January 11, 2001
By Brendan Riley
CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) - A medical marijuana advocate said Wednesday that Nevada officials are in for a fight if they try to limit a voter-endorsed initiative allowing use of marijuana by cancer, AIDS and glaucoma victims.
Question 9 was approved by a 2-to-1 margin in November, and the 2001 Legislature is required to set up a distribution method so people with such medical conditions can use marijuana for pain relief.
But a task force of medical experts instead recommended a research program to permit limited marijuana distribution and avoid a confrontation with the federal government's anti-marijuana laws that conflict with the state initiative.
Dan Hart, who led the effort to get the constitutional amendment on medical marijuana approved by voters, said in a letter to the state Board of Pharmacy, which was involved in the task force effort, that the research plan is too restrictive.
Hart wrote Louis Ling, a deputy attorney general and the board's general counsel, that the research project could exclude some qualified, terminally ill patients and instead get medical marijuana only to "a chosen few."
"Who will you choose, Mr. Ling," Hart said. "What patient will you deny their rights under the state Constitution? Which physician will you notify that their constitutional right to approve the treatment of their patient has been denied by your ad hoc 'research' approval committee?"
"Rest assured that the proponents of Question 9 will vigorously defend the will of the people in the Legislature, the executive branch and in every necessary court, including the court of public opinion," Hart added.
The report criticized by Hart came from the Nevada Medical Marijuana Initiative Work Group, formed last year after Nevada voters in 1998 passed the ballot initiative a first time. The initiative passed a second time in November and now becomes part of the Nevada Constitution.
The group issued its recommendations as guidelines to Gov. Kenny Guinn and the Legislature, which also will be considering bills to reduce the felony penalty for possession of a small amount of marijuana.
The group recommended the formation of a committee of health care professionals. Doctors or medical groups could apply to the committee for permission to study marijuana's effects.
If the committee sanctions the plan, the research proposal would have to receive federal approval from the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Food and Drug Administration and the National Institute of Drug Abuse.
"Marijuana would be purchased by the research study through federally approved providers," the report says. "Marijuana would not be grown, processed or manufactured in Nevada. The federally approved provider would provide uniform, predictable and uncontaminated marijuana, thus protecting patients from the vagaries of illegal or homegrown marijuana."
The physician conducting the research would write the prescription and it would be filled by participating pharmacies that would purchase marijuana from the federal government.
This plan, said the
work group, "would allow physicians, not state bureaucrats, to decide which
patients would have access to marijuana for medical purposes."
Sunday, January 14,
Copyright © Las Vegas Review-Journal
Dan Hart, director of the medical marijuana advocacy group Nevadans for Medical Rights, is upset. And justifiably so.
Nearly two-thirds of the state's voters backed a November initiative that would allow physicians to prescribe marijuana as a means of relieving pain or wasting syndrome in seriously ill patients. Yet Mr. Hart makes a credible claim that Attorney General Frankie Sue Del Papa is attempting to subvert the will of Nevada voters ... and deep-six the medical marijuana measure entirely.
Rather than allowing the Legislature to set up a distribution program for medicinal marijuana -- which the initiative clearly mandates -- Ms. Del Papa has set up a Medical Marijuana Initiative Committee, based at the University of Nevada medical school, to conduct a "research study" on ways cannabis can be delivered to patients without inviting prosecution by federal narcotics agents. She has urged caution in setting up any distribution program, awaiting a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court on the legality of the distribution system put in place by California after voters there passed a similar medical marijuana measure.
Ms. Del Papa, however, has overstepped her authority. The makeup of any distribution system should be decided by legislators, rather than the attorney general, whose job is to enforce state laws, not write them.
When the Legislature convenes next month, it should follow the letter of the law: Approve the use of marijuana to treat the illnesses cited in the initiative; insulate physicians who prescribe cannabis from prosecution or other government sanctions; and establish a registry of patients who are allowed to use the drug for medical purposes. Attorney General Del Papa should butt out.