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Published: Thursday, 10/22/2009

Sober policy on pot

JITTERY medical marijuana users can stop looking over their shoulders. The Obama Administration has, finally, instructed federal authorities to stop arresting folks for medical consumption of pot.

During the Bush years, Americans suffering various maladies in 13 states with medical marijuana laws on the books had good reason to be paranoid. Federal agents were zealous about enforcing federal anti-marijuana laws even when state governments from California to Rhode Island approved its limited and controlled use.

Programs that had been approved by state legislatures weren't always implemented because of concern that federal agents would arrest marijuana users and suppliers for violating federal law. As a presidential candidate, Barack Obama promised to reverse the Bush administration's practice.

When the arrests and prosecutions continued after Mr. Obama's inauguration, there was confusion about the new administration's position. Now that the Justice Department has made it clear that it will no longer sanction such raids, states can move forward with implementing laws and programs on the books.

Still, what's needed is a comprehensive national policy on medical marijuana so that the federal government and the states are on the same page. A patchwork of laws leads to arbitrary enforcement.

Clearly, federal agents in the war on drugs have bigger fish to fry than sick and ailing marijuana users. Busting medical marijuana suppliers in states that allow it has always been an unconscionable use of manpower and resources.

This is one more example of government lagging behind individual states in responding to the concerns of afflicted Americans. While the change in federal policy is welcome, it's too bad the new administration took until October to act.

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