December 2, 2009 – New Jersey is poised to become the next state to allow residents to use marijuana, when recommended by a doctor, for relief from serious diseases and medical conditions.

The state Senate has approved the bill and the state Assembly is expected to follow. The legislation would then head to the governor’s office for his signature.

Gov. Jon Corzine, the Democrat who lost his re-election bid last month, has indicated he would sign the bill if it reaches his desk before he leaves office in January. It would likely be one of Mr. Corzine’s last acts before relinquishing the job to Republican Chris Christie.

Mr. Christie has indicated he would be supportive of such legislation, but had concerns that one draft of a bill he read didn’t have enough restrictions, a spokeswoman said.

The bill has been endorsed by the New Jersey Academy of Family Physicians and the New Jersey State Nurses Association.

Some lawmakers oppose the legislation, saying they fear the proliferation of marijuana dispensaries, as in California, where medical marijuana is legal. “It sends a mixed message to our children if you can walk down the street and see pot shops,” said Republican Assemblywoman Mary Pat Angelini.

Federal law bars the use of marijuana. But legislatures in several states, including California, Colorado, Michigan, New Mexico, Rhode Island and Vermont, permit use of the drug for medical purposes. Attorney General Eric Holder said earlier this year that federal prosecutors wouldn’t prosecute people complying with state medical marijuana laws.

The New Jersey bill would allow people with debilitating medical conditions to grow, possess and use marijuana for personal use, provided that a physician allows it after completing a full assessment of the patient’s history and condition. The conditions that are stipulated in the Senate bill include cancer, glaucoma and human immunodeficiency viruses.

State Sen. Nicholas Scutari, a Democrat who has led the fight for the medical-marijuana bill, said that was not a final list. He said the Senate bill would have to be reconciled with whatever the Assembly might pass.

Support for the legislation stems partly from sympathy for the plight of John Ray Wilson, a New Jersey resident who suffers from multiple sclerosis, an autoimmune disease that affects the central nervous system. Mr. Wilson is scheduled to go on trial in December on felony drug charges, including operating a drug-production facility and manufacturing drugs. State police said they found 17 mature marijuana plants growing alongside his home in 2008. He has pleaded not guilty.

The Superior Court judge who will oversee the case has barred Mr. Wilson from explaining to the jury that he uses marijuana for his multiple sclerosis instead of more conventional medicines, which he said he can’t afford, since he has no medical insurance.

If convicted, Mr. Wilson faces up to 20 years in prison. “It definitely helps for pain,” Mr. Wilson said. “Stress can bring MS on. And I’m definitely under some stress.”

David Wald, a spokesman for the state attorney general, which is arguing the state’s position, said: “We’re prosecuting the law.”

At least two lawmakers, including Mr. Scutari, have asked Mr. Corzine to pardon Mr. Wilson. “I think it’s unfair,” said Mr. Scutari. “To try to incarcerate him for years and years doesn’t serve a good government function.”

The governor’s office said it wouldn’t comment on pardons involving an ongoing case.

Mr. Wilson’s case hasn’t persuaded Ms. Angelini, who voted against it in the health committee. As the executive director of Prevention First, an antidrug and antiviolence nonprofit, she said she was concerned that the bill would open the door for more liberal drug policies.

“If the drug laws are lax,” she said, “that can open it up to eventual drug legalization.”

By SUZANNE SATALINE. Source.

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November 15, 2009 – Here’s an update on some of the more significant legislation moving (or not) on the Hill.
congress
Medical Marijuana

Late last month, Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA) reintroduced H.R. 3939, the Truth in Trials Act, which would allow defendants in federal medical marijuana prosecutions to use medical evidence in their defense — a right they do not have under current federal law. The bill currently has 28 cosponsors and has been endorsed by more than three dozen advocacy, health, and civil liberties organizations. It is before the House Judiciary Committee.

That isn’t the only medical marijuana bill pending. In June, Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) introduced the Medical Marijuana Protection Act, which would reclassify marijuana as a Schedule II drug and eliminate federal authority to prosecute medical marijuana patients and providers in states where it is legal. The measure has 29 cosponsors and has been sitting in the House Committee on Energy and Commerce ever since. Frank introduced similar legislation in the last two Congresses, but the bills never got a committee vote or even a hearing. Advocates hoped that with a Democratically-controlled Congress and a president who has at least given lip service to medical marijuana, Congress this year would prove to be friendlier ground, but that hasn’t proven to be the case so far.

