Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Medical marijuana progress

It's a local Orange County story, but perhaps of some significance. I went to the O.C. Board of Supervisors meeting today, where they considered instituting a program of issuing ID cards to medical marijuana users -- and passed the resolution 4-1. In some ways it wasn't that big a deal -- the state legislature passed SB 420 in 2003, setting upo the state ID card system and directing county health departments to handle the initial application and checking-doctor-recommendation part. As the county is legally a subdivision of the state, it didn't really have much choice -- but it's been a fairly long struggle anyway.

Lots of credit goes to board chairman Chris Norby, a Republican with libertarian leanings, and his chief assistant Bruce Whittaker. They persisted despite objections and arguments for delay, and ended up winning the day. It may be significant in the sense that while the board is nominally non-partisan, I believe all the members consider themselves Republicans, yet they were amenable to reasonable arguments, they listened with attention patients, doctors and others, and made the right call (except for Janet Nguyen, the newest member. I like to think the Register, which has editorialized relentlessly on the issue, helped out a bit as well.

This is far from utopia, of course. It doesn't deal with questions about dispensaries, about which the DEA is playing hardball in L.A. County by threatening landlords with forfeiture of the property. Nor does it offer guidelines about production and distribution of medicine. But the cards will offer patients who want them additional protection from being hassled by the cops.

I called Maurice Hinchey's (D-NY) office to see if he will offer something like the Hinchey-Rohrabacher amendment to a Justice Dept. appropriations bill again this year. The amendment would deny any funds to the DEA for enforcement activities on medical marijuana in states that have authorized medicinal use. It failed last year (got 150-160 votes) but Democrats control the House now. I had some hope that with Democrats in charge they would simply put the provision into the appropriations bill, but apparently that's not happening. So Hinchey will offer his amendment again, probably next week. His office didn't sound enthusiastic about the prospects of winning.

No comments: