Once again, the Barack Obama administration has taken a stance on medical marijuana. Federal prosecutors have written medical marijuana dispensaries throughout California that they will prosecute them for violating federal drug laws that prevent cultivation, possession and sales of marijuana unless they shut down their facilities.
Advocates for the drug must be scratching their heads. Early in the Obama administration, Department of Justice representatives stated that medical marijuana possession and sales would be the department's lowest priority, given thinly distributed resources to combat such problems as terrorism and illegal immigration. Could it be we've solved those problems and are now at the bottom of the list?
But wait, opponents are saying. In 1996, Californians passed an initiative that specifically allows the cultivation and sales of marijuana for medical purposes. The estimated 750,000 Californians with medical marijuana cards attest to the need for the drug, right?
The reason that the feds can be so bold centers on a concept known as federalism, the political relationship between the federal government and the states that defines the conduct of each level. According to the U.S. Constitution, Congress has the right to regulate interstate commerce, part of which centers on the manufacture and sales of drugs. The Food and Drug Administration, a body created by Congress in part to assure safe drugs, has ruled that marijuana is an illegal drug. That means that the states, including, California have no right to legislate over the use of marijuana.
The ill in California may have to return either to legally prescribed medications or conventional remedies such as aspirin, vitamins, hot compresses, and whatever legal treatments they have used in the past. This is truly unfortunate for those who suffer from cancer, glaucoma, and other serious conditions where marijuana may offer relief. But countless others who complain of back aches, head aches, coughs, sniffling noses and other maladies may be out of luck as well.
Lest you wonder whether the FDA has exceeded its authority, in 2001 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 8-0 that existing federal laws and regulations prohibit the states from distributing medical marijuana. That means that for the past decades, medical marijuana users have been living on borrowed time.
Is there a way out of this conflict? Only if the Congress amends legislation to deny the FDA the power to regulate the use of medical marijuana. Given their penchant for removing unnecessary regulations, perhaps Republicans in the House of Representatives will embrace this cause. Then again, they probably have other regulations they'd like to deal with first.
So, medical marijuana users, get well quickly. Your days are numbered, at least for now.