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Obama, Medical Marijuana, Fighting Back. & the Kelly Thomas Case

May 9th, 2012 by Celeste Fremon


For past months, federal law enforcement has aggressively gone after medical marijuana clinics, forcing the close of around 200 clinics in California, including two of the the best known (and reportedly best behaved) clinics in northern cal, Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana and the Berkeley Patients’ Care Collective.

Since Obama had pledged to lay off the clinics before he was elected, many in California and in other medical marijuana states like Colorado are feeling betrayed and increasingly pissed off.

Some of their representatives are getting the message. This week three Congressmen, Rep. Sam Farr, D-Carmel, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Huntington Beach, and Rep. Maurice Hinchey, D-N.Y, have launched a bi-partisan effort to block the feds fiscally from going after medical marijuana in states where it is legal. The Rohrabacher-Hinchey-Farr Amendment it is called.

Even Nancy Pelosi put out a press release last week calling for “state’s rights.”.

Reacting to an ongoing crackdown on medical marijuana facilities in California, Pelosi said in a Wednesday statement, “I have strong concerns about the recent actions by the federal government that threaten the safe access of medicinal marijuana to alleviate the suffering of patients in California.”

The California Democrat said that medical marijuana is “both a medical and a states’ rights issue.”

California legalized the use of medical marijuana in a 1996 initiative vote. It’s comically easy for many residents to acquire the necessary medical diagnosis to legally purchase the drug.

In 2009, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the Obama administration would “effectively end the Bush administration’s frequent raids on distributors of medical marijuana.”

In April, however, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Internal Revenue Service raided Oaksterdam University — a school that taught marijuana enthusiasts how to successfully cultivate plants.

The Daily Caller has more on Pelosi’s statements, and the issue in general

Jason Hoppin at the San Jose Mercury News has more on the nascent Congressional effort.


Meanwhile, Tamar Todd, Staff Attorney, Drug Policy Alliance, has a fierce and eloquent essay in the Huffington Post on why the fed-forced closure of the venerable Berkeley Patients Group, was so…well….stupid.

Here are some clips:

Last week, one of California’s oldest and most respected medical marijuana dispensaries, Berkeley Patients Group, closed its doors. It shut down because its landlord, like dozens across the state, received a letter from United States Attorney Melinda Haag threatening to seize the property for renting to a medical marijuana dispensary located within 1,000 feet of a school. My three children attend elementary school and preschool in West Berkeley, just blocks from Berkeley Patients Group. The notion that the closure of Berkeley Patients Group is going to somehow serve to protect my children is patently absurd.

Berkeley Patients Group served thousands of medical marijuana patients in the Berkeley area for 12 years. It was an industry leader and a model of compassion and legal integrity. It was in strict compliance with state and local law, and has long worked with the City of Berkeley and the local community to provide a safe and responsible service to patients in need. As a small business, it employed 75 people and was one of the top sales tax generators in the city.

Ms. Haag has claimed that one of her concerns about dispensaries that are in close proximity to schools and parks and playgrounds is the possibility they could be the target of violence or armed robbery. Banks and pharmacies are also targets of armed robberies and there are a number of them located in West Berkeley. Like Berkeley Patients Group, they have security. There is no evidence to suggest, and I have never felt, that it is dangerous to send my children to a school that happened to be near a bank, or a pharmacy.

West Berkeley is not crime-free. There have been a number of shootings in the blocks surrounding my children’s elementary school in past several years. There is also significant illicit drug traffic in the neighborhood. The two are likely connected. But thus far, Ms. Haag and the federal government have devoted few, if any, resources to protecting children from gun violence or other crime in West Berkeley.

Instead, Ms. Haag has chosen to use her presumably limited resources to deprive the thousands of patients who frequent Berkeley Patients Group a legal, regulated, secure place to purchase desperately needed medicine….


Most offensive is the notion that legal access to medical marijuana sends the wrong message to kids. I find the existence of legal medical marijuana very easy to explain to my children. This is what I tell them: Research and science matter. The opinions of medical professionals matter. We should have compassion for those who are very sick, and even for those who are just a little sick; for those suffering the effects of chemotherapy or for returning veterans suffering from PTSD; that we should help meet people’s needs and ease pain as best we can (even if it goes against the conventional wisdom or drug war ideology). I tell my children that it is better for people to buy marijuana from a safe, well-regulated source, than on the street.

I tell my children that the lives of children in Mexico matter too, where United States drug policy has led to the narcotics-related murders of nearly 50,000 people over the last five years, including thousands of children. That is the harm to children caused by marijuana prohibition, and a drug market that Ms. Haag’s actions directly fuel. The “threat” posed by Berkeley Patients Group, and other dispensaries like it, pales in comparison.


The Week has gathered together the three main theories being advanced about why the president and his AG have ramped up their medical marijuana enforcement.


For those of you interested in following the, thus far, very painful Kelly Thomas murder case , the LA Times Richard Winton is covering the Orange County proceedings very well. Here are two of his latest stories having to do with the preliminary hearing here and here.

(Thomas, just to remind you, was the homeless man who was beaten to death, allegedly by a group of Fullerton police officers, while he called out for his father.)

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty.

Posted in Medical Marijuana, Obama | 5 Comments »

5 Responses

  1. ? Says:

    Our drug policy in the United States of America has caused 50,000 deaths in Mexico? If you stand by that outlandish statement, you have truely been smoking something. Among the recent seizures of narcotics coming from Mexico into the U.S. includes marijuana, cocaine, meth and heroin. I suppose if we legalize the, killings will stop in Mexico. And are the thousands of rapes and brutal killings in Mexico related to our drug policies in the U.S. And to thing the closure of a medical marijuana facility is stupid……????? Do some actual research of what’s going on.

  2. Celeste Fremon Says:

    Good point. That is, indeed, quite a wild jump in logic. Clearly ‘twould have been better to leave that particular part of the clip out.

  3. Tamar Todd Says:

    That number comes from the US government by way of the State Department website where there is a travel advisory for visiting Mexico due to narcotics related violence. Check it out.

  4. Celeste Fremon Says:

    Thanks for the link, Tamar. Will check into in further. Good essay, in any case.

  5. California: Two Bills Introduced in Legislature to Regulate Medical Marijuana | The Cannabis Strain Directory Blog Says:

    [...] (Graphic: Witness LA) [...]

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