Toking for Our Health

This blog contains excerpts from Scott Weinberg’s CBS Radio interview with ACLU attorney Dan Korobkin.

Medical marijuana – is it a sham? A liability? A reprieve?

Or is this new legal leniency a joke?

As a criminal defense attorney, I’ve represented many people charged with possession of marijuana. Now, they are trying to plead legal under the medical marijuana law.

Some of our clients have applied for a license to use or grow the plant. And even some who’ve received the governmental A-OK continue to be harassed and charged with possession as a criminal offense.

What’s going on, I ask? How can this fly?

According to Dan Korobkin, an ACLU attorney in Michigan, it’s not acceptable under the law – but it happens nonetheless.

“We have had the war on drugs in our country and our state for so long that we have grown accustomed to marijuana being illegal under all circumstances, at all times,” he says. “That’s no longer the case because an overwhelming majority of Michigan voters have approved a medical marijuana law so patients, under advice from their doctor, can use marijuana for medical purposes within the confines of the law.”

Pull out the pot, light up a joint – to treat pain, to assuage symptoms of a serious medical condition – as long as your doctor made the medical recommendation.

The law has changed – and now it’s time to change the way we think about marijuana.

Legal language:

• Anyone who becomes a registered, qualified patient can grow marijuana and possess the plants without fear of arrest or prosecution, or without fear of confiscation.

• They must keep the plants in a closed, locked facility.

• They can’t grow more than 12 plants at a time.

I guess old habits die hard! Attorney Korobkin says law enforcement officials are just going about business as usual, without regard for the new law.

“We are seeing a lot of situations where legitimate and legal patients – many suffering from serious and painful diseases – experience raids, police coming into their homes at night.”

You can be a patient, or you can be a caregiver. The caregivers’ law applies to spouses, best friends, neighbors or other close individuals who are helping out a patient in need.

Of course, you can’t grow until you get your license from the state. So if you’re raided while you’re awaiting approval, tough cookies.

And here’s a little glitch: it’s technically still illegal under federal law to possess any amount of marijuana!

The Obama Administration and the Justice Department recently announced that official U.S. policy now says NOT to prosecute individuals using marijuana for medical purposes – if their state laws allow it.

“We are so ingrained in our heads that marijuana is a drug, and one that can be abused, and it’s illegal, that it’s very hard to make adjustments now that the law finally recognizes marijuana as a palliative treatment for diseases,” says Korobkin.

“It’s hard to change your frame of mind – but it’s time! It’s the will of the people. It shouldn’t be a point of confusion or concern any longer. We should all recognize this and be willing to move forward.”