Drug War Briefs: The Week in Marijuana

This week, several major religious denominations joined the movement to legalize medical marijuana use; medical researchers sue the federal government for speedy access to marijuana for scientific study; the number of Canadian marijuana smokers has reportedly doubled over the past 13 years; marijuana possession charges are dropped against a principal who planted pot in a locker to get a student expelled; and the Canadian Supreme Court rules that police can't go on "fishing expeditions" looking for evidence of lawbreaking when they stop someone.
July 17- Florida's Sun Sentinel reports: Several major religious denominations have joined a growing movement to legalize the medical use of marijuana, asserting an ethical responsibility to help ease the pain and other debilitating effects of such diseases as cancer, AIDS, multiple sclerosis and glaucoma.

Such statements have come from the United Methodist Church, the Union for Reform Judaism, the Progressive National Baptist Convention, the Episcopal Church, the Unitarian Universalist Association, the Presbyterian Church (USA), the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the United Church of Christ.

"According to our tradition, a physician is obligated to heal the sick," begins a resolution adopted in November by the Union for Reform Judaism. The statement acknowledges the medical use of marijuana as a 5,000-year-old tradition and encourages the federal government to reclassify marijuana from a prohibited substance to a prescription drug.

The denominations have called for a reassessment of penalties for marijuana users trying to increase their appetites during chemotherapy or alleviate chronic pain.

July 21- The Kansas City Star reports: The government is violating federal law by obstructing medical marijuana research, scientists contend in lawsuits seeking faster action on applications to grow the drug.

In lawsuits to be filed Wednesday, researchers assert that Washington is refusing to act on legitimate research projects and delaying studies that could lead to marijuana's use as a prescription drug.

"There is an urgent need for an alternative supply of marijuana for medical research," said Lyle Craker, director of the Medicinal Plant Program at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, the main force behind the lawsuits.

DEA spokesman Ed Childress said the agency wouldn't discuss pending lawsuits.

All marijuana for research in the United States must come from a crop grown on a federally contracted farm in Mississippi. That product has been only "inconsistently available to researchers and is infamous for its low quality," the researchers contend.

July 21- Ontario, Canada's Metro reports: The number of Canadians who admit they have used marijuana or hashish has nearly doubled over 13 years, according to a government study released on Wednesday.

About 12.2 percent of Canadians over the age of 15 surveyed said they used pot at least once in a 12-month period in 2002, up from 6.5 percent in a 1989 study, and 7.4 percent in a 1994 survey, Statistics Canada said.

Prime Minister Paul Martin told reporters in Ottawa that, despite the report's findings, he still planned to introduce legislation to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana.

More than 41 percent of Canadians admit having used cannabis at least once in their lifetime. Of those who admitted using it in 2002, 47.3 percent said they did so less than once a month but nearly 10 percent got high once a day.

Marijuana use was highest in British Columbia and Quebec.

July 24- The Kalamazoo Gazette reports: Marijuana possession charges have been dropped against a former school administrator who admitted he planted pot in a locker to try to get a student expelled.

Van Buren County Prosecutor Juris Kaps said he dismissed the misdemeanor charge this week against former South Haven High School assistant principal Pat Conroy because a judge ruled invalid a search warrant used to confiscate the marijuana.

"My wife, family and I are relieved ... and look forward with moving on with our lives," said Conroy, in a prepared statement. "I made a mistake for which I am truly sorry."

July 24- The Ottawa Citizen reports: Police can no longer go on "fishing expeditions" by searching people they stop on the street without reasonable grounds to suspect that they pose a safety threat, the Supreme Court ruled yesterday.

The decision, which clears a young Winnipeg laborer of drug trafficking charges, is the high court's first foray into the constitutional validity of the routine police practice of briefly detaining people for investigative purposes without arresting them.

The legal challenge once again thrust the court into balancing the ability of the police to do their job and the civil rights of Canadians to be reasonably free of state interference.
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