In July, the House passed the District of Columbia appropriations bill and in so doing removed an 11-year-old amendment barring the District from implementing the medical marijuana law approved by voters in 1998. Known as the Barr amendment after then Rep. Bob Barr (R-GA), the amendment has been attacked by both medical marijuana and DC home rule advocates for years as an unconscionable intrusion into District affairs. The Senate has yet to act. Among the proponents for removing the Barr amendment: Bob Barr.

Marijuana Decriminalization

In June, Reps. Ron Paul (R-TX) and Barney Frank (D-MA) introduced the Personal Use of Marijuana By Responsible Adults Act, which would remove federal criminal penalties for the possession of less than 100 grams (about 3.5 ounces) and for the not-for-profit transfer of up to one ounce. The bill would not change marijuana’s status as a Schedule I controlled substance, would not change federal laws banning the growing, sale, and import and export of marijuana, and would not undo state laws prohibiting marijuana. It currently has nine cosponsors and has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security.

And just so you don’t get the mistaken idea that the era of drug war zealotry on the Hill is completely in the past, there is Rep. Mark Kirk (R-IL). In June, Kirk introduced the High Potency Marijuana Sentencing Enhancement Act, which would increase penalties for marijuana offenses if the THC level is above 15%. Taking a page from the British tabloids, Kirk complained that high-potency “Kush” was turning his suburban Chicago constituents into “zombies.” Nearly six months later, Kirk’s bill has exactly zero cosponsors and has been sent to die in the House Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security.

Industrial Hemp

Reps. Barney Frank (D-MA) and Ron Paul (R-TX) again introduced an industrial hemp bill this year. HR 1866, the Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2009 would remove restrictions on the cultivation of non-psychoactive industrial hemp. They were joined by a bipartisan group of nine cosponsors, a number which has since grown to 18. The bill was referred to the House Energy and Commerce and House Judiciary committees upon introduction. Six weeks later, Judiciary referred it to its Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security, where it has languished ever since. Source.

“If we were talking about medical use of marijuana, THC, or cannabinoids,” Clinton administration drug czar Barry McCaffrey said on CNN last week, “I’d be 100 percent for it.”

For anyone familiar with McCaffrey’s history, this opening whopper made it hard to pay attention to anything else he had to say. Here is McCaffrey in August 1996 on the subject of medical marijuana:

There is not a shred of scientific evidence that shows that smoked marijuana is useful or needed. This is not medicine. This is a cruel hoax that sounds more like something out of a Cheech and Chong show.

At a December 1996 press conference, McCaffrey was asked whether there was “any evidence…that marijuana is useful in a medical situation.” His reply was unequivocal: “No, none at all.”

While research since then has added to our knowledge of marijuana’s medicinal properties, there was plenty of evidence at the time McCaffrey made these dismissive remarks that the plant is medically useful, especially in fighting nausea and restoring appetite but also in treating various kinds of pain. You might conclude that McCaffrey just didn’t know what he was talking about then and has since read up on the subject, except that he is still playing the same games.

Although he’s “100 percent for” the medical use of marijuana, McCaffrey told Lou Dobbs it isn’t necessary to let patients use the plant because they already have access to the prescription drug Marinol, an FDA-approved capsule containing a synthetic version of THC, marijuana’s main active ingredient. (Marinol also was around back in 1996, and the double-blind clinical trials necessary to get it approved conclusively showed that McCaffrey was wrong when he insisted there was no evidence that marijuana is medically effective.) But right after presenting Marinol as a perfect substitute for marijuana, McCaffrey cut it down, saying “it’s available for patients” but “not much used” because “it’s not a very good drug.” In fact, that is an assessment you will often hear from medical marijuana users who have tried Marinol. But if McCaffrey delved into the reasons many patients prefer marijuana to Marinol—e.g., it’s easier for people suffering from severe nausea, it takes effect much faster, the dosage is easier to control, and the psychoactive effects are less disturbing—he would be making the case for medical marijuana. Which he would be totally for if he weren’t completely against it.

