Gov. Jack Markell has suspended the regulation-writing and licensing process for medical marijuana dispensaries — effectively killing the program — and criticized the federal government for sending mixed signals on law enforcement, The News Journal has learned.
U.S. Attorney Charles M. Oberly III has adopted the hard-line stance that just came out of President Barack Obama’s Department of Justice. This stance accentuates the inherent conflict between federal marijuana laws and what is playing out in states that have authorized limited marijuana use for medicinal purposes.
“[G]rowing, distributing and possessing marijuana, in any capacity, other than as part of a federally authorized research program, is a violation of federal law regardless of state laws permitting such activities,” Oberly wrote Thursday to Markell’s attorney. “Moreover, those who engage in financial transactions involving the proceeds of such activities may also be in violation of federal money laundering statutes.”
Markell’s office told The News Journal on Friday that Oberly’s stance prevents the Department of Health and Social Services from issuing licenses to medical marijuana dispensaries, whose employees and owners may be subject to federal raids and prosecution.
The governor’s office recently sought guidance from Oberly on whether state employees responsible for regulating and inspecting licensed, not-for-profit medical marijuana dispensaries could do their jobs without fear of prosecution.
“State employees who conduct activities mandated by the Delaware Medical Marijuana Act are not immune from liability under” the Controlled Substances Act, Oberly wrote.
In a statement Friday, the Democratic governor said he had no choice but to stop the program.
“To do otherwise would put our state employees in legal jeopardy, and I will not do that,” Markell said.
With the federal government firmly against large-scale dispensaries, state legislators may need to consider amending the law to allow doctor-approved patients to grow their own pot at home, said Rep. Helene Keeley, D-Wilmington South.
“Maybe we have to tweak the current law to make this happen,” Keeley said. “We can’t give up.”
Oberly’s letter is evidence of the U.S. Department of Justice’s changing attitude toward state medical marijuana laws since Obama took office.
During his campaign for president in 2008, medical marijuana advocates were encouraged by Obama’s vow to respect state laws. Oberly, a Democrat and former attorney general, is an Obama appointee.
“I think it’s a great betrayal of what he said when he was running for office,” said Karen O’Keefe, director of state policies at the Marijuana Policy Project, a Washington, D.C.-based lobbying group that helped write Delaware’s law. “It’s been a great disappointment.”
In 2009, when the first version of a medical marijuana bill was introduced in the Delaware General Assembly, a key impetus for the debate was the newly elected Obama’s pledge not to send his Department of Justice after those involved in state-sanctioned medical marijuana operations.
That policy was codified in an October 2009 memo written by then-Deputy Attorney General David Ogden that said prosecutions of medical marijuana patients and caregivers was “unlikely to be an efficient use of limited federal resources.”
With the Ogden memo as its backdrop, Delaware’s legislative effort continued, culminating with the passage of the Medical Marijuana Act last May.
A month later, new Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole issued a memo with a different tone in response to inquiries from a group of federal prosecutors nationwide.
Drawing a corollary from the Ogden memo, Cole said patients and their caregivers were still safe from enforcement action but prosecutors were never meant to ignore “large-scale, privately owned industrial marijuana cultivation centers” like those authorized in some states.
In the months after the Cole memo, federal law enforcement agencies raided growers and dispensaries in California and Montana.
A U.S. attorney in northern California sent a letter to local public officials, warning them to quell their efforts to regulate and license marijuana growers or face criminal charges.
In January, prosecutors in Colorado mailed letters to two dozen medical marijuana dispensaries located within 1,000 feet of schools, notifying them of enhanced federal penalties for drug offenses committed near schools.
Since Delaware’s passage of its medical marijuana law, the state Division of Public Health has been studying similar laws in other states and writing regulations that officials expected to publish this spring. Markell’s recommended budget for the next fiscal year includes $480,000 for the implementation of the program, funded by proceeds from licensing dispensaries and patients.
Spurred by the Cole memo and the recent enforcement efforts, Markell’s legal counsel, Michael A. Barlow, sought Oberly’s guidance on the state’s Medical Marijuana Act in early December.
