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Medical Marijuana in California
The Feds Just Busted California's Legal Medical Marijuana Program
Today is October 6, 2011, and in today's news, the U.S. Federal Government made an egregiously bad call. They sent out a memo to the California State attorneys, ordering them to shut down California's medical marijuana dispensaries!
A Useful Plant
Some Basic Background:
These dispensaries became legal under state law 15 years ago for the benefit of patients with a medical need for the herb, and a valid state-issued identification card to verify that need. The system has worked just fine all this time.
The only problems, in fact, have been with some hard-headed local law enforcement agencies refusing to acknowledge the state law, and hassling both providers and patients. Illegal raids have taken place many times. I shudder to think of the amount of taxpayer dollars that have been wasted on this pointless persecution and prosecution.
Mind you, I'm not referring to the renegade black-market growers with large-scale, illegal operations hiding in the woods on public lands. That's a whole other side of the issue: one that would disappear overnight with Federal-level legalization.
I'm talking strictly about legalized medical dispensaries, operating under strict guidelines. You are not even allowed in the door of such shops without having your state ID card to show.
California is a very large state, covering 163,707 square miles, of which 155,973 is land; the rest is water. It is the third largest of all the states. Its population is 37,253,956 souls. of which 27,754,197 are over the age of 18, and legally eligible for a state ID card for medical marijuana.
Who, Exactly, Is Eligible?--The Laws Enacted:
According to the original law, commonly known as Prop. 215, making medical marijuana legal for California residents, I quote in part from the text of that bill:
SECTION 1. Section 11362.5 is added to the Health and Safety Code, reads:
11362.5. (a) This section shall be known and may be cited as the Compassionate Use Act of 1996.
(b)(1) The people of the State of California hereby find and declare that the purposes of the Compassionate Use Act of 1996 are as follows:
(A) To ensure that seriously ill Californians have the right to obtain and use marijuana for medical purposes where that medical use is deemed appropriate and has been recommended by a physician who has determined that the person's health would benefit from the use of marijuana in the treatment of cancer, anorexia, AIDS, chronic pain, spasticity, glaucoma, arthritis, migraine, or any other illness for which marijuana provides relief.
As with any other piece of legislation, it goes on and on with all sorts of disclaimers to the effect that qualified persons shall not be hassled by law enforcement, nor does the bill condone or provide for recreational use, etc., etc.
A Supplemental Bill
As time went on, Prop. 215 was found to be flawed, and an addendum with clarifications was added. This was State Bill 420 (SB 420). It reads, in part:
SECTION 1. (a) The Legislature finds and declares all of the following:
(1) On November 6, 1996, the people of the State of California enacted the Compassionate Use Act of 1996 (hereafter the act), codified in Section 11362.5 of the Health and Safety Code, in order to allow seriously ill residents of the state, who have the oral or written approval or recommendation of a physician, to use marijuana for medical purposes without fear of criminal liability under Sections 11357 and 11358 of the Health and Safety Code.
(2) However, reports from across the state have revealed problems and uncertainties in the act that have impeded the ability of law enforcement officers to enforce its provisions as the voters intended and, therefore, have prevented qualified patients and designated primary caregivers from obtaining the protections afforded by the act.
There Have Been Some Problems
Yes, it is true--problems have arisen. But, we live in a vast society; an amalgam of people of widely diverse cultures; races, socio-economic status; varied upbringings and expectations. Problems are inevitable--they happen in all areas of life. The medical use of marijuana as a legitimate, natural, herbal remedy has no exclusivity to "problems." It is merely the current scapegoat.
In point of fact, many of the so-called problems occurring around this herb would not exist at all, were it not for the federal government's stubborn refusal to validate and legalize its medical use--valid medicinal use--of which the government itself knows full well.
The government, in fact, has run its own research program for decades, and has provided medicinal grade herb to a group of selected patients, for whom standard pain medication is no longer needed, and these patients function fully in society without any of the dangerous side-effects of our modern synthetic drugs. Caught in its contradiction of propaganda vs. research, they are phasing out the program so they can continue their lies.
Cannabis, to give it its scientific name, has been known to have many benefits since as far back as the 1800's. One ailment that responds well is epilepsy. There are countless others. The government knows this. There are those who will point to abuse of the system; claim harm to underage users obtaining it illegally and those scamming the system to get a supply for recreational uses rather than medical ones. To them, I say, "And your point is....?" The exact same arguments can be made against legal prescription drugs, tobacco products and liquor, and have been.
Nothing has changed--kids still manage to get hold of alcohol and tobacco; many of them sneak into their parents' prescripton drugs, and still others have gotten sick or died from fooling around with legal over-the-counter drugs. Some of those are truly dangerous, and can be used for other nefarious and non-medical purposes, hence the fairly recent implementation of laws requiring some of them to be locked up behind the pharmacy counter.