McCaffrey’s stance against medical marijuana went beyond denying the evidence in its favor. As the Cato Institute’s Tim Lynch pointed out in the same segment of Dobbs’ show, McCaffrey helped spearhead the Clinton administration policy of threatening to prosecute doctors or take away their prescribing privileges simply for discussing marijuana’s benefits with their patients. That policy, which in some respects was more extreme than anything the Bush administration later did in this area, was slapped down by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit on First Amendment grounds. Source.

GREELEY, Colo. — Health and law enforcement officials around the nation are scrambling to figure out how to articleLargeregulate medical marijuana now that the federal government has decided it will no longer prosecute legal users or providers.

For years, since the first medical marijuana laws were passed in the mid-1990s, many local and state governments could be confident, if not complacent, knowing that marijuana would be kept in check because it remained illegal under federal law, and that hard-nosed federal prosecutors were not about to forget it.

But with the Justice Department’s announcement last week that it would not prosecute people who use marijuana for medical purposes in states where it is legal, local and state officials say they will now have to take on the job themselves.

In New Hampshire, for instance, where some state legislators are considering a medical marijuana law, there is concern that the state health department — already battered by budget cuts — could be hard-pressed to administer the system. In California, where there has been an explosion of medical marijuana suppliers, the authorities in Los Angeles and other jurisdictions are considering a requirement that all medical dispensaries operate as nonprofit organizations.

“The federal government says they’re not going to control it, so the only other option we have is to control it ourselves,” said Carrol Martin, a City Council member in this community north of Denver, where a ban on marijuana dispensaries was on the agenda at a Council meeting the day after the federal announcement.

At least five states, including New York and New Jersey, are considering laws to allow medical marijuana through legislation or voter referendums, in addition to the 13 states where such laws already exist. Even while that is happening, scores of local governments in California, Colorado and other states have gone the other way and imposed bans or moratoriums on distribution even though state law allows it.

Some health and legal experts say the Justice Department’s decision will promote the spread of marijuana for medical uses because local and state officials often take leadership cues from federal policy. That, the experts said, could lead to more liberal rules in states that already have medical marijuana and to more voters and legislators in other states becoming comfortable with the idea of allowing it. For elected officials who have feared looking soft on crime by backing any sort of legalized marijuana use, the new policy might provide support to reframe the issue.

“The fact that the feds are backing off is going to allow changes that are going to make it more accessible,” said Bill Morrisette, a state senator in Oregon and chairman of a committee that oversees the state’s medical marijuana law. Mr. Morrisette said he expected a flurry of proposals in the Legislature, including a plan already floated to have the state grow the marijuana crop itself, perhaps on the grounds of the State Penitentiary in Salem.

“It would be very secure,” he said.

Here in Greeley, anxiety and enthusiasm were on display as the City Council considered a ban on dispensaries.

Most of those who testified at the hearing, including several dispensary operators, opposed the ban and spoke of marijuana’s therapeutic benefits and the taxes that dispensary owners were willing to pour into Greeley’s budget, which has been battered by the recession.

But on the seven-member Council, the question was control. Mr. Martin, for example, said that he hated to see the spread of marijuana, but that the barricades had fallen. Still, he said he opposed a local ban on dispensaries.

“If we have no regulations at all, then we can’t control it, and our police officers have their hands tied,” Mr. Martin said.

Mayor Ed Clark, a former police officer, took the opposite tack in supporting the ban, which passed on a 6-to-1 vote.

“I think we do regulate them, by not allowing dispensaries,” Mr. Clark said.

The backdrop to the debate here in Colorado is a sharp expansion in marijuana dispensaries and patients, fueled in part by the State Board of Health decision in July not to impose limits on the number of patients handled by each marijuana provider.

The state attorney general, John W. Suthers, said the federal government’s retreat, combined with the growth in demand, had created a legal vacuum.

“The federal Department of Justice is saying it will only go after you if you’re in violation of state law,” Mr. Suthers said. “But in Colorado it’s not clear what state law is.”

In New Hampshire, by contrast, where the state legislature is scheduled to meet this week to consider overriding the governor’s veto and passing a medical marijuana law, government downsizing has colored the debate.

The state agency that would be responsible for licensing marijuana dispensaries has been battered by budget cuts, said Senator Sylvia B. Larsen, the president of the New Hampshire Senate and a Democrat. Concerns about the department, Ms. Larsen said, have made it harder to find two more votes in the Senate to reach a two-thirds majority that is needed to override a veto by Gov. John Lynch, a Democrat.

