The Little-Talked About Federal Medical Marijuana Program

In the battle between states and the federal government regarding medical marijuana, some might be surprised to find out that the feds currently grow and supply several patients with their own pot to treat pain and other illnesses. Though they no longer accept new patients, the federal medical marijuana program flies in the face of their stance on state-run programs.

Regulated by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, this federal medical marijuana program is, perhaps, the most self-sustaining of any in the country. States that have such programs in place rely on the patients to grow or otherwise legally obtain their “medicine”. Under the federal program, the pot is grown by the government, packaged, and mailed out in metal tins with white labels—delivered directly to patient doorsteps.

Currently there are only four people who receive federal marijuana, though the program used to be larger. At its high point, however, the program dwarfed state-run systems with only 14 receiving pot from the feds at any one time. In 1992 under President George H.W. Bush, they stopped accepting new patients as the country took a harder line on the War on Drugs.

The program is particularly interesting because the federal government maintains marijuana is one of the most addictive and harmful drugs, classifying it as a Schedule I substance and insisting it has no medical value. Federal marijuana possession penalties are among the toughest of any jurisdiction.

The four patients still receiving monthly shipments of perfectly rolled joints from the feds have estimated they’ve received 584 pounds over the years, a street value of more than $500,000. This marijuana is considered fairly potent, with a THC level of 3%, an amount the government says patients “preferred” in blind studies.

Though these four patients are all past middle-aged and there’s no indication that the feds will add any new patients to their program, their presence is well known among marijuana activists. They have become a symbol of the federal government’s hypocrisy.

When it comes to medical marijuana laws at the state level, things are confusing enough. Currently there are 16 states with medical marijuana programs, each of which running their program in a different manner with different rules and laws surrounding who can use pot, how they can obtain it, and how much they can have at any one time.

In some states, where the program is too restrictive or where there is no medical marijuana program in place, you will find people who prefer to obtain their pot on the black market, leaving them susceptible to arrest and criminal charges.

If you are charged with possessing marijuana, whether you have medical problems or not, you could be looking at serious consequences. Contact us to speak with a local defense lawyer with experience fighting drug charges.

About David Matson

David writes about criminal justice issues.
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  • Eugene Shaffer

    While serving during the Viet Nam War, I witnessed what we now call P.T.S.D. first hand. During that time in my life I smoked Marijuana, like a lot of the people of that age group did. Although I was stationed state side my entire time, I lived with soldiers who came back from overseas who suffered from it. I witnessed a major attitude change in the men I served with, when they had it and when they did not. Although I don’t smoke any more, and haven’t for some years. I am now witnessing a younger generation, (veterans from desert storm, operation freedom and so on,) who are dealing with P.T.S.D. And the effect is the same, smoking helps the veterans to cope with,open up about they’re experiences. Where as the pharmaceutical’s they are put on seems to cause some of them to repress they’re feelings. I have been involved with 12 step programs, a mentor with at risk felons (many of which are vet’s) and sponsoring vets who have trouble coping, It is just my observation, but it might do our Veterans a lot of good to allow them the option to use it. It does not make sense to me to prosecute veterans, (many prisoners are veterans), for something that God put on this earth to use. These are just my thoughs. Eugene Shaffer