Patients with cancer, chronic pain, and other maladies say smoking marijuana helps their condition. Many, says USA Today, are trapped between state laws that allow medical pot smoking and federal laws that do not. Sixteen states have approved medical marijuana. Attorney General Eric Holder told U.S. attorneys in 2009 to refrain from prosecuting “individuals whose actions are in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws providing for the medical use of marijuana.”
“There still are people in the Obama administration who take a much more hostile approach,” says Keith Stroup of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. Other federal departments enforce the anti-marijuana laws. Travelers with medical pot are arrested. People who lose their jobs after testing positive for marijuana can be denied unemployment benefits. People who live where the Border Patrol operates have their marijuana confiscated. Until last summer, the Veterans Administrartion would not give pain medication to patients seeking treatment at its pain clinics who tested positive for marijuana. Now, veterans in states where marijuana is approved for medical use can submit documentation showing they have legal access to pot, which means a patient who tests positive will not be denied treatment. Some patients with chronic pain use marijuana to magnify the effect of painkillers, which allows them to use less of those drugs and reduce the risks of addiction and digestive problems, says Michael Krawitz of Veterans for Medical Cannabis Access.