Czech health experts are in favor of allowing medical marijuana to be prescribed for a wide range of conditions with home grown marijuana in the Czech Republic used to compliment imports, according to a working group paving the way for medical marijuana to be offered for the first time in the country. The head of the working group, Tomáš Zima, who is rector of the medical faculty at Prague’s Charles University, initially indicated that the Czech Republic would favor imports alone when expected legal changes allowing marijuana to be prescribed for patients are completed.
Why is the U.S. government cracking down on medical marijuana, a $1.7 billion business — and one of the few that seems to be thriving in a moribund economy? In early October, the Justice Department announced that it would be targeting medical-marijuana dispensaries in California. Calling large dispensaries "profiteers" that "hijacked" the state's medical-marijuana law, "motivated not by compassion but by money," California's four U.S. Attorneys announced the arrests of two major dispensary owners and a lawyer they accused of making millions from growing the drug.
A high-ranking U.S. Justice Department official who wrote a memo saying state medical marijuana laws do not provide immunity from federal prosecution refused to say whether a recent crackdown in California signals a shift in federal policy that may result in a crackdown in other states. Deputy Attorney General James Cole said the memo sent to U.S. attorneys in June speaks for itself, and he said U.S. attorneys have discretion in how federal law is enforced in their districts.
A group of medical and criminal law experts are moving forward with drafting a plan that would clear marijuana for medicinal use. "There is a consensus between parties in the coalition and with the opposition that making marijuana legal for medical purposes is a good thing," said National Anti-Drug Coordinator Jindřich Vobořil, deputy chairman of the committee drafting the proposal.
Several members of California's congressional delegation are taking their concerns about a federal crackdown on the state's medical marijuana dispensaries directly to President Barack Obama. In a bipartisan letter signed by nine members of the U.S. House of Representatives, the lawmakers criticized what they called an "unconscionable" multi-state effort targeting medical marijuana dispensaries. They also called for the reclassification of marijuana as a controlled substance subject to fewer federal restrictions.
The California Medical Assn.'s recent decision to support marijuana legalization has drawn mixed opinions from physicians and others. At the same time, legal challenges continue across the country over state medical marijuana laws. And in recent months, the federal government has threatened to shut down marijuana dispensaries for violating federal law.
Recently, the California Medical Association, representing more than 35,000 physicians, the largest statewide physician organization in America, boldly decided to adopt a different, more pragmatic approach to the polarizing issue of marijuana decriminalization. The decision – the result of a carefully considered process, painstakingly researched and debated for more than one year – is centered on one concern above all others: patient safety.
A decade after Canada legalized the medical use of marijuana, most doctors are still refusing to sign the declarations patients need to get legal access to pot - meaning patients in pain risk being jailed if they use a drug that helps them function. It's a predicament that threatens to become worse because of proposed changes to how Health Canada regulates access to the drug.
Despite warnings from opponents of medical marijuana, legalizing the drug for medical purposes does not encourage teens to smoke more pot, according to new research that compared rates of marijuana use in Massachusetts and Rhode Island after the latter state changed its laws. Rhode Island legalized medical marijuana in 2006, but Massachusetts did not.
Fifteen years after the first state legalized medical marijuana — and set up a confrontation with federal law that keeps cannabis illegal — federal law enforcement's position on medical-marijuana businesses remains something of a mystery. Two memos written in the past two years that attempt to explain the federal position have not answered medical-marijuana advocates' questions. Indeed, federal raids in the past month in Colorado and California have only generated more.
Lawsuits were filed today in federal courts in Sacramento, San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego in a move to block efforts by U.S. attorneys to crack down on medical marijuana dispensaries in California. "A massive organized effort is now going to be launched to bring the issue to federal courts across the state to get some judges to look at this," said San Francisco lawyer Matt Kumin, one of the attorney's representing plaintiffs in the lawsuits.
