USA: The battle over medical marijuana

Photo by Neeta Lind on Flickr

Photo by Neeta Lind on Flickr

In the United States, 13 states currently allow citizens to use marijuana for medicinal purposes, but even these limited rights are under threat. In response, many Americans have created blogs to support and extend the legalization of marijuana.

The American debate over legalizing marijuana (cannabis) can be traced back to the early 1900s when people began using it for recreational purposes. More than one hundred years have passed and the debate hasn't loss one ounce of heat.

State vs. federal law in courts

In February, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the federal government would no longer raid medical marijuana clubs that abide by state laws. Despite this announcement, those opposing the drug are still fighting the battle. Most recently, a Republican Senator in Oklahoma, Tom Coburn, introduced an amendment to a bill that would force states to abide by the federal government, which has not yet passed a bill to legalize marijuana nationwide. The amendment failed to pass by a narrow vote on May 21.

A blogger for NORML Daily Stash, Dudemaster, quoted from an article on Opposing Views by Americans for Safe Access about the foiled attempt to stop medical marijuana:

“At present, the only way for medical marijuana to be properly evaluated by the FDA is for privately-funded sponsors to conduct FDA-approved clinical trials (like any other drug evaluation). If Senator Coburn’s intentions with regard to the medical efficacy of marijuana were genuine, he would consider first removing the monopoly imposed by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) on licenses for the cultivation of medical-grade cannabis for research purposes. Currently, the DEA exclusively licenses the cultivation of medical-grade cannabis to the National Institute for Drug Abuse (NIDA), which primarily investigates only the negative effects of cannabis. This monopoly obstructs any investigation and research in the U.S. into the medical properties of cannabis and thwarts the normal drug approval process.

In California, a longtime legal battle also came to an end earlier this month. Two counties, San Diego and San Bernardino, attempted to overturn a 1996 state law that allows the medical usage of marijuana by bringing the case to the U.S. Supreme Court. They lost the case on May 18. Scott Morgan of the Stop the Drug War Organization blogged about the counties’ court loss:

“For the hundredth time, conflict with federal law is not an obstacle to passing and implementing state laws that permit medical marijuana. Federal law enforcement can come in and cause trouble, but that doesn’t make state laws invalid. Those laws still apply and provide valuable protection against state police, who patients are more likely to come in contact with.

The very idea that federal law somehow cancels out state policies is just some made-up nonsense that enemies of medical marijuana have been spewing in desperation for several years now. Nice try, but you're wrong. Case closed.”

Medical marijuana club in San Francisco, by Thomas Hawk on Flickr

Medical marijuana club in San Francisco, by Thomas Hawk on Flickr

Joe Elford from Americans for Safe Access blogged at Medical Cannabis: Voices from the frontlines about his experience in a court room in California on May 26 where he presented an oral argument in favor of medical marijuana. The case concerns a group of cannabis patients who claim to have been harassed by the sheriff's department.

I had an oral argument before the Court of Appeal for the Third Appellate District, which is a state court in Sacramento. The case is Williams v. Butte County , which involves a small patient collective, which was harassed by the Butte County Sheriff’s Office. Specifically, Williams and six other patients pooled their labor and resources to maintain a 41-plant garden on Williams’ property. During one of the notorious Butte County sweeps several years ago, Deputy Sheriff Jacob Hancock came to Williams’ property without a warrant and required him to tear down all but twelve of the plants upon threat of arrest…

Blogging for marijuana rights

Although medical marijuana is legal in California, only 12 other states have adopted the same policy. This leaves many advocates constantly campaigning to legalize the drug nationwide. Advocates have taken their protest to the blogosphere, often listing the many reasons why marijuana is beneficial.

On the blog of the Marijuana Policy Project, MPP Blog, Bruce Mirken presents a study that shows cannabis can help against colorectal cancer, and insists that medical marijuana “is not just about getting high”.

The Stimulist gives five reasons why he think marijuana will be legalized – including the fact that baby boomers are growing older; the decline in the popularity of the drug war; and the economic benefits:

“California’s economy is hurting, and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is looking for any way he can to make some money. San Quentin and the L.A. Coliseum are for sale, but the most drastic measure he’s taken is calling for a study on legalizing dope. “Creating extra revenues, I’m always for an open debate on it,” he said earlier this month.”

