Democrats Call on Feds to Back Off Attacks on Medical Marijuana
By Dan Aiello
California Progress Report
San Francisco Democrats State Senator Mark Leno and Assemblymember Tom Ammiano held a press conference today to publicly protest what they describe as an increasing number of Federal government raids on Medical Marijuana dispensaries underway within the sovereign borders of the Golden State.
Ammiano, author of SB390 and Leno joined Medical Marijuana patients, dispensary owners and advocates at a press conference held, perhaps symbolically, at the State building on the City’s Civic Center plaza, to call for an immediate end to the federal government’s broad crackdown on dispensaries in California.
California voters approved marijuana for medical use in 1996 through Proposition 215, but it remains a schedule 1 (putting marijuana on par with heroin in the eyes of law enforcement according to the Controlled Substances Act) illegal narcotic under Federal law.
"Earlier this month, federal prosecutors announced plans for sweeping criminal prosecutions against medical marijuana dispensaries across the state, threatening landlords with eviction, property seizures and imprisonment,and crackdown on newspapers that run ads for medical marijuana."
“I urge the federal government to stand down in its massive attack on medical marijuana dispensaries, which will have devastating impacts for the state of California,” said Leno. “At a time when resources are precious and few, federal officials have chosen to waste time and money in an ambush that will harm countless patients who will no longer be able to safely access doctor-recommended treatments,” stated Leno. “Our federal dollars, especially during a down economy, would be better spent on activities and programs that save jobs and help people in need. Instead, this ill-timed and ill-conceived offensive would have detrimental impacts on our state’s economy by forcing more Californians into unemployment.”
“With national polls showing support for marijuana at an all-time high, it defies common sense that the Department of Justice would return to the failed policies of the past,” said Ammiano. “Instead of supporting state efforts to effectively regulate medical marijuana in accordance with Prop 215, the Obama administration seems committed to re-criminalizing it. This destructive attack on medical marijuana patients is a waste of limited law enforcement resources and will cost the state millions in tax revenue and harm countless lives. I urge President Obama to reconsider this bad policy decision and respect California’s right to provide medicine to its residents.”
This is not the first time Leno and Ammiano have called for the Federal government to back off. In 2009, Leno introduced SJR14, calling upon the federal government to ensure patients had safe access to marijuana.
“The Obama Administration has indicated a willingness to change federal policy regarding medical marijuana, but details of that planhave not yet been released,” said Leno.
Asked if this is a promised not kept by President Obama, Quintin Mecke, Ammiano’s press secretary said, “Clearly, it’s an entirely different landscape today than 2009,” when then-candidate Obama indicated support for state’s rights regarding marijuana. “He said he would not use Department of Justice dollars to fund these kinds of raids.” Mecke believes “there’s obviously been a change inside the administration” from the first year of the administration when Mecke says Attorney General Holder sent out a letter effectively reiterating candidate Obama’s position on state’s rights over marijuana. “It’s a clear turnaround for this administration,” Mecke told CPR.
While several local laws have been passed by communities in California, Mecke believes that confusion within communities that had not passed ordinances regarding Medical Marijuana dispensaries opened the door for the fed’s raids as communities like Los Angeles found chaos in the absence of regulations for the drug.
“Right now you have a patchwork of regulations throughout the state,” Mecke told CPR. “There were eight years after Californians passed Prop 215 where there was no regulation at all.” Mecke believes that while California may have stumbled with implementing Prop 215, it is not a fair reason for the recent crackdown by the feds, which include landlords of dispensaries receiving threatening letters from the IRS, DEA and FBI raids and investigations throughout California in communities with and without regulations for marijuana.
“To say the state’s at fault because it didn’t pass statewide regulations is not reasonable,” said Mecke. “Nobody knows what’s behind this crackdown, and I’m sure no one in the administration’s going to go on record to tell you what’s behind it, but they’re being super aggressive. They’re cranking up the volume considerably and no one knows why at this point. The Obama administration is doing way more than Bush or Clinton ever did. I can’t state is more clearly than that. This is unprecedented.”
Asked if he believes the upcoming election might have something to do with the crackdown, Mecke told CPR, “I don’t see where he benefits from this. No one on the conservative side is calling for a crackdown on medical marijuana, in fact a recent poll said 50 percent of Americans approve of the use of Medical Marijuana,” said Mecke. “In reality, I see this as being a potential political negative for the president.”
Mecke believes eventually this will be decided by the Supreme Court as a matter of state’s rights. "It’s certainly an impingement upon california’s rights. This will make its way up to the court in one form or another, but it won’t be an argument over marijuana. It will be a question of state’s rights,” said Mecke
Dan Aiello reports for the California Progress Report.