House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, weighed in yesterday against the Obama Administration’s recent actions against medical marijuana providers:
“Access to medicinal marijuana for individuals who are ill or enduring difficult and painful therapies is both a medical and a states’ rights issue. Sixteen states, including our home state of California, and the District of Columbia have adopted medicinal marijuana laws – most by a vote of the people.
“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, and undermine a policy that has been in place under which the federal government did not pursue individuals whose actions complied with state laws providing for medicinal marijuana.
“Proven medicinal uses of marijuana include improving the quality of life for patients with cancer, HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis, and other severe medical conditions.
“I am pleased to join organizations that support legal access to medicinal marijuana, including the American Nurses Association, the Lymphoma Foundation of America, and the AIDS Action Council.
“Medicinal marijuana alleviates some of the most debilitating symptoms of AIDS, including pain, wasting, and nausea. The opportunity to ease the suffering of people who are seriously ill or enduring difficult and painful therapies is an opportunity we must not ignore.
“For these reasons, I have long supported efforts in Congress to advocate federal policies that recognize the scientific evidence and clinical research demonstrating the medical benefits of medicinal marijuana, that respects the wishes of the states in providing relief to ill individuals, and that prevents the federal government from acting to harm the safe access of medicinal marijuana provided under state law. I will continue to strongly support those efforts.”
“We applaud Pelosi’s leadership in urging President Obama to address medical marijuana as a public health issue,” Americans for Safe Access Executive Director Steph Sherer said in a news release today. “Rather than defending a policy of intolerance, President Obama should end his unnecessary and harmful attacks once and for all.”
The Alameda County Democratic Party unanimously adopted a resolution yesterday “decrying the federal raids on dispensaries and calling for the U.S. Department of Justice to refrain from future expenditure of public resources on any act that contradicts the will of the California voters regarding medical marijuana.” The San Francisco Democratic Party passed a similar resolution last week, and San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee issued a statement earlier last month.
Medical marijuana activists say the Obama Administration has stepped up federal crackdowns on California’s medical marijuana cooperatives and providers; in one of the latest actions, federal agents last month raided Oakland’s Oaksterdam University and the home of its founder, legalization advocate Richard Lee.
In a recent interview with Rolling Stone, President Obama noted medical marijuana users aren’t being targeted:
“Here’s what’s up: What I specifically said was that we were not going to prioritize prosecutions of persons who are using medical marijuana. I never made a commitment that somehow we were going to give carte blanche to large-scale producers and operators of marijuana – and the reason is, because it’s against federal law. I can’t nullify congressional law. I can’t ask the Justice Department to say, ‘Ignore completely a federal law that’s on the books.’ What I can say is, ‘Use your prosecutorial discretion and properly prioritize your resources to go after things that are really doing folks damage.’ As a consequence, there haven’t been prosecutions of users of marijuana for medical purposes.
“The only tension that’s come up – and this gets hyped up a lot – is a murky area where you have large-scale, commercial operations that may supply medical marijuana users, but in some cases may also be supplying recreational users. In that situation, we put the Justice Department in a very difficult place if we’re telling them, ‘This is supposed to be against the law, but we want you to turn the other way.’ That’s not something we’re going to do. I do think it’s important and useful to have a broader debate about our drug laws. One of the things we’ve done over the past three years was to make a sensible change when it came to the disparity in sentencing between crack cocaine and powder cocaine. We’ve had a discussion about how to focus on treatment, taking a public-health approach to drugs and lessening the overwhelming emphasis on criminal laws as a tool to deal with this issue. I think that’s an appropriate debate that we should have.”