We knew that we would win in the end - but it often seemed like “the end” was far away. Now we feel victory coming. The center of gravity has shifted; developments come fast.
With the newly altered opinion of United States Attorney General Eric Holder and the conversion (with apology) by CNN correspondent and neurologist Dr. Sanjay Gupta the forces of cannabis law reform can see “light at the end of the tunnel” for the first time.
As “icing on the cake” we have:
* Republican leader John McCain saying “Maybe we should just legalize. I respect the will of the people”. And,
*U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy held hearings of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Sept 10 about marijuana and said pot law enforcement is a “bad use of our limited law enforcement dollars” and “The federal government ought to respect” state marijuana laws.
United States Attorney General Eric Holder informed the governors of Washington and Colorado that the Department of Justice would take a "trust but verify approach" to the state laws, (and is reserving its right to file a preemption lawsuit at a later date).
Deputy Attorney General James Cole also issued a lengthy memo demanding that states and local governments implement strong and effective regulatory and enforcement systems. Such a system must not only contain “robust controls and procedures on paper; it must also be effective in practice."
Eight priorities are supposed to guide federal prosecutors enforcing marijuana laws.
· No distribution to minors;
· No revenue from the sale of marijuana to criminal enterprises or gangs
· No diversion of marijuana from states where it is legal to places where it isn’t.
· No use of state-authorized marijuana activity as a cover for drug trafficking or other illegal activity;
· No violence or firearms.
· No increased drugged driving problems or other public health concerns.
· No growing of marijuana on public lands, and
· No possession or use on federal property.
Prosecutors intent on targeting marijuana businesses may still cause trouble.
But Cole stressed that the guidance was not optional, and that prosecutors would no longer be allowed to use the size of a dispensary as an automatic reason for harassment.
Holder told the governors as long as marijuana shops “operate within state laws and don’t violate other federal law enforcement priorities” the DOJ is looking to regulate those interactions as legal.
Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo.), a senior member of the House Financial Services Committee, called for a hearing to discuss his proposed bill, Marijuana Businesses Access to Banking Act (HR 2652). He raised concerns over “public safety, crime, and lost tax revenue associated when these legal and regulated businesses are operating in a cash-only system.”
A senior DOJ official told Huffington Post “the department recognized that forcing the establishments to operate on a cash basis put them at greater risk of robbery and violence.”
The new approach is a reversal of a DEA policy that had warned banks not to work with marijuana businesses.
CNN’s Dr. Gupta, once under consideration for U.S. Surgeon General, said that he realized the studies of cannabis done in the U.S. were designed only to find harm and “painted a distorted picture.” Looking at studies from other countries and “meeting the patients firsthand” changed his mind.
In Gupta’s August 11 documentary, he said “I am here to apologize”. He explored the true history and usefulness of cannabis as medicine.
Gupta showed a 5-year-old named Charlotte who had been suffering 300 seizures a month. No medications helped, but since using medical marijuana she has had two or three seizures a month. Charlotte had been on seven pharmaceutical medications, any of which in too high a dose could have killed her.
(Eight former Drug Enforcement Administration chiefs say the federal government should immediately sue Colorado and Washington or risk creating “a domino effect” in which other states legalize. Get a life guys.)
We now see that we will win this long and brutal struggle for safe access to our medicine – but only if we maintain the focus and intensity that brought us this far!