Lies, Lies, and More Lies!
The propaganda machine went into high gear just before WWII, and Hollywood was called upon to produce movies putting Marijuana into a bad light. "Reefer Madness" was one such film.
Then, with our entry into the war, the government did an abrut about-face, and began a campaign of "Hemp for Victory," authorizing the massive planting of tracts of hemp to be made into fibers for everything from clothing to ropes 'for the war effort.'
As soon as the war was over, however, they again reversed themselves and resumed the prosecution/persecution that continues to this day.
Why? I have a very good idea why--but the paper trail to prove it is going to be very well under cover. It is, of course, our modern industrial-pharmaceutical complex. It is not good business for the drug companies, if the populace has freely available and easily-grown natural remedies at their disposal. Make no mistake--our congress is firmly in the pockets of the drug lobby, as well as the oil lobby, the insurance lobby, the... ... you get the idea.
Re-authorizing the growing of hemp would introduce many thousands of new jobs in the textile and other industries. It certainly makes more sense than the current idiocy of paying farmers subsidies for letting land lie fallow.
Legalizing medical Cannabis would eliminate the need for black-market operations, and that activity would end on its own, just as happened with the repeal of the Volstead Act (18th amendment to the constitution; 1917-18) otherwise known as "prohibition." The repeal of the 18th amendment was the 21st amendment, coming in February of 1933.
The Truth About Cannabis
A conservative estimate of the veracity of so-called "facts" presented about Cannabis by and on behalf of the government ranks below 1%. That means 99% of what we are told is untrue!
- Fact: Cannabis is non-toxic.
- Fact: It does not cause erratic, violent behavior--rather the opposite--it has a mellowing effect.
- Fact: No one has ever died from either smoking or ingesting Cannabis alone. According to FDA information!
- Fact: All deaths supposedly involving this herb were found to be in conjunction with other substances, including alcohol.
- Fact: Cannabis is NOT addictive.
- Fact: Billions of dollars are wasted annually on trying to eliminate this useful medicine.
- Fact: Hemp and Cannabis are close cousins, but not the same thing. You cannot get "high" on hemp (hemp being a useful plant in its own right).
Failure of Prohibition, Part the Second
Most of us are familiar with the saying, "Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it." Our government is guilty of this very failure in spades.
The first time prohibition was tried was back in 1918 when the Volstead Act attempted to outlaw alcohol. Massive expenditures of money, time, manpower and energy were wasted in failed attempts to enforce this law.
The end result was counter-productive in the extreme; it caused the very lawlessness for which that era was known. The Mafia grew from an inconsequential minor nuisance to a major player and controlling influence in politics and beyond. Corruption ran rampant. Gangsterism blossomed. When it was finally repealed, the lawlessness and gangster activity slowed almost to a halt.
Now, we are seeing a repetition of these problems. Marijuana is not to blame; its prohibition is. Again, massive amounts of money are being wasted attempting to prevent the growth and distribution of this beneficial crop.
It is the law itself that has made apparent and alleged criminals out of people who need this herbal medicine, just as the first prohibition made criminals out of otherwise law-abiding citizens. It is legal in just 16 states, (and, ironically, Washington D.C.), as a medicinal product.
While on the one hand the Feds sit bemoaning the 'deficit,' and threatening massive cuts to essential programs, on the other hand, huge amounts of money, sufficient to make a real difference, are still being wasted on senseless prosecution of Cannabis. Ironically, legalization at the national level would bring in massive amounts of cash in taxes!
- Letter from SB 420 authors
An open letter from the authors of SB 420
- Marijuana Law Reform - NORML
the NORML website--lots of well-researched information here, including things the government doesn't want you to know.
- Featured Medical Marijuana Patient Accounts
Some first-hand accounts of how Cannabis has helped many people.
The New Problem Caused for California
With this new edict from the Feds, California now loses hundreds of thousands of tax revenue collected from sales at the dispensaries. California's economy is in a very precarious position already, (along with the rest of the country), but California is among the hardest hit.
Were the crop to be legalized instead, at the Federal level, the hemorrhaging of money on futile law enforcement could cease, and tax revenue plus licensing fees could be realized. California will also now lose out on those fees.
Legalization could, at least in fair measure, begin to help the economy climb out of the seemingly bottomless pit into which it has fallen.
Since this article was originally written, California voters have passed a new law, legalizing recreational marijuana for those over the age of 18. This law went into effect in January of 2018.
Of our 50 states, 30 of them, or 60%, currently have legalized the herb in some form, whether medicinally, recreationally, or both.
Unfortunately, this has not made much difference to the Feds, and in fact, "#45" has threatened to come down even harder on the states that do have such laws in place.
The jury, then, is still awaiting the final outcome.
© 2011 Liz Elias