Medical marijuana advocates gathered Tuesday morning in San Francisco to urge President Obama, arriving in the city later in the day, to call off federal prosecutors’ crackdown on dispensaries across the state.
“This is getting a little Kafkaesque for my blood,” said Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, said at a news conference a few blocks from where the president was scheduled to raise funds a few hours later. “They’re acing rather like thugs.”
“I’m an Obama fan, however I also believe in loyal opposition, and I’m very loyally opposed to what’s happening here,” he said. “We are asking that he intervene here.”
Ammiano said he has asked House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, and other California House members to help set up a meeting with Justice Department and IRS officials to discuss their intentions; he said he also wants more input from Gov. Jerry Brown and state Attorney General Kamala Harris. “But right now, zip is happening, and it’s a slap in the face to all the people who voted for (Proposition) 215.”
San Francisco Supervisor David Campos said there’s “a great deal of disappointment that those of us who have supported and continue to support President Obama have about how this is being handled.” Such people now call upon him “to do what he promised, to do the right thing,” Campos said; he said he’ll introduce a resolution to the Board of Supervisors that takes a stand against the crackdown and asks the federal government to respect state law. “This is a states’ rights issue, and California voters have spoken on this.”
Stephen DeAngelo, whose Harborside Health Center in Oakland was recently hit with a multimillion-dollar tax bill after IRS auditors said it can’t use the same deductions as other small businesses, said a glance at who the federal prosecutors are targeting proves they’re not limiting themselves to profiteers and interstate bootleggers as they’d said they would.
Instead, he said, they’ve targeted places like his own dispensary, the Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana and Northstone Organics in Mendocino County, all of which have been “100 percent compliant and have never diverted a single gram of marijuana out of state.” All the federal authorities are doing is threatening the security of tens of thousands of patients, denying local governments many millions in tax revenue, and putting thousands of people out of work, he said.
“They should either learn how to aim, or learn how to tell the truth,” DeAngelo said.
Lots more, after the jump…
Fairfax Mayor Larry Bragman said his town was the state’s first, 14 years ago, to issue a use permit for a medical marijuana dispensary, rife with conditions regulating its operation. “It’s all been a transparent operation, it’s been in continuous operation for 14 years… and this has been an open and positive relationship for the community,” he said.
Bragman said he talked to Northern District U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag last week, and she invited Fairfax officials and Marin Alliance representatives to meet with her staff. “Ultimately it’s about the patients, it’s about the dignity and the liberty of the patients,” he said.
Marin Alliance director Lynette Shaw said if the White House truly didn’t order this crackdown, as spokespeople have claimed, Obama can easily sign an executive order to stop it immediately “and save the patients from any more suffering.”
David Goldman from the San Francisco chapter of Americans for Safe Access said it’s “completely disingenuous” for prosecutors to claim their action against dispensaries won’t target patients. Patients rely on dispensaries as a safe, legal means of obtaining medicine, he said; without them, they have no choice but to seek it on the streets. “An attack on safe access is an attack on patients.”