A proposed bill by U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein might threaten edibles
By Anna Lambias
Back in 2007, U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, along with Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), introduced a bill to increase the federal criminal penalties for selling candy-flavored drugs to children. The legislation was a response to reports that our nation’s playgrounds were under siege by drug dealers peddling methamphetamine in irresistible flavors like “Strawberry Quick.” But when these rumors largely proved false, Feinstein needed a new sweet drug to sweat if she didn’t want her bill to wither and die.
Reintroduced in January 2009, the current incarnation of Feinstein’s bill, S. 258 or “The Saving Kids from Dangerous Drugs Act,” would double the federal penalties (fines and jail time) for any adult who manufactures, creates, distributes or dispenses a Schedule I or II controlled substance combined with a candy product, marketed or packaged to appear similar to a candy product, or modified by flavoring or coloring designed to make it more appealing to people under the age of 18. After the Senate unanimously passed the bill on July 29, Feinstein’s office announced that the legislation was meant to include any drug masquerading as a treat, but specifically named and targeted Rasta Reese’s, 3 Rastateers and Munchy Way, all products made with cannabis—not much of a surprise considering the Senator is a vocal opponent of Prop. 19.
However, despite the fact that S. 258, now up for debate in the House Energy and Commerce committee, might appear to be a setback for the medical cannabis community, the San Bernardino-based Marijuana Anti Prohibition Project chalks it up to little more than “absurd political posturing.”
“I don’t think there’s cause for great concern because it’s not like anything significant is changing,” MAPP says. “It’s already illegal to sell marijuana in any form to anyone, according to federal law.”
Nevertheless, MAPP agrees with other activists that say there’s a chance that anti-cannabis crusaders could try to twist the wording of the bill to get more aggressive about going after medical marijuana patients and the providers of their edibles. For example, parents of young children who have cancer and keep edibles in the home to treat the side-effects of chemotherapy, says Kathie Zamajahromi, 60, a former nurse who volunteers at the Inland Empire Health and Wellness Center Medical Marijuana Collective in Riverside. Or a parent who provides consent for their terminally ill child to medicate with a cannabis lozenge, adds Caren Woodson, the Washington D.C.-based director of government affairs for Americans for Safe Access (ASA).
“The intent of the bill is good—no one wants to advocate selling recreational drugs to kids,” says Woodson. “But right now we don’t have a lot of faith that we can take the U.S. prosecutors at their word.”
If indeed federal law enforcement uses the bill to reinvigorate its anti-cannabis campaign, it could limit availability of edibles. The resulting shortage would be a hardship for patients who are uncomfortable smoking or need to take their medicine in public, says Zamajahromi, as well as those who suffer from particular ailments for which edibles have proven especially effective, such as spastic diseases like multiple sclerosis. According to Dr. William Eidelman, who runs a Hollywood-based medical cannabis clinic, edibles can also be more effective in the treatment of severe physical pain, and are often preferred by patients with serious lung problems.