Two bills were introduced yesterday in the U.S. Congress that would be very beneficial to medical marijuana patients nationwide. The medical marijuana advocacy group Americans for Safe Access put out a press release yesterday with the details, and it reads in part:

420times_000010734269XSmall-150x150Washington, D.C. — More than a dozen Members of Congress co-introduced legislation today that would reclassify marijuana for medical use and provide federal defendants the right to use state law compliance as evidence in medical marijuana trials, a right they’re currently denied. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) authored H.R. 689, the “States’ Medical Marijuana Patient Protection Act,” which in addition to rescheduling marijuana will allow states to establish production and distribution laws without interference by the federal government, and will remove current obstacles to research. Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA) authored the “Truth in Trials Act,” a separate bill which seeks to overturn the prohibition on medical marijuana evidence in federal court. Both bills were introduced in anticipation of a national medical marijuana conference to be held next week in Washington, D.C. during which hundreds of advocates are expected to meet with their Congressional representatives about the legislation.

“Nineteen jurisdictions have passed laws recognizing the importance of providing access to medical marijuana for the hundreds of thousands of patients who rely on it,” said Congressman Blumenauer. “It is time for the federal government to respect these decisions, and stop inhibiting safe access.” Initial co-sponsors of H.R. 689 include Representatives Cohen (D-TN), Farr (D-CA), Grijalva (D-AZ), Hastings (D-FL), Honda (D-CA), Huffman (D-CA), Lee (D-CA), Moran (D-VA), Nadler (D-NY), Polis (D-CO), Rohrabacher (R-CA), and Schakowsky (D-IL). On the “Truth in Trials Act,” Congressman Farr said that, “The federal government for too long has denied due process to defendants who can demonstrate that they were using medical marijuana legally under local or state law. This bill would ensure that all the evidence is heard in a case and not just the evidence that favors conviction.”

“Congress has the opportunity to establish a sensible public health policy on medical marijuana, and do what the Obama Administration has been afraid or unwilling to do,” said Steph Sherer, Executive Director of Americans for Safe Access (ASA), which has been working with Members of Congress to advance this legislation. “Patient advocates intend to push Congress to take heed of the abundant scientific evidence showing marijuana’s medical value, and act in accordance with the overwhelming popular support this issue receives.”

H.R. 689 is partly a response to the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) recent denial of a petition to reclassify marijuana for medical use. In 2002, the Coalition for Rescheduling Cannabis (CRC) filed a petition, which was denied by the DEA in July 2011. The denial was appealed in January 2012 and just last month the D.C. Circuit refused to reclassify, instead ruling in favor of the Obama Administration’s effort to keep medical marijuana out of reach for millions of Americans. The bill also dismantles a cumbersome and often prohibitive research application process for medical marijuana, currently run by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which almost exclusively favors studies on the alleged harmfulness of cannabis.

The “Truth in Trials Act” attempts to bring ‘fairness’ to federal medical marijuana trials. Because of the government’s insistence that marijuana has no medical value, federal prosecutors are easily able to exclude any reference to medical marijuana in trials involving cultivators and distributors who have been acting in accordance with their own state laws. Because of this, federal defendants are all but guaranteed a conviction at trial and, as a result, are forced to take plea bargains that impose years of prison time. Just in the past few months, several defendants were convicted and sentenced to between 5-10 years in prison. Since he took office, President Obama has been responsible for nearly 100 medical marijuana-related prosecutions, despite establishing a Justice Department policy that indicated he would do otherwise.

The Executive Branch of the federal government is obviously not going to do anything to help medical marijuana patients, so barring a major decision from the judicial system, it’s going to be up to Congress to change federal marijuana laws.

The madness must end. Make sure your Congressional Representative knows how you feel about these bills.

– Joe Klare

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About The Author

Joe Klare has been writing about marijuana issues for the past 5 years online, in print and on air.

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2 Responses

  1. maxw3st

    There should be bills in every state for this. 50, not just a dozen. This ridiculous and life damaging persecution has gone on for far too long. The DEA and DOJ need to be forced into accepting modern research (over 40 years worth) and reclassify the plant for what it is.

  2. MeeMan

    A brief history of the UK and the USA Government’s relationship with Cannabis as a “drug” (info on it being a production crop not included). You may find it interesting that the DEA’s own Judge deemed it had medicinal properties and advocated its use. So much for history! Enjoy the following.

    1840 In America, medicinal preparations with a cannabis base are available. Hashish is available in Persian pharmacies.

    1894 After sitting for two years the British government’s Indian Hemp Commission produces a 3,281 page report that concludes “…for the vast majority of consumers, the Commission consider that the evidence shows the moderate use of ganja or charas not to be appreciably harmful…”

    1901 Royal Commission concludes that cannabis is relatively harmless and not worth prohibiting.

    1936 Propaganda film “Reefer Madness” is made to scare American youth away from using cannabis. The movie remains a cult classic.

    1937 Cannabis made federally illegal in the US with the passage of the Marihuana Tax Act.

    The act is pushed through by former Prohibition Commissioner Harry J Anslinger, now head of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics. The American Medical Association and Oil Seed Institute opposed the law, but were ignored.

    Anslinger used the new law to expand his Bureau. He began an ugly campaign against “demon dope” using films and posters, associating it with jazz “voodoo music”, inter-racial sex, madness and death.

    1964 The first year when more white people than black were convicted of cannabis related offences in the UK. The total number of convictions, 544, was a little lower than in the previous two years.

    1965 The 1965 Dangerous Drugs Act began to bring UK law in line with parts of the UN Single Convention. A new crime was created, allowing premises to be used for drug taking. Convictions for cannabis offences rose by 79% in a year.

    1968 The UK government committee headed by Baroness Wootton concludes that “the long-term consumption of cannabis in moderation has no harmful effects”.

    1975 America establishes the Compassionate Use programme for medical use of marijuana.

    1979 The UK Advisory Council proposed moving cannabis to class C under the Misuse of Drugs Act, and changing penalties for possession.

    1988 In the US, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) administrative law Judge Francis Young finds after thorough hearings that marijuana has clearly established medical use and should be reclassified as a prescriptive drug. His recommendation is ignored.

    2000 Tony Blair agrees that cannabis should be legalised for medical purposes.

    2000 Police Foundation Report suggests that certain drugs be reclassified and penalties reduced. The government rejects the recommendations.

    2003 Canada is first country in the world to offer medical marijuana to its patients.

    2004 Cannabis was reclassified from a Class B to a Class C drug in January. Possession remains illegal, but is not an arrestable offence.

    2005 Sativex, the world’s first cannabis derived medicine is licensed for use in Canada. The drug is developed by British Company GW Pharmaceuticals. The UK considers licensing Sativex as well.

    2005 Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs asked to re-examine scientific evidence linking cannabis use in at risk adolescents and mental health problems.

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