The War On Medical Marijuana Patients

We talk a lot about how the federal government doesn’t really care what voters have said in the 19 states where medical marijuana is legal. We discuss how the Obama Administrations have, in effect, cracked down harder on patients and dispensaries than Bush or any other past-presidents. But, until now there hasn’t been much in the way of concrete numbers showing the seriousness of it. Thanks to Cal NORML (the California branch of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws), now there is.

According to a recent survey of court records by Cal NORML, over 335 defendants have been charged with federal offenses related to medical marijuana in states where medical marijuana is legal. More than 150 of these defendants have received prison sentences for these charges, for a grand total of over 480 years behind bars.

War on Medical Marijuana PatientsThese are defendants who are sick, some of them chronically. They are also people who were adhering to their state laws in regards to medical marijuana, before they were charged by the federal government.

“Over 90% of the criminal cases settled to date have resulted in convictions. 10% have been dismissed.” Only one defendant in these cases has been acquitted, or found not guilty. Part of the reason for this high conviction rate is that federal courts don’t allow these defendants to use medical marijuana as a defense. In other words, their reasons for having marijuana or their adherence to state laws makes no difference to the feds.

In the 4.5 years since Obama has been in office, 153 federal medical marijuana cases have been brought. This is nearly as many as all of the cases brought during Bush’s entire 8-year term despite Obama saying medical marijuana cases would be a “low priority” for his administration throughout his initial campaign.

The majority of these cases occurred in California (259), though there were others in Montana, Oregon, Nevada, Michigan, Colorado, and Washington.

“The federal war on medical marijuana exemplifies government dysfunction at its worst, “ says California NORML director Dale Gieringer, “If the government wanted to encourage safer and more affordable health care it would encourage medical marijuana. Instead, it has chosen to prosecute and criminalize the industry, stimulating crime and lawlessness in the same manner as prohibition, wasting taxpayers’ money, and impeding Americans’ access to safe and affordable medicine.”

Rather than back the wishes of the majority of Americans—who believe the War on Marijuana is a waste of time—the federal government would rather continue on their futile effort to keep Americans from choosing their medicine and their recreation, all while forcing said citizens to foot the bill.

 

About Elizabeth

Elizabeth Renter is a freelance writer and editor who writes about criminal justice issues.

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