The tension between states and the federal government over marijuana impacts chronic pain patients who want to use marijuana to combat their condition. 23 states, the District of Columbia and Guam have adopted laws that allow patients to use medical marijuana.
And yet the federal government still characterizes marijuana as illegal.
National Pain Report columnist Allie Haroutunian wrote a strong column recently that talked about the real world implications of this tension between the federal government’s view of marijuana and the implications of it on people who use medical marijuana for chronic pain and other medical conditions. Her column is titled Medical Marijuana – even when it’s legal it isn’t.
So this week, it wasn’t surprising when the National Conference of State Legislatures, meeting in Seattle, approved a resolution supporting the amendment of the Controlled Substances Act and other federal laws to explicitly allow states to set their own marijuana and hemp policies without federal interference.
The preamble to the resolution, introduced by New Hampshire State Representative Renny Cushing notes that “states are increasingly serving as laboratories for democracy by adopting a variety of policies regarding marijuana and hemp,” and it highlights the fact that “the federal government cannot force a state to criminalize cultivating, possessing, or distributing marijuana or hemp — whether for medical, recreational, industrial, or other uses — because doing so would constitute unconstitutional commandeering.”
“State lawmakers just sent a message to Congress that could not be any clearer,” said Karen O’Keefe, director of state policies for the Marijuana Policy Project, which tracks marijuana policy in all 50 states and lobbies in state legislatures throughout the country. “It’s time to end the federal prohibition of marijuana and let the states decide what policies work best for them.
“A majority of Americans support making marijuana legal for adults and even more think states should be able to establish their own marijuana laws without federal intrusion,” O’Keefe said. “This resolution is a strong indication that legislators throughout the nation are not just hearing from but listening to their constituents when it comes to marijuana policy.”
Marijuana possession, cultivation, and sales are illegal under federal law, but the Department of Justice has indicated that it will not allocate resources toward enforcing federal marijuana laws in cases involving individuals or businesses that are acting in compliance with state laws.
In addition to states that have approved medical marijuana, four states — Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington — have adopted laws that make marijuana legal for adults and regulate it similarly to alcohol.
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