U.S. Attorney Attacks on Medical Cannabis Don’t Make Anyone Safer

Posted on 18 July 2012

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By State Assemblymember Tom Ammiano

In the past, the U.S. Attorney General said his prosecutors should only go after medical cannabis providers that were clearly violating state laws. In the past, we had also been told that operations would focus on dispensaries that operated near schools and parks. But now Melinda Haag, the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District was quoted last week as saying, “The larger the operation, the greater the likelihood that there will be abuse of the state's medical marijuana laws, and marijuana in the hands of individuals who do not have a demonstrated medical need.”

She used that justification to go after Harborside Health Center, one of the most successful and respected providers around. And she didn’t go directly after them. After all, she only said there was a likelihood of abuse. Instead of charging them with violating laws, she threatened Harborside’s landlords with asset forfeiture. She told them they could lose their buildings because they had the audacity to make a business decision to rent to a legal dispensary.

When the U.S. Attorney targets landlords in an effort to throttle responsible medical cannabis dispensaries, it does not make us any safer. When worries about federal prosecutors make banks stop working with dispensaries – forcing them to become cash-only operations – that doesn’t make us safer either. The tactic of scaring businesses that interact with well-controlled dispensaries only hurts patients in need.

It is especially ironic that the U.S. Attorney’s move came in the same week that news reported laboratory studies confirming the effectiveness of cannabis in providing pain relief, even above that provided by other prescription medicines.

As author of AB 2312, the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Control Act, I remain committed to legislation that makes compassionate care possible while satisfying federal authorities.

My bill will be coming back in the winter legislative session. When enacted, it will provide standards for regulating marijuana cultivation and distribution for medical purposes. That’s what we need to do to continue to reduce the possibility of criminal activity and it’s what will allow local jurisdictions to be confident in enacting ordinances governing dispensaries. Many of those local governments, I should add, look forward to the revenues that will come from legal medical cannabis sales.

The ongoing federal crackdown reinforces the need for this kind of effective state regulation, through which we hope to convince prosecutors there is no need for using criminal codes against organizations that are only trying to help people who are suffering.


Tom Ammiano is a California State Assemblyman representing the 13th District in the City of San Francisco.

Any public official who advocates for or allows marijuana to be sold should be arrested, because it is a violation of federal law. Public officials--like Ammiano--take an oath to uphold all laws. The same for county/city officials who allow sales of it in their jurisdictions.