Marijuana is now legal under state law for medical purposes in 16 states and the District of Columbia, encompassing nearly one-third of the American population. More than 1,000 dispensaries provide medical marijuana; many are well regulated by state and local law and pay substantial taxes. But though more than 70 percent of Americans support legalizing medical marijuana, any use of marijuana remains illegal under federal law. Mr. Obama briefly showed a willingness to challenge the drug-war mind-set that permeates the federal drug-control establishment. He needs to show leadership and intervene now, to encourage and defend responsible state and local regulation of medical marijuana.
In a decision that could have immediate fallout for medical marijuana dispensaries, a state appeals court has ruled that California law allows cities and counties to ban the stores. The contentious issue has bounced through the state courts for years, but the opinion issued Wednesday is the first published one that directly tackles it and does so in unambiguous language. The decision could embolden more cities and counties to enact their own. It also could spur those that have bans to be more aggressive about seeking court orders to close defiant dispensaries.
The Internal Revenue Service, America's tax collecting agency, sent a letter demanding an initial $2.5 million in back taxes and characterised the Harborside Health Center dispensary as a drug trafficking organisation. Using a provision of the tax code originally written to help seize the assets of gangsters and organised criminals, the IRS said Harborside was disqualified from claiming its ordinary business expenses – payroll, insurance, rent and so on – as deductions and needed to pay taxes on them instead. This is not just an attempt to tax; it's an attempt to tax dispensaries out of existence.
“My life went downhill from the moment I came back from Iraq,” Begin, now a 31-year-old veteran. “Doctors at Bethesda had me on so much, and on such high doses of everything, that I didn’t even know what was a symptom and what was a side effect.” At one point, Begin, diagnosed with PTSD shortly after coming home, was taking more than 100 pills a day. So many that he would stuff dozens of bottles into a backpack to lug everywhere he went. Now, he’s cut his dependency on prescriptions to zero. Their replacement? Five joints a day.
There are currently 16 states that allow some form of legalized medical marijuana, but only Colorado allows marijuana businesses to operate as such. It’s the first, and for the moment, only, for-profit marijuana marketplace in the U.S. Predictably, Colorado is in the midst of a marijuana boom. Between 2000—when Colorado voters legalized marijuana for medicinal purposes with Amendment 20—and 2008, Colorado issued roughly 2,000 medical marijuana cards to patients living in the state. By 2011 that number had jumped to over 127,000 paying customers, according to the Colorado Medical Marijuana Registry, and at least 25,000 more have applications pending.
According a recent CBS News poll conducted at the end of October, a slim majority of 51 percent continues to think that marijuana use should be illegal. But support for specifically allowing doctors to prescribe marijuana for serious medical conditions - or legalized "medical" marijuana - is far stronger: 77 percent Americans think it should be allowed.
An intensifying federal crackdown on growers and sellers of state-authorized medical marijuana has badly shaken the billion-dollar industry, which has sprung up in California since voters approved medical use of the drug in 1996, and has highlighted the stark contradiction between federal and state policies. Federal law classifies the possession and sale of marijuana as a serious crime and does not grant exceptions for medical use, so the programs adopted here, in 15 other states and in the District of Columbia exist in an odd legal limbo.
The passage of state medical-marijuana laws is associated with a subsequent drop in the rate of traffic fatalities, according to a newly released study by University of Colorado Denver professor Daniel Rees and Montana State University professor D. Mark Anderson. The study found that the traffic-death rate drops by nearly 9 percent in states after they legalize marijuana for medical use. The researchers arrived at that figure, Rees said, after controlling for other variables such as changes in traffic laws, seat-belt usage and miles driven. The study stops short of saying the medical-marijuana laws cause the drop in traffic deaths.
Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire and Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee have filed a petition with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration asking the agency to reclassify marijuana so doctors can prescribe it and pharmacists can fill the prescription. The governors want the federal government to list marijuana as a Schedule 2 drug, allowing it to be used for medical treatment. Marijuana is currently classified a Schedule 1 drug, meaning it's not accepted for medical treatment and can't be prescribed, administered or dispensed.