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Federal shift in marijuana policy is called ‘disastrous’

WASHINGTON (BP)–The Obama administration’s “surrender to bad state policies on so-called medicinal marijuana will have disastrous effects,” a Southern Baptist ethics leader said in response to a shift in marijuana policy indicated by Attorney General Eric Holder.

“Medicinal marijuana is the Trojan horse of the marijuana decriminalization movement,” said Barrett Duke, vice president for public policy of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.

The federal government no longer will raid medical marijuana distributors if they are in violation only of federal law and not of state law, Holder told reporters March 18 during a question-and-answer session at the Department of Justice, according to the Associated Press.

The new policy under President Obama marks a switch from that of the previous administration. During the Bush administration, federal agents raided medical marijuana distributors in California, even though that state’s law allowed its distribution and use for such a purpose.

“The policy is to go after those people who violate both federal and state law,” Holder said. Federal law prohibits the sale of marijuana for medical purposes, but California and 12 other states have legalized the use of medical marijuana. The other dozen states are Alaska, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington, according to the Drug Policy Alliance Network.

“Given the limited resources that we have, our focus will be on people, organizations that are growing, cultivating substantial amounts of marijuana and doing so in a way that’s inconsistent with federal and state law,” Holder said, AP reported.

Duke, of the ERLC, said the Obama administration’s decision “is not the kind of change America needs.” Medicinal marijuana, he said, is “a threat to our nation’s well-being and health, not a prescription for a better life.”

The failure to enforce federal, anti-drug laws will not help the sick or society, Duke said. Marijuana has not been shown to be especially helpful in relieving pain, he said. Its greater medicinal use likely will lead to increased usage by young people, potential legalization for recreational purposes and widespread drug-related problems, Duke said.

Advocates for medical marijuana use had a different response to the policy change. “It signals a new direction and a more reasonable and sensible direction on medical marijuana policy,” said Kris Hermes, a spokesman for Americans for Safe Access.
Compiled by Baptist Press Washington bureau chief Tom Strode.

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