Medical marijuana islegal but not obtainable

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — As celebratory marijuana smoke curled from pipes and joints at the headquarters of Proposition 215, uncertainty swirled around the future of California’s newly approved medical marijuana law.
Although the law allows doctors to prescribe marijuana for medical reasons, there is no mechanism for patients to legally obtain it. And the measure and a similar one passed in Arizona are at odds with U.S. drug laws.
“We still have a federal law that says marijuana has no medical value, and that it is against the law to grow it, distribute it and prescribe it as medicine,” said retired Army Gen. Barry McCaffrey, President Clinton’s drug czar. “That’s a law. Not my law. That’s the U.S. Congress’ law.”
McCaffrey said Wednesday he planned to meet with Attorney General Janet Reno and other officials to discuss how the initiative, approved by California voters 56 percent to 44 percent Tuesday, affects federal drug enforcement efforts.
The measure legalizes the cultivation, possession and use of marijuana for health reasons. In a separate referendum, Arizona agreed to allow doctors to prescribe the drug for seriously ill patients.
The Arizona measure spells out that a doctor writing the prescription must document that scientific research shows that marijuana would help the patient’s condition and must get a written second opinion first, while the California proposition says that patient only needs “written or oral permission” from a doctor.
Backers hailed the initiatives as a compassionate way of helping ease the pain and suffering of people with AIDS, cancer and other terminal illnesses.
The controversy didn’t bother Dennis Peron, one of the leaders behind the measure, who was still savoring the victory Wednesday.
“People have smoked pot as medicine for thousands of years,” he said.
The law technically went into effect Wednesday, but because marijuana is still illegal to sell, obtaining it is still against the law.
“You can talk to your doctor today,” said Dave Fratello, spokesman for the Yes on 215 campaign. “But I can’t tell you where to get it. I can only tell you you’re not subject to prosecution if it’s prescribed.”
California Attorney General Dan Lungren, an outspoken opponent of the initiative, called for a meeting of all the state’s sheriffs, district attorneys and police chiefs to discuss the ramifications of the measure on law enforcement.