An even odder situation is unfolding in Maine, which already allows medical marijuana and where residents will vote next month on a measure that would create a new system of distribution and licensing.

The marijuana proposal, several political experts said, has been overshadowed by another fight on the ballot that would overturn a state law and ban same-sex marriage.

The added wrinkle is that opponents of same-sex marriage, said Christian Potholm, a professor of government at Bowdoin College, have heavily recruited young, socially conservative voters, who by and large tend to not be concerned about medical marijuana expansion.

“The 18- to 25-year-old vote is going to be overrepresented because of the gay marriage situation, so overrepresented in favor of medical marijuana,” Professor Potholm said.

Some legal scholars said the federal government, by deciding not to enforce its own laws (possession and the sale of marijuana remain federal crimes), has introduced an unpredictable variable into the drug regulation system.

“The next step would be a particular state deciding to legalize marijuana entirely,” said Peter J. Cohen, a doctor and a lawyer who teaches public health law at Georgetown University. If federal prosecutors kept their distance even then, Dr. Cohen said, legalized marijuana would become a de facto reality.

Senator Morrisette in Oregon said he thought that exact situation — a state moving toward legalization, perhaps California — could play out much sooner now than might have been imagined even a few weeks ago. And the continuing recession would only help, he said, with advocates for legalization able to promise relief to an overburdened prison system and injection of tax revenues to the state budget. Source.

October 21, 2009 – Since Monday when the Department of Justice announced its new ‘hands-off’ policy on Picture 52persecuting Medical Marijuana dispensaries operating in compliance with state laws, there has been an avalanche of media coverage – over 2000 major media articles. Here is a sampling of the range and scope of coverage and opinions:

Medical Marijuana: ‘Be Careful,’ Ex-White House Drug Spokesman Bob Weiner Tells DOJ About ‘New Lax Enforcement’ Policy; ‘Use May Explode for Healthy People’
Source: PRnewswire
Excerpt: “You may get way more than you bargained for”, Weiner cautions of the new policy barring states attorneys from busting and prosecuting users and caregivers of so-called “medical” marijuana who act “in accordance with state law.” “Prescription marijuana use may explode for healthy people.” Unfortunately, as many as 90% of purchases at clinical distribution centers are “false defenses”, some law enforcement agents report – “which means individuals are not really sick but simply want the pot,” Weiner asserts.

U.S medicinal smokers exhale sigh of relief
Source: Now Toronto
Excerpt: Obama administration finally makes good on promises to call of the dogs on medicinal pot shops

Medical marijuana: An excuse to get high
Source: Baltimore Sun
Excerpt: The medical marijuana issue has little to do with helping people and more to do with making the drug legal for all those who want to get high and not get into trouble. If we are truly concerned about using marijuana for medicinal purposes, we would send it to the Food & Drug Administration to be tested and if approved they would decide on the best way to make the drug available.

Medical marijuana policy move sparks cautious optimism
Source: CNN.com
Excerpt: Patients in the 13 states where medical marijuana is legal can now light up without fear of federal reprisal, but they may still have to answer to local authorities. The federal move could encourage other states to make their own laws allowing medical marijuana use. The Justice Department this week announced that it will no longer seek to prosecute people using, prescribing, or distributing pot for medical purposes, as long as they’re in compliance with local law. However, regulations in some medical marijuana states remain murky.

The National Review: A Case Of Token Federalism
Source: NPR
Excerpt: The Obama administration has discovered federalism, at least a version of it, and it has therefore foresworn prosecuting medical-marijuana users and distributors who are acting in accord with state laws. This is good news for medical-marijuana users in the 14 states that allow cannabis to be prescribed for such purposes as mitigating the side effects of chemotherapy.

Good Sense on Medical Marijuana
Source: New York Times
Excerpt: The federal government should not be harassing sick people and their caregivers. Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. has made the right decision, calling off prosecutions of patients who use marijuana for medical purposes or those who distribute it to them — provided they comply with state laws. It is a welcome reversal of the Bush administration’s ideologically driven campaign to prosecute dispensaries, even in states that had made medical uses legal and often with overwhelming popular support.

