Advocates urge Obama to halt medical pot raids

Drug reform advocates are challenging the Obama Administration to deliver on a campaign promise to halt federal interference with California and other states allowing medical marijuana use.

They note that even as new U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder was being sworn in yesterday, Drug Enforcement Administration agents were raiding medical marijuana dispensaries in Los Angeles; they also hit a dispensary two weeks ago in South Lake Tahoe. As usual, they seized marijuana and money without making any arrests, a common M.O. in recent years in California.

Caren Woodsen — government affairs director with Oakland-based Americans for Safe Access — said one of Holder’s top priorities “should be to end these harmful raids on state-sanctioned medical marijuana providers. And, until a new head of the DEA is confirmed, Holder has a responsibility to cease the existing policy being carried out by Bush Administration officials.”

The Drug Policy Alliance lays the problem more at President Barack Obama’s feet.

“When President Bush was on the campaign trail in 2000 he promised not to interfere in state medical marijuana laws, but that turned out to be a lie as the DEA proceeded to terrorize medical marijuana patients and providers by raiding dozens of dispensaries across California,” said Stephen Gutwillig, the DPA’s California Director. “President Obama said on the campaign trail that these raids would end under his administration and millions believed him. We hope these recent raids don’t represent official Administration policy and that Obama will order federal agencies in no uncertain terms to stop harassing medical marijuana patients and providers in California.”

More on those campaign promises, after the jump…

UPDATE @ 8:40 A.M. THURSDAY: Also after the jump: the White House’s reply…

Obama in March 2008 told the Mail Tribune of Medford, Ore.: “My attitude is that if it’s an issue of doctors prescribing medical marijuana as a treatment for glaucoma or as a cancer treatment, I think that should be appropriate because there really is no difference between that and a doctor prescribing morphine or anything else.” Although he said he sees “legitimate concerns in not wanting to allow people to grow their own or start setting up mom and pop shops because at that point it becomes fairly difficult to regulate,” he also said “[w]hat I’m not going to be doing is using Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state laws on this issue.”

And an Obama spokesperson in May told the San Francisco Chronicle: “Voters and legislators in the states — from California to Nevada to Maine — have decided to provide their residents suffering from chronic diseases and serious illnesses like AIDS and cancer with medical marijuana to relieve their pain and suffering. Obama supports the rights of states and local governments to make this choice.”

DPA national affairs director Bill Piper said Obama “needs to show federal agencies who is boss. If he doesn’t put a halt to these raids, the DEA will continue to undermine his campaign promises.”

UPDATE: White House spokesman Nick Shapiro reportedly has said he expects President Obama to end that policy when a new DEA Administrator is seated. “The president believes that federal resources should not be used to circumvent state laws, and as he continues to appoint senior leadership to fill out the ranks of the federal government, he expects them to review their policies with that in mind,” Shapiro said.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • Jeff

    The proof is in. Obama is 1) a politician first 2) an honorable and honest man, NOT!

  • erik

    i really hope this isn’t Obama’s definition of change. because it is one that most of us Californians dont believe in. 99% of the raids are merely “smash and grab.”
    the feds come in, take money, cannabis, and no one is charged with a crime. the feds don’t even report exactly how much of what they take. they have no accountability.
    we passed our law by 57% (if i remember correctly)
    I expected Bush to disregard our laws, but Obama dissapoints me.

  • RR

    dig this! sick peeps want grass! straights don’t want gays to have marriage licenses! sickies have more rights than straight-laceds! let the people rule! huh?

  • rich

    It is still early and they are acting on Bush policy as soon as Obama’s administration settles in I truly believe that things will change. I personally don’t think marijauna should even be illegal but i’m sure that will never change.

  • Arne Simonsen

    So, does that mean that the rest of us can ignore other federal laws?

  • Mick

    # Arne Simonsen Says:
    So, does that mean that the rest of us can ignore other federal laws?

    –Yeah, go right ahead, Arnie, and join your soulmates living the good life down at Lompoc.

  • J.C.

    All the federal laws against pot were originally messed to begin with so the supreme court should of overturned them to begin with.