“It was our goal to exercise some caution before we move forward, to make sure we have some dialogue with federal prosecutors in Delaware and solicit their input,” Barlow said.
Specifically, Barlow said, the administration is concerned that the medical marijuana distribution plan outlined in Delaware’s law falls under the parameters outlined in the Cole memo.
The statute mandates the establishment of one marijuana dispensary — called a Compassionate Care Center — in each of the three counties, with the possibility of more centers in future years.
Operators of the centers are to be nonprofit entities selected via a competitive bidding process administered by the state’s Division of Public Health, and would be responsible for cultivating, preparing and distributing the marijuana in cooperation with state regulators and under tight state control.
“If you look at the Cole memo, it focuses on this large-scale, industrial distribution model, and what we have in Delaware is a distribution model that centralizes that into one place,” Barlow said. “It seems to be something the Cole memo is looking to specifically.”
The administration was also worried that Delaware’s medical marijuana distribution structure could put state employees in danger of federal prosecution because of their close work with the dispensaries.
“The governor’s concern is that we’re not doing things to put state employees potentially in the way of the federal government’s new enforcement,” Barlow said.
In his response to Barlow, Oberly reaffirmed the Cole corollary to the Ogden memo and said the DOJ will not target patients or caregivers, but distribution is to be treated differently.
“Enterprises engaged in the cultivation, manufacture and sale of marijuana directly violate federal law,” he wrote. “Individuals and organizations that participate in the unlawful cultivation and distribution of marijuana could be subject to civil and criminal penalties.”
Oberly also said state workers are fair game for prosecution, just like anyone who is part of a marijuana distribution operation.
Prosecution decisions would made on a case-by-case basis, Oberly said.
The compassion centers were the linchpin of the medical marijuana bill’s getting bipartisan support in the Delaware General Assembly, Keeley said.
“In the absence of such compassion centers, patients may be forced to obtain marijuana illicitly, unlawfully grow their own marijuana or forgo use of medical marijuana entirely,” Barlow wrote Friday in response Oberly’s Thursday letter. “That appears to be the unfortunate consequence of a federal policy that appears to offer mercy to cancer patients and others with a serious medical need for marijuana, but actually threatens criminal and civil sanctions for those who might help them safely obtain that relief.”
“Individuals applying to join the active duty Army, the Army Reserves, and Army National Guard are given a drug test as part of their medical physical at the Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS). Individuals who test positive for marijuana, alcohol, or cocaine may still enlist (with a waiver), if they pass a re-test after a specified waiting period.
Waiting periods are required under the following circumstances: Positive for marijuana and alcohol
- If applicant’s first test is positive, he/she must wait 45 days for retest. (Recruiting battalion commander is the waiver approval authority.)
- If applicant’s second test is positive, he/she must wait 1 year for a retest. (The Commanding General, HQ Army Recruiting Command is the waiver approval authority.) •If applicant’s third test is positive, he/she is permanently disqualified. Positive for cocaine •If applicant’s first test is positive, he/she must wait 1 year for a retest. (Recruiting battalion commander is the approval authority.)
- If applicant’s second test is positive, he/she is permanently disqualified. Positive for drugs other than marijuana, alcohol, or cocaine
- If applicant’s first test is positive, he/she is permanently disqualified. Prior service personnel
- Prior service personnel who test positive at MEPS for any illegal drug or alcohol are permanently disqualified. All applicants who test positive will be required to have police records check accomplished as part of the waiver process regardless of any admission or record of civil offenses.
- Applicants with an approved drug alcohol test waiver are prohibited from enlisting in any MOS or option that requires a security clearance.”
Read the article http://usmilitary.about.com/od/armyjoin/a/drugtestpos.htm
The American Society of Addition Medicine says Marijuana is a mood-altering drug capable of producing dependency. Its chief active ingredient is THC (delta-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol), but there are many other ingredients.
