The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

ASA Media Liaison Kris Hermes 510-681-6361

Advocates Hail New Federal Guidelines on Medical Marijuana a Victory for Patients

Efforts still needed to establish comprehensive national policy and expanded research


The U.S. Department of Justice issued new
guidelines on medical marijuana today to U.S. Attorneys in states that
have adopted medical use laws. Advocates are hailing the new guidelines
as a victory and an important step toward a comprehensive national
policy on medical marijuana. While the new guidelines have yet to be
put into practice, advocates hope they will allow states to implement
their medical marijuana laws without
interference by the federal government.

"This is a huge victory for medical marijuana patients," said Steph
Sherer, Executive Director of Americans for Safe Access, the nationwide
medical marijuana advocacy organization. "This indicates that President
Obama intends to keep his promise not to undermine state medical
marijuana laws and represents a significant departure from the policies
of the Bush Administration," continued Sherer. "We will continue to
work with
President Obama, the Justice Department, and the U.S. Congress to
establish a
comprehensive national policy, but it's good to know that in the
meantime states can implement medical marijuana laws without
interference from the federal government."

In June 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Gonzales v. Raich
that the government had the discretion to enforce federal marijuana
laws even in medical marijuana states. While the Court did not
invalidate the laws of California and 12 other states, all of them were
under threat of interference by the federal government. In California,
the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) was used extensively by the
Bush Administration to raid medical marijuana providers. The federal
government's aggressive enforcement has also had the effect of inciting
rogue law enforcement to ignore state law in favor of the more
stringent federal law. During the Bush Administration, more than 200
federal raids occurred in California alone.

As promising as the new guidelines appear, certain questions still
remain. For instance, will U.S. Attorneys be instructed at some future
point to allow defendants
the use of medical evidence and state law compliance in federal
criminal cases? Currently, the federal government is prosecuting more
than two dozen medical marijuana cases in which defendants are
prevented from using medical evidence. In addition, the new
guidelines urge prosecutors to still pursue marijuana cases which
involve activity that is legal under some state medical marijuana laws.

For further information:

DOJ guidelines on medical marijuana issued today:

ASA's Federal Policy Recommendations:

Americans for Safe Access is the nation's largest organization of patients, medical professionals, scientists and concerned citizens promoting safe and legal access to cannabis for therapeutic use and research.