Magistrate Maria-Elena James ruled that a cannabis dispensary in Oakland, CA, is free to stay open while local authorities fight federal prosecution to shut it down, reports Reuters.
The ruling came in on July 3rd, just under the wire for local supporters of the Harborside Health Center to celebrate their temporary medical marijuana freedom on the Fourth of July.
This long-standing court case between California and the US government is currently in an appeals stage, whereby the local government is contesting Magistrate James’s February decision that the city has no right to interfere in a federal prosecutor’s action to shut down or seize the property of the Oakland-based pot store.
Currently in the US, marijuana is not an approved drug according to the Federal Drug Administration (FDA), but rather an illegal narcotic. Still, the District of Columbia and 16 states have deemed cannabis to be legal if sold as a medicine prescribed by a doctor.
Outside of politics, the medical community has waged its own debate over the last decade about the health merits of marijuana. The Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research (CMCR), which is run by the University of California, has been conducting scientific studies for several years.
In one study involving effects of cannabis on pain from HIV-related peripheral neuropathy, the CMCR concluded that 52% of patients who smoked marijuana had over a 30% reduction in pain, compared to 24% in the placebo group.
And in another study conducted by the CMCR and published by the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ), researchers found that smoked cannabis significantly reduced symptoms and pain associated with multiple sclerosis spasticity.
Still, the medical community is divided, with some professionals calling for more in-depth studies and research before medical marijuana is prescribed to patients.
“over the longer term cannabis may have unwanted systemic and psychoactive adverse effects that must be taken into consideration in chronic pain populations, who have high rates of co-occurring medical illness and co-morbid psychiatric and substance use disorders.”
Whether a medical or political issue, medical marijuana has strong supporters who are either for or against it.
In an act of solidarity with the state’s physicians, the Medical Board of California published standards for physicians who prescribe medical marijuana to patients.
According to a statement from the Board, physicians who prescribe cannabis will not receive any ill effects toward their physician’s license, so long as they follow good medical practice during patient consultation, including:
- History and good faith examination of the patient
- Development of a treatment plan with objectives
- Provision of informed consent including discussion of side effects
- Periodic review of the treatment’s efficacy
- Consultation, as necessary
- Proper record keeping that supports the decision to recommend the use of medical marijuana.
Though the case involving the fate of Oakland’s medical marijuana dispensary has yet to be resolved, Cedric Chao, the attorney representing the city in the case, remains positive, saying:
“The court has recognized that Oakland has legitimate interests in protecting its residents’ health, in promoting public safety, and in protecting the integrity of its legislative framework for the regulation of medical cannabis. Today’s order, coming right before the July Fourth holiday, reminds us all that one of the strengths of our country is its independent judiciary.”
The state of California and supporters of the Harborside Health Center may be on the verge of a metaphorical Boston Tea Party scenario with the federal government, but for this Independence Day, they can hold onto their tea.
Or even smoke it.
Written by Marie Ellis