Will Health Coverage Pay for Medical Marijuana?
Source: CBS News
Excerpt: “The main issue here is the question of FDA approval that all drugs need to go through,” said Pisano. Lack of FDA approval means no coverage either by private insurers or through any public plan to be drafted in Congress.
So what, then, are the prospects that medical marijuana will get FDA approval? In the short term, at least, they’re pretty slim. The fact that marijuana remains a controlled substance presents one hurdle to approval; another, perhaps more significant one is that it isn’t a synthesized drug – that is, its component parts are not crafted by drug companies.

Medical marijuana is an insult to our intelligence
Source: Washington Post
The Justice Department says it’s backing off the prosecution of people who smoke pot or sell it in compliance with state laws that permit “medical marijuana.” Attorney General Eric Holder says “it will not be a priority to use federal resources to prosecute patients with serious illnesses or their caregivers.” Party hardy! I mean — let the healing begin!

A federal misstep with medical marijuana?
Source: Christian Science Monitor
Excerpt: The problem with the Obama administration’s new directive limiting federal prosecution of medical marijuana is that it encourages those who would legalize the drug. The federal government has limited resources to fight drugs, and funds should not be wasted on prosecuting users and providers of medical marijuana who comply with state laws, the Obama administration said this week. While this argument may indeed seem a sensible prioritizing of federal effort and dollars, the White House and the public should realize it comes with a cost.
That cost is Washington’s tacit approval of state-sanctioned medical marijuana, which the drug’s proponents will take as a green light to push even harder for their ultimate goal: full legalization of marijuana use and distribution.

Here is the three-page October 19, 2009 memorandum from the Deputy Attorney General 91664043ledeentitled, “Investigations and Prosecutions in States Authorizing the Medical Use of Marijuana.”

This action is many steps in the right direction.

Most importantly, this is a formal acknowledgment by the Federal government of the reality of medical use of Cannabis on a mass scale. This is in many respects more significant than the 30-year old compassionate use program that was closed to new patients in 1992. Whether this is grudging recognition of the extensive scientific support for using Cannabis medically, simply honoring a campaign pledge, or bowing to public opinion, it is very important politically and symbolically. At a minimum, this memorandum should encourage state legislators to change their minds if they have been reluctant to vote for a state medical marijuana law on the ground that such a state law might conflict with federal law. In addition, this change encourages scientific researchers to redouble their search for potential medical benefits from Cannabis. They can see that their research is likely to be rewarded with application in the patient community. And, the announcement of this memorandum must give hope to those who are now in prison, or who have been sentenced to prison, who were operating or planning bona fide medical marijuana dispensaries, and their loved ones, that their sentences might be commuted.

The memorandum reflects the political and organizational conflict within the Department of Justice. The Department reiterates that “marijuana is a dangerous drug” and that “the illegal distribution and sale of marijuana is a serious crime.”

Unfortunately this memorandum offers less formal protection that any legitimate dispensary operator or care giver wants and really needs.

The memorandum says investigators and prosecutors “should not focus federal resources in your States on individuals whose actions are in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws providing for the medical use of marijuana.”

The unfortunate reality is that “clear and unambiguous compliance” is an extraordinarily high standard to achieve in general. When the conduct is entirely prohibited by federal law, the state laws were often deliberately written with ambiguity to avoid “positive conflict” with the Controlled Substances Act (sec. 708 of the Controlled Substances Act, 21 U.S.C. 903). Until DEA reschedules Cannabis and Congress revises federal law, this will be an area of law that is inherently and inescapably filled with ambiguity.

The memorandum suggests seven circumstances that suggest an absence of “clear and unambiguous:”
* unlawful possession or unlawful use of firearms;
* violence;
* sales to minors;
* financial and marketing activities inconsistent with the terms, conditions, or purposes of state law, including evidence of money laundering and/or financial gains or excessive amounts of cash;
* amounts of marijuana inconsistent with purported compliance;
* illegal possession or sale of other controlled substances; or
* ties to other criminal enterprises.

But the memorandum itself is ambiguous. For example, every medical marijuana user, grower or care giver who possesses a firearm — even if owned legally under every other circumstance — arguably is per se an unlawful firearms possessor under federal law which prohibits possession of firearms by a person who is an unlawful user of a controlled substance (18 U.S.C. 922(g)). How does that prohibition square with the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling that possession of firearms is constitutionally protected as an aspect of the right to self defense in last year’s case of District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. ___ (2008) — especially considering the high value of Cannabis and the risk of armed robbery or burglary of the premises where it is grown, kept or dispensed?