Marijuana has been shown to have adverse effects on memory and learning, on perception, behavior and functioning, and on pregnancy. Because of the widespread use of this drug, its effects on mind and body, and the increasing potency of available supplies.
Persons suffering from alcoholism and other drug dependencies should be educated about the need for abstinence from marijuana and its role in precipitating relapse, even if their original drug of choice is other than marijuana.
Treatment programs providing addictions treatment for chemically dependent patients should include tests for cannabinoids with other drug test panels and consider test results when designing treatment plans.
Read the report ASAM Statement on Marijuana
Facts of the Case
In 1996 California voters passed the Compassionate Use Act, legalizing marijuana for medical use. California’s law conflicted with the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA), which banned possession of marijuana. After the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) seized doctor-prescribed marijuana from a patient’s home, a group of medical marijuana users sued the DEA and U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft in federal district court.
The medical marijuana users argued the Controlled Substances Act – which Congress passed using its constitutional power to regulate interstate commerce – exceeded Congress’ commerce clause power. The district court ruled against the group. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed and ruled the CSA unconstitutional as it applied to intrastate (within a state) medical marijuana use. Relying on two U.S. Supreme Court decisions that narrowed Congress’ commerce clause power – U.S. v. Lopez (1995) and U.S. v. Morrison (2000) – the Ninth Circuit ruled using medical marijuana did not “substantially affect” interstate commerce and therefore could not be regulated by Congress.
Does the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 801) exceed Congress’ power under the commerce clause as applied to the intrastate cultivation and possession of marijuana for medical use?
Does the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 801) exceed Congress’ power under the commerce clause as applied to the intrastate cultivation and possession of marijuana for medical use?
The majority argued that Congress could ban local marijuana use because it was part of such a “class of activities”: the national marijuana market. Local use affected supply and demand in the national marijuana market, making the regulation of intrastate use “essential” to regulating the drug’s national market.
The Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986. requires that the Governor cause to be published a list of those chemicals “known to the state” to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity. The Act specifies that “a chemical is known to the state to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity … if in the opinion of the state’s qualified experts the chemical has been clearly shown through scientifically valid testing according to generally accepted principles to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity.”
The lead agency for implementing Proposition 65 is the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) of the California Environmental Protection Agency. The “state’s qualified experts” regarding findings of carcinogenicity are identified as the members of the Carcinogen Identification Committee of the OEHHA Science Advisory Board.
OEHHA announced the selection of marijuana smoke as a chemical for consideration for listing by the CIC in the California Regulatory Notice Register on December 12, 2007, subsequent to consultation with the Committee at their November 19, 2007 meeting. At that meeting, the Committee advised OEHHA to prepare hazard identification materials for marijuana smoke.
At their May 29, 2009 meeting the Committee, by a vote of five in favor and one against, found that marijuana smoke had been “clearly shown through scientifically valid testing according to generally accepted principles to cause cancer.”
Read the full report Marijuana Smoke and Cancer
Cannabis use significantly increases the risk for incident psychotic symptoms in individuals with no prior history of psychotic experiences.
In persons with evidence of psychosis, cannabis use increases the persistence of these symptoms, according to researchers from the University of Maastricht in The Netherlands, who have done much of the existing work in the area of cannabis and psychosis.
It has been known for many years that persons with schizophrenia or other psychotic illness use more cannabis than the general population, and other work has shown that individuals using cannabis during adolescence and early adulthood have a higher risk of developing psychotic symptoms. It remains unclear, however, whether the association between cannabis and psychosis is causal or whether an underlying genetic predisposition for psychosis may prompt cannabis use as a way of self-medication. A second issue is whether cannabis impacts on persistence rates of psychosis and which biological mechanisms may underlie this process.
Read more Cannabis use Increases Psychosis Risk.
What is Lobbying?
Lobbying is taking a specific position on a specific piece of legislation (for the exact definition of direct and grassroots lobbying, see page 3 of the CADCA Guidelines for Advocacy).
How Is Advocacy Different From Lobbying?
