Archive for Thursday, June 14, 2001

Court ruling doesn’t stop smokers

June 14, 2001

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— In the month since the U.S. Supreme Court said it's illegal to sell or possess marijuana for medical use, the decision appears to be having little effect in the eight states with medical marijuana laws.

"I dispense a couple pounds a month," said Jim Green, operator of the Market Street Club, where business has thrived even after the May 14 ruling. "All of my clients have a legitimate and compelling need."

Grant Magner lights up during a visit to a San Francisco cannabis
buyers club. The club's marijuana goes to patients such as Magner,
who has been HIV-positive since 1984. Magner says the drug reduces
nausea and headaches resulting from AIDS and gives him enough of an
appetite to eat.

Grant Magner lights up during a visit to a San Francisco cannabis buyers club. The club's marijuana goes to patients such as Magner, who has been HIV-positive since 1984. Magner says the drug reduces nausea and headaches resulting from AIDS and gives him enough of an appetite to eat.

Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Oregon and Washington allow the infirm to receive, possess, grow or smoke marijuana for medical purposes without fear of state prosecution.

Those states have done little to change since the Supreme Court ruled federal law prohibits people from dispensing marijuana to the ill. Some states have even moved to expand marijuana laws despite the ruling.

State prosecutors say it's up to federal authorities, not them, to enforce the court's decision.

"If the feds want to prosecute these people, they can," said Norm Vroman, the district attorney in Northern California's Mendocino County, where the sheriff issues medical marijuana licenses to residents with a doctor's recommendation, or to people who grow the marijuana for them.

In Maine, "state prosecutors aren't too involved with enforcing the federal law," said state attorney general spokesman Chuck Dow.

In response to the high court's decision, however, Maine lawmakers shelved an effort to supply marijuana to the ill.

The Bush administration, which inherited the medical marijuana fight from President Clinton, has taken no public action to enforce the ruling and has been silent about its next move.

"There's generally no comment about what the government will do in the future in any context," said Mark Quinlivan, the Justice Department's lead attorney in the Supreme Court case.

Leslie Baker, head of the U.S. attorney's Portland, Ore., drug-enforcement unit, said last week that U.S. Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft's office has not given her guidance on how to respond to the ruling.

Oregon allows "caregivers" to grow and dispense marijuana for patients who have a doctor's recommendation.

Meanwhile, Nevada lawmakers, abiding by a voter referendum, on June 4 adopted a medical marijuana measure that Gov. Kenny Guinn said he would sign.

In California, the nation's first state to approve medical marijuana in 1996, the Senate approved legislation June 6 legalizing marijuana cooperatives for the sick.

Three days earlier, Colorado expanded its medical marijuana law, complying with a state voter initiative that requires the state to license medical marijuana users. That was despite the opposition of Gov. Bill Owens and the state's attorney general, who urged federal authorities to prosecute anybody who sells, distributes or grows medical marijuana, even if they qualify for the state program.

At the Market Street Club in California, the marijuana goes to patients such as Grant Magner, 49, of Novato, who says it reduces nausea and headaches resulting from AIDS and gives him enough of an appetite to eat.

"It gives me a slight feeling of wellness. I can not smoke marijuana, and watch my body waste away," he said.

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