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URL: http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v16/n550/a06.html
Newshawk: http://www.drugsense.org/donate.htm
Votes: 0
Pubdate: Sun, 14 Aug 2016
Source: New Mexican, The (Santa Fe, NM)
Column: Roundhouse Roundup
Copyright: 2016 The Santa Fe New Mexican
Website: http://www.santafenewmexican.com
Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/695
Author: Steve Terrell


Marijuana is just one of many issues in which the government is so far behind the people, it’s beyond funny.

The Drug Enforcement Administration proved this again just last week when it announced that after weeks of reviewing a petition to reclassify marijuana so it’s no longer a Schedule 1 drug, along with heroin, Quaaludes and various psychedelics.  Some who follow this issue were optimistic that the DEA might might actually reverse its long-held ironclad Reefer Madness policy.  Perhaps the DEA would would reclassify marijuana as a Schedule 2 drug – along with cocaine and methamphetamine – or even lower.

But no.  As far as the DEA is concerned, marijuana prohibition is alive and well.

In an interview with National Public Radio, DEA Administrator Chuck Rosenberg said, “This decision isn’t based on danger.  This decision is based on whether marijuana, as determined by the [Food and Drug Administration], is a safe and effective medicine, and it’s not.”

Thousands, maybe millions of patients in New Mexico and the other 25 states ( and the District of Columbia ) with medical marijuana programs would strongly disagree.

During the state Legislature in February, a Santa Fe mechanic named Greg Vialpando gave emotional testimony that moved lawmakers from both parties.  Shaking and supporting himself with a cane, he told the House Judiciary Committee about his back injury 15 years ago that caused him to have to go through eight back surgeries.  Vialpando said he’d been prescribed a variety of narcotics through the years, but instead of easing his chronic pain, all they did was cause problems – sleep apnea, vitamin D deficiency, loss of appetite and depression.  But, he testified, this changed in 2013, when he decided he was no longer going to use opiates and instead try medical marijuana, which he gets legally through the state’s program.

The DEA is hardly the only institution hindering medical marijuana lately.  As reported last week by my colleague Andrew Oxford, the DEA’s decision came down a few days after an opinion from the New Mexico Bar Association’s Ethics Advisory Committee about whether lawyers can represent state-sanctioned medical marijuana growers and dispensaries.  The opinion can most accurately be described as wishy-washy.

“At one end of the spectrum, the committee is in general agreement that negotiating contracts for the purchase of cannabis would be directly assisting the client to engage in a criminal activity,” the opinion said.  “At the other end of the spectrum, some committee members opined that forming a general alternative medical business, which could possibly include the prescribing and distributing of medical cannabis, would not be such assistance.”

Albuquerque lawyer and former member of the Public Regulation Commission Jason Marks told Oxford the opinion seems to limit the rights of growers and dispensaries, and could be depriving these businesses of their right to legal counsel.  Marks, whose clients include some medical marijuana producers, said the state Supreme Court could clarify the issue by changing the state’s rules of professional conduct for attorneys.  This has happened in other states, he said.

But no matter what the DEA and the state bar ethics committee say, public opinion has seen an incredible shift regarding marijuana, medical or otherwise.  Voters in four states have decided to legalize recreational use of marijuana.  And marijuana legalization is on the ballot in five additional states – including California, Arizona, Nevada, Massachusetts and Maine – in November.  It’s possible the “reeferendum” may fail in some of these states – especially if young people don’t show up to the polls.  But it’s pretty certain that the vote in each one will be much closer than it would have been just a few years ago.

There was one ray of light in the DEA’s decision last week.  It will increase the amount of marijuana available for research.  Presently, the University of Mississippi is the only place where marijuana legally can be produced for scientific research.  The DEA said it would begin allowing researchers and drug companies to use pot grown in other places.  This, according to a DEA news release, will “provide researchers with a more varied and robust supply of marijuana.”

And Rosenberg said in a letter to petitioners last week, “If scientific understanding about marijuana changes – and it could change – then the decision [to keep cannabis on Schedule 1] could change.”

MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom