New legislation expected to be introduced this week would give federal medical marijuana defendants greater leverage in federal court by allowing attorneys to present evidence of medical use and compliance with local and state laws, a move prohibited under current law.
The "Truth in Trials Act," authored by Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA) and co-sponsored by 20 other Democrats and Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), "enables individuals facing federal prosecution for marijuana-related offenses to provide evidence during trial that the activities they were engaged in were performed in compliance with their state’s duly-enacted medical marijuana laws," noted advocacy group Americans for Safe Access.
Farr explained to media that the legislation is meant to give additional protection to medical marijuana defendants who are still being targeted by prosecutors in spite of President Barack Obama's new policy of not prosecuting patients abiding by state law.
"This (directive of the president) isn't an executive order. It's not law, and it could change with a new attorney general or a new president," Farr explained, according to the Santa Cruz Sentinel. "Our bill would codify this (directive)."
"We need strict drug laws, but we also need to apply a little common sense to how they’re enforced," he continued. "This legislation is about treating defendants in cases involving medical marijuana fairly, plain and simple."
The legislation is backed by virtually the entire cross-section of drug law reform organizations, along with interfaith groups and medical advocates, according to a list provided to the press. Groups include "Americans for Safe Access (ASA), American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), National Association of People With AIDS (NAPWA), National Minority AIDS Council (NMAC), and AIDS Action Council."
"The fallout from this lack of an affirmative defense is quite severe," a letter to members of the House Judiciary Committee explained. "In the past few years, dozens of people have been convicted in federal court and sentenced to lengthy prison terms of between 5-20 years for activity that was lawful under their state's medical marijuana law. Furthermore, there are currently at least two dozen pending federal cases in which defendants are unable to mount an adequate defense, underscoring the urgent need for this legislation."
Americans for Safe Access says the legislation ...
*Reaffirms States' Rights: The "Truth in Trials" Act is a common sense and compassionate measure that attempts to reconcile the enduring conflict between federal and state laws on a very important and private medical matter.
*Preserves Existing Laws: The "Truth in Trials" Act defers to existing law by providing for criminal penalties if the defendant's use of cannabis is not exclusively limited to authorized medical use.
*Restores Fundamental Fairness: The "Truth in Trials" Act promotes fundamental fairness by allowing medical marijuana defendants to introduce evidence that may be considered by the judge and jury.
The bill is expected to be put before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security. Companion legislation is pending in the U.S. Senate.