” of marijuana users costs the U.S. taxpayers billions of dollars every year, billions that are therefore NOT available for schools, health care, repairing our roads and bridges, and a hundred other vitally important areas.

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