Entire online news communities about marijuana have been created, including maps that show users where to find the nearest cannabis clubs,  photo sharing communities and forums.

Despite, its many supporters – opposition is still strong and therefore, a federal law legalizing marijuana may be far down the road. Deb-HAS-grn write a forum post at Green Passion about a conversation she had recently with her son.

“I was talking to my son a few months ago about my love of growing and my new place on the internet, Green Passion, I also was saying to him, As I get older my desire to need to see pot legalized grows stronger and stronger. His words responding to that should not of surprised me as I have thought the same myself, but at the time when he said to me, Mom I am sorry to say this but I honestly don't think they will legalize marijuana for many many years to come. It kind of hit me hard hearing those words and thinking I may never see the day that I would be legal to grow and smoke as I please. And I am not talking about the first much needed legalization of medical marijuana in all countries, I am talking about the freedom to do as I please when I please when it comes to weed.”


  • Not a stoner

    I doubt it will become legal are the words people say because they believe there isn’t a populace that favors legalization.

    Well, wake up people because there is a majority of people who feel marijuana should be legalized at the federal level, but the need to group and gather to promote ending prohibition seems impossible with the type of government we have. If you feel marijuana should be legalize write to your legislators. they probably won’t respond back, but they will figure out that people feel it is something that is past over-due, that is ending marijuana prohibition.

    Did you even know our own American Government has a patent on marijuana… that is the cannabinoids.
    US Patent # 6630507.

    Be a responsible citizen and educate yourself if the government won’t.

  • John Q.

    “Mom I am sorry to say this but I honestly don’t think they will legalize marijuana for many many years to come.”

    That boy is probably right. It’s certainly not going to happen in the next couple of years. With the exception of one Zogby poll, national polls have been showing the percentage of American adults who support legalization is in the low to mid forties. There was a recent Zogby poll where 52% of those surveyed said they support legalization, but several other polls before and since have put support in the low to mid forties.

    Before it gets legalized, we’re going to have to see polls coming back consistently showing support for legalization is well over 50%. The older voters who actually exercise their right to vote even in mid term election tend to be strongly opposed to legalization. Politicians know this. They know that much of the support for legalization comes from young people who usually are not very good about showing up to vote on election days. Lawmakers will be looking for a fair amount of support from older voters, and well over 50% support from voters as a whole. They aren’t going to all start jumping on the legalization bandwagon until they see a political advantage in doing so. I’m sure there are a lot of politicians who favor legalization who won’t say so publicly because they worry about political consequences, but that will change as the years go on and support for legalization grows.

    I am convinced marijuana legalization is inevitable, but it might take twenty years. It could happen a lot sooner. My bet is it happens some time in the Twenties as by then if trends continue we should see over 60% support for legalization and most of the old lawmakers who came of age before marijuana became popular will be gone by 2020. In the next decade we’ll probably see more and more politicians coming out for legalization, more states passing laws allowing medical marijuana and more states decriminalizing simple possession of small amounts for personal use. We’ll see attempts to get international conventions and treaties amended to allow countries to legalize without violating international law. We might see Canada and/or some other countries legalize. We might even do it here but it would be toward the end of the next decade. Right now there just isn’t enough support and the most powerful federal law makers tend to be old guys who came of age before marijuana became popular and thus for the most part are strongly opposed to legalization. They’d never even let it come to a vote.

  • It’s clear to everyone that pot should be legal. Mexico just legalized possession of small amounts of all drugs. Switzerland just legalized heroin. Portugal decriminalized all drugs in 2001 and their experience has been positive. Now if you are caught with a 10 day supply of your drug or less you face an administrative court, not a criminal court, but in practice they are just not arresting people. A group of 10,000 very serious policemen, prosecutors, attorneys and citizens have formed a group to legalize ALL drugs, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition ( ) They see what happened when we legalized alcohol in 1932 as a good example of how drug legalization would work. This foolish war on drugs has lasted 37 years and cost us over a TRILLION dollars and we are not an inch closer to stopping drugs. How many millions of Americans are we going to lock up in prison for decades? Mark Montgomery

  • New song at

    Let Grandma smoke marijuana
    Happy alone in her garden.
    Let Grandma smoke marijuana
    Peacefully live in the jungle.

