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Feds, States Diverge on Medical Marijuana

JoinTogether.com April 24, 2006

News Summary

State officials say a new statement from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) denying that marijuana has medical uses won't affect state laws legalizing medical-marijuana use, the New York Times reported April 22.

Nathan Barankin, a spokesman for California attorney general Bill Lockyer, said the FDA statement is "consistent with the long-held federal view on this medicine, and that is that marijuana is the equivalent of heroin and cocaine. California voters disagree."

He added: "There's sort of a détente. Both sides respect that we have laws that differ. Federal law-enforcement agencies for the most part have shown some respect for California law by only going after those individuals who seem to be clearly not in the medical-marijuana business for the medical part of it -- which are the same people the state law is going after."

"Really, there's nothing that's going to happen -- any third parties judging whether these substances are effective -- that is going to change Maine law," added Maine assistant attorney general James M. Cameron; Maine passed a medical-marijuana law in 1999.

A spokesperson for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) said the statement helped clarify the position of the federal government and its intention to enforcement the laws against marijuana use.

Medical-marijuana advocates said the FDA statement could make it harder to pass medical-use laws in states like Connecticut, New Jersey, and New Mexico, which are currently considering such legislation. A recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling that federal marijuana laws could be enforced even in states with medical-marijuana laws had a similar chilling effect.

"We're going to have members of state legislatures say, 'But even the FDA has said there's no medical value,' " said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. "That's where it's going to hurt."