KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Medical Marijuana Lawsuit In Calif. Hinges On Federal Inaction, Science

The fight over marijuana -- for medical purposes or not -- simmers in California, where the drug is treated casually and a large medical marijuana dispensary is challenging the federal government's closure of its business.

The New York Times: Marijuana, Not Yet Legal For Californians, Might As Well Be
Let Colorado and Washington be the marijuana trailblazers. Let them struggle with the messy details of what it means to actually legalize the drug. Marijuana is, as a practical matter, already legal in much of California. No matter that its recreational use remains technically against the law. Marijuana has, in many parts of this state, become the equivalent of a beer in a paper bag on the streets of Greenwich Village (Nagourney, 12/20).

Reuters: Oakland, Calif. Spars In Court With Washington Over Medical Pot
The city of Oakland, engaged in a heated battle with federal authorities over the fate of a large medical marijuana dispensary, argued in court on Thursday that Washington was ignoring science by cracking down on medical pot. The city, in a novel lawsuit seeking to block U.S. officials from forcing the dispensary to close, says the federal government's own scientists have found medical benefits for pot and have secured a U.S. patent for use of the drug, even as prosecutors have targeted medical cannabis dispensaries (Cohen, 12/20).

San Jose Mercury News: Nation's Largest Medical Marijuana Dispensary Fights In Federal Court To Stay Open In Oakland And San Jose
For more than six years, the federal government watched quietly as Harborside Health Center grew to become the nation's largest medical marijuana dispensary despite knowing that its operations were illegal under federal law. Those years of inaction could now become a central issue in a federal court action in which the federal government is seeking to seize properties in Oakland and San Jose from which Harborside sells marijuana to patients. In a drastic change of policy last summer, U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag began federal civil forfeiture proceedings against two landlords who lease property to Harborside arguing the government has the right to take the properties because they house illegal drug businesses (Rosynsky, 12/20).

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