    She’s happy and free
    Living in her means.
    Don’t need your medicare candy.

    Like Prozac(R) and Lexaprol(R)
    Turn Grandma into a zombie.
    Some Zoloft(R)and Rapiflux(R)
    Pushed by the medicare lobby.

    Get liver disease
    For enourmous medical fees.
    Instead of smoking a weed.

    The Cartels in Mexico
    Want Grandma to pay to be happy.
    With violence and gun control
    Profits go out of the country.

    She’s happy and free
    Living in her means.
    Don’t need your medicare candy.

    Oh Grandma
    Oh Grandma

    She’s happy and free

    Let Grandma smoke marijuana
    Happy alone in her garden.
    Let Grandma smoke marijuana
    Peacefully live in the jungle.

    She’s happy and free
    Living in her means.
    Don’t need your medicare candy.

    Oh Grandma
    Oh Grandma

  • End the Prohibition

    As Mexican drug cartels move into quiet Atlanta neighborhoods, Senators Chambliss and Isakson tell us they’ll take NO steps to legalize marijuana because “it might be bad for us”.

    The cartels murdered more than 6,000 people last year and more than 2,300 so far this year, while marijuana has never killed a single person in the history of man.

    Our *only* protection against the cartels is to legalize the production and sale of marijuana to adults. We have a choice to make, either allow bars to legally sell marijuana to adults or watch in terror as the cartels conduct their business in our neighborhoods.

    Tell your legislators what you decide.

    End the Prohibition!!

  • johnnyK

    I think that marijuana should be legal. Thats what 80 percent of California thinks. Marijuana has no side effects like other drugs do. States all over the world legalize small amouts of drugs, but marijuana is a medicine. Its a medicine where many people use when they are sick or in pains. My brother and father are patients of medical marijuana. Thats the only thing that helps their pain. My father is paralized in the right hand. With all the medicine that was given by the doctors, he was really bad. All the side effects it would leave on him. One other doctor recommended that he used marijuana. Specially him being a anti-drug person. He said okay only if it helps. He tryed it and thats the only thing that makes him sleep with all the pains he has. Sorry people if I got into my life story about my family. But what Im saying is that marijuana is just another healthy medicine unlike others… I did my research on marijuana and it actually prevents you from getting sick… So one reason why marijuana should be legalized is because people use it as medicine. The second reason why marijuana should be legal is because it would make a change in the economy. only if it was taxed, California would be a richer place. I mean way richer. Therefore marijuana should be legal. Well thats my opinion and I know many that think the same way I do. Arn’t I right people???

  • Jess

    I could care less if weed was legallized, i still get away with smoking it any ways.

    • CtheB

      Don’t be silly.
      Prison is a terrible place.
      Thousands of people are currently doing serious time for “weed” offences.
      It may be time for you to “care” or you may join them one day…

  • greengoddess

    The issue with using medical marijuana is thwarted by the legal cartels who don’t want to lose face and power. Until we can get them disbanded, we cannot expect to see any change in federal policy in the years to come. Medical marijuana is not the answer for all individuals, but it should be a right for all who need it.

  • i think we should not confuse specific laws permitting the use of marijuana as a proven medicine for specific diseases (cancer, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, arthritis, Parkinson’s disease; Alzheimer’s; severe chronic pain, etc.) with the general issue of marijuana legalization

    those state-run programs use (or should use) FDA-approved medicine and have nothing to do with the current federal laws prohibiting marijuana use in general nor with disbanding drug cartels and so on….

  • […] too thanks DES!!! people are watching and listening to us.. we are being heard. GODD WORK GP!!! USA: The battle over medical marijuana Wednesday, May 27th, 2009 @ 17:13 UTC by Hoa Quach Countries:U.S.A.Topics: Governance, […]

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