And speaking of “ambiguity,” the Department of Justice is certainly ambiguous when using terms such as “amounts of marijuana inconsistent with purported compliance” or “financial gains or excessive amounts of cash.” That’s clear, isn’t it?

Well, perhaps the retrograde elements in the Department of Justice need to see how this operates and that “the world as we know it” does not collapse, before moving to the next logical step.

But all that aside, this is enormously important progress for the nation. Whole Cannabis has enormous potential as a medicine. This memorandum allows progress in making that potential real across a wide front of society, science and law.

by Eric E. Sterling. Source.

SAN FRANCISCO — Medical marijuana advocates in California said the Obama administration’s announcement of new guidelines for pot prosecutions Monday contained Picture 43some hopeful signs, but lacked the specifics needed to keep patients and their suppliers out of court.

“It’s an extremely welcome rhetorical de-escalation of the federal government’s long-standing war on medical marijuana patients,” said Stephen Gutwillig, state director of the Drug Policy Alliance.

Dale Gieringer, California coordinator of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, said the administration’s advice to U.S. attorneys that they respect state law – such as California’s Proposition 215, the 1996 measure legalizing medicinal use of the drug – was encouraging.

However, he added, “the policy has major loopholes that give prosecutors broad discretion to determine what they think is legal.”

A Justice Department memo, sent Monday to federal prosecutors in California and 13 other states whose laws allow medical use of marijuana, provides guidelines to implement the policy Attorney General Eric Holder announced in March: that federal authorities should refrain from arresting or prosecuting people who are complying with their state’s laws.

Federal prosecutors should focus on major drug traffickers and networks, rather than on those who “are in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws” on medical marijuana, said Deputy Attorney General David Ogden.

But he added some qualifications: Prosecutors can go after those who sell marijuana for profit, a category that federal authorities have commonly invoked in charging growers and sellers of medicinal pot.

San Francisco’s U.S. attorney, Joseph Russoniello, asserted in August that most of California’s 300 marijuana dispensaries make profits, in violation of state guidelines, and are therefore open to federal prosecution.

Ogden also said the Justice Department would fight any effort by people now charged with marijuana-related crimes in federal court to claim that they were simply following state law. And even those who are clearly complying with a state’s law can be investigated and prosecuted, he said, in the pursuit of “important federal interests.”
‘Lot of discretion’

“It leaves a lot of discretion up to the U.S. attorneys,” said Kris Hermes of Americans for Safe Access, an advocacy group for patients who use marijuana. “We hope that these guidelines rein in rogue prosecutors like Russoniello. There’s no guarantee that’s going to happen.”

Russoniello’s office is prosecuting owners of two Hayward-area medical marijuana dispensaries that were licensed by local governments. In March, after Holder’s announcement, federal agents raided Emmalyn’s California Cannabis Clinic in San Francisco, which had a city permit. No charges were filed.

Russoniello’s office referred inquiries Monday to the Justice Department, where spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler said Ogden’s memo was intended to provide “guidance and clarification” to prosecutors and does not change administration policy.

Judges go easy
Since Holder’s announcement, prosecutors have told several federal judges in California that the new policy did not justify leniency for marijuana defendants whose cases originated during President George W. Bush’s administration.

Judges have nonetheless imposed lighter sentences than the Justice Department wanted, notably a one-year term for a Central Coast pot club operator for whom prosecutors sought five years.

Although Monday’s guidelines, like Holder’s earlier statement, do not expressly apply to pending cases, defense lawyers will argue to judges that the Obama administration’s memo justifies a break in sentencing, said Joe Elford, lawyer for Americans for Safe Access.

He also predicted that some prisoners would cite the memo in asking President Obama for clemency.

The guidelines don’t say how federal authorities would respond if California legalized marijuana for personal use, as proposed in an Assembly bill and several pending initiatives. But Gutwillig, whose organization advocates legalization, said he saw a glimmer of hope.

“The Obama administration has taken a further step today to follow the lead of the states on marijuana policy,” he said.

Source.