Pubdate: Fri, 18 Jan 2002
Source: Berkeley Voice (CA)
Copyright: 2002 Contra Costa Newspapers Inc.
Address: 2640 Shadelands Drive, Walnut Creek, CA 94598
Author: Bruce Mirkin
Note: Mirkin is assistant director of communications for the Marijuana 
Policy Project.
Bookmark:  (Oakland Cannabis Buyers' 


Now that the Oakland Cannabis Buyer's Cooperative has resumed its fight for 
the right to distribute medical marijuana to patients using it legally 
under California law, it is important to keep in mind what last May's 
Supreme Court ruling did and did not do.

The Court's decision in United States vs. Oakland Cannabis Buyers' 
Cooperative et al did not prevent states from taking action to protect 
patients who use marijuana for medical purposes. All eight medical 
marijuana statutes enacted since 1996 remain in full force and effect.

The court merely said that distributors of medical marijuana couldn't use a 
"medical necessity" defense under federal law.

While this, combined with federal raids on the clubs, creates great 
hardship and inconvenience for patients, medical marijuana users who are in 
compliance with their state's laws are still protected from arrest by those 
laws. This is critical, as 99 percent of marijuana arrests are made by 
state and local authorities.

In other words, effective state laws prevent 99 out of 100 arrests of 
medical marijuana patients. While arrests by federal agents are 
theoretically possible, the Justice Department thus far has not gone after 
individual medical marijuana users -- perhaps realizing they have little 
chance of convicting patients who are simply trying to ease their suffering.

As the legal battles over the federal government's absurd war on medical 
marijuana continue, state governments need not fear the Supreme Court. They 
can and should continue to act to protect patients.

Bruce Mirkin, Washington D.C.
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