Most advocacy is not lobbying at all and is permissible for everyone. Examples of activities that are not considered lobbying include:
- Sending information, outcomes and other successes about your coalition to your legislators
- Educating your legislator about problems and issues in your community that need to be addressed
- Letting your legislators know what federal programs fund your coalition work
Should I Be Afraid to Participate in Advocacy Activities?
No! Advocacy is something you should absolutely participate in and is NOT considered lobbying as you are not taking a specific position on a specific piece of legislation.
Should I Be Afraid to Participate in Lobbying Activities?
No! But if you are going to participate in lobbying activities, there are certain guidelines that you need to follow as a 501(c)(3) (see the CADCA Guidelines for Advocacy and the rest of this document), but you are not prohibited from doing so.
Read more about Lobbying and Advocacy – What’s the Difference
Learn more about Lobbying
Sue Thau provides additional input on lobbying, click here Lobbying
The issues around marijuana may seem complicated, but the bottom line is simple:
- We know from analysis at RAND that legalization would cause the price of marijuana to fall and its use woould rise, especially among youth.
- With more users, we will see more addiction. Marijuana addiction is real and affects about 1 in 9 people who ever start using the drug (a number similar to alcohol). If one starts in adolescence, that number jumps to 1 in 6 users.
- If you care about educational outcomes, you need to oppose legalization because marijuana use reduces learning and memory, increases drop-out rates and lower grades.
- If you care about economic competitiveness and jobs, you need to oppose legalization because employers will not hire those who test positive for drug use.
- If you care about safe roads, you need to oppose legalization because smoking marijuana doubles a user’s risk of having an accident.
- Taxes on marijuana would never pay for the increased social costs that would result from more users. Our experience with alcohol and tobacco shows that for every dollar gained in taxes, we spent $10 in social costs.
- Legalization would jeopardize our ability to get Federal funds, because of drug-free workplace requirements and the fact that marijuana is against Federal law.
- Our experience with even tightly regulated prescription drugs, such as OxyCotin, shows that legalizing drugs widens availability and misuse, even when controls are in place.
- Legalization would not curb violence. Marijuana accounts for only a portion of the proceeds gained by criminal organizations that profit from drug distribution, human trafficking, and other crimes, so legalizing marijuana would not deter these groups from continuing to operate.
- Legalization wouldn’t even reduce the burden of the criminal justice system. Today, alcohol ~ which is legal- is the cause of over 2.6 million arrests a year. That is a million more arrests than for all illegal drugs combined.
- In places that have experimented with quasi-legalization, marijuana use and associated problems have skyrocketed. That is why the Netherlands, the U.K., and other countries, after experiencing a wave of increased use, are now reversing their policies.
Marijuana smoke contains a greater amount of carcinogens than tobacco smoke.
In addition, marijuana users usually inhale more deeply and hold their breath longer than tobacco smokers do, further increasing the lungs’ exposure to carcinogenic smoke. Marijuana use is not only associated with adverse physical effects, but also mental, emotional and behavioral changes.
People who smoke marijuana frequently, but do not smoke tobacco, have more health problems and miss more days of work than nonsmokers. Many of these extra sick days are due to respiratory illnesses.
Patients considering using marijuana for medicinal purposes should make this decision in consultation with their doctor, and consider means of administration other than smoking.
Questions about your lung health? Ask an expert.
Call 1-800-LUNGUSA or 1-800-586-4872.
Today a full 16 percent of the U.S. population is dependent on alcohol, nicotine or other drugs. Another 27 percent of the general population engages in use of these substances in ways that put themselves and others at risk, including underage and adult excessive drinking, tobacco use, and misuse of pain relievers, stimulants and depressants. For a staggering 43 percent of the nation, then — nearly every other American — addiction and risky substance use are a matter of public health.
Addiction is America’s number one health care and health cost problem. Approximately 30 percent of our federal and state health care spending is attributable to this disease. Across all government spending, the total financial cost is nearly $500 billion annually.
The extent of human misery is incalculable.