Lawmakers urge DOJ to back off pot dispensaries

Four Bay Area House members are urging the area’s top federal prosecutor to halt what they say is ongoing “hostility toward dispensaries” that provide marijuana under the state’s medical marijuana law.

Reps. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; George Miller, D-Martinez; Eric Swalwell, D-Pleasanton; and Sam Farr, D-Santa Cruz, sent a letter to Melinda Haag, U.S. Attorney for California’s Northern District. In says, in part:

“It is counterproductive and economically prohibitive to continue a path of hostility toward dispensaries. Moreover, it appears to directly counter the spirit of Deputy Attorney General Cole’s memo, and is in direct opposition to the evolving view toward medical marijuana, the will of the people and, by now, common sense. Additionally, the State of California has also received legislative direction and guidelines from California Attorney General Kamala Harris on responsibly delivering medical marijuana.

“It is our view that the intent of the Justice Department is to not enforce its anti-marijuana laws in conflict with the laws of states that have chosen to decriminalize marijuana for medical and recreational uses. California understands the urgency toward putting together a statewide regulatory system, and we can all be helpful in that regard, but some municipalities, including Oakland, have already done an extraordinary job regulating medical marijuana. California is moving in the correct direction in a measured manner, and should be given the opportunity to do so.”

Several Bay Area dispensaries have been targeted by federal prosecutors, and Alameda County supervisors this month adopted a resolution urging the federal government to back off.

In a news release announcing the lawmakers’ letter, Lee said it’s “far past time for commonsense and economic sense to prevail in policies and actions related to medical cannabis dispensaries that serve the patients in our communities. This harassment and constant threat of prosecution should end.”


CA15: Stark vows to help Corbett beat Swalwell

The 2014 campaign for the 15th Congressional District seat has started sounding a lot like the 2012 campaign, as former congressman Pete Stark vengefully vows to support a challenger to the fellow Democrat who unseated him, Rep. Eric Swalwell.

Pete Stark“Hopefully Eric will lose, and I am doing everything I can to see that Ellen Corbett wins that primary election,” Stark told CQ Roll Call on Wednesday. “I remember Eric, during the campaign against me, suggested that I was too old and inept to be of any value in the political process, so I am going to see if I can prove that to be wrong.”

State Sen. Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro, has trailed Swalwell, D-Pleasanton, thus far in fundraising and visibility, but Stark hopes to change that.

“I know that Eric used to say that I had $30 million,” Stark said. “I wish he was correct. But I have at least half that much at my disposal, and so I intend to broadcast far and wide his ethics problems and his inexperience and his failure to accomplish much in the Congress.”

Stark’s 2012 campaign committee contributed $2,000 to Corbett’s campaign in August.

Then again, Swalwell beat the 20-term incumbent last year in part because the district’s voters apparently were fed up with Stark’s behavior, including a series of unsupported accusations against Swalwell and others. And Stark’s vow to spend from his own pocket on Corbett’s campaign begs questions both of why he hasn’t done so thus far, and why he didn’t do so to keep himself in office last year.

Swalwell said Thursday that voters decided last year to replace a 40-year incumbent, and that he has kept his promise “to bring new energy and ideas to Congress. It’s time to move on and look forward and not go back to the tired politics of the past.”

“He’s trying to buy a seat in Congress for a friend that he couldn’t win for himself. But this seat isn’t for sale,” Swalwell added. “It’s one gift money can’t buy.”

Swalwell seems proud of the CQ Roll Call story, as he has been sharing it via social media.

“Last yr voters told Pete Stark, ‘bye, bye!’ But he took it as ‘buy, buy!’ & says he’ll spend $15M to help my opponent,” Swalwell tweeted Thursday morning.

He also posted the story on his Facebook page. “The voters have moved on and this seat is not for sale. I promise to keep bringing new energy and ideas to Congress,” he wrote there.

Corbett has not yet returned a call and an e-mail seeking comment.

UPDATE @ 2:35 P.M.: “I have a broad coalition of support from throughout the district, from people who realize I have a superior record of achieving for the district, and that includes Congressman Stark,” Corbett said Thursday afternoon. “It seems that Eric is picking a fight with the former Congressman, but I’m running to offer voters a choice and I will be standing on my own record of public service to this district. After all, that’s what democracy is all about, and I look forward to the campaign.”


Delay for marijuana legalization initiative

A proposed marijuana-legalization ballot initiative, spearheaded in part by a San Jose cannabis collective’s founder, will be delayed as supporters gather more input.

Americans for Policy Reform, a new nonprofit dedicated to grassroots legislative reform, submitted a first iteration of its “Marijuana Control, Legalization and Revenue Act of 2014” to the Secretary of State’s office in October. The group spent a year gathering input from people within California’s marijuana movement and from others, using it to compile an “open source” document to legalize the drug.

But apparently that wasn’t time enough. The proponents issued a news release Wednesday saying they’re still “coordinating meet-and-greet events throughout California to gather ideas and support before the last realistic date to file for the 2014 California General Election.” They intend to file final amendments with the state during the first week of December.

The Secretary of State’s office had submitted the measure’s first draft to the Attorney General for preparation of an official title and summary, which was expected to be ready around Dec. 23. But amendments will delay the title and summary’s completion, and only after that completion can proponents start gathering petition signatures to place the measure on next November’s ballot.

“We have been working very hard to include everyone in the drafting of the MCLR language,” co-proponent Dave Hodges said in the news release. “This latest outreach demonstrates our commitment to an open, inclusive process to legalizing marijuana in California.”

One of those meetings is scheduled for 3 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 26 at the All American Cannabis Club, 1082 Stockton Ave. in San Jose, of which Hodges is founder.

Supporters say the proposed initiative would give Californians freedom to use, grow, transport and sell cannabis subject to reasonable regulation and taxation in a manner similar to alcohol. It will comply with recent Justice Department guidelines, clarify California’s medical marijuana law, generate millions in new tax revenue and save law enforcement resources while preventing distribution to minors; growing on public lands; profits from going to criminal enterprises; violence and firearm use in cultivation and distribution; and drugged driving, the group claims.


Lawmakers: Let Filipinos stay in U.S. beyond visas

Filipinos currently in the United States should be allowed to remain temporarily after their visas expire due to Typhoon Haiyan’s devastation of the Philippines, say members of Congress from both sides of the aisle.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren, the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Immigration and Border Security Subcommittee, led 28 other members in calling upon the Obama Administration to grant visiting Filipinos “temporary protected status” given the extraordinary circumstances.

Their letter to Acting Homeland Security Secretary Rand Beers cites a section of the Immigration and Nationality Act that allows the administration “to designate a foreign state for special protection if a natural disaster prevents the state from being able to adequately handle the return of its nationals.”

“Considering the daunting rescue and restoration efforts before it, the country is not in a position to adequately handle returning nationals, many of whom will be unable to return to their homes,” they wrote. “Additionally, given the extraordinary and life-threatening conditions currently present in the Philippines, it cannot be said that Filipinos are able to return to the state in anything approaching safe conditions.”

The United States has granted TPS status during other major humanitarian disasters, most recently including those in Syria, Haiti and Sudan.

Besides Lofgren, D-San Jose, other Bay Area House members signing the letter included Reps. Mike Thompson, D-Napa; Eric Swalwell, D-Pleasanton; and Mike Honda, D-San Jose. In all, 21 Democrats and eight Republicans signed the letter.


‘Operation LIPSTICK’ takes aim at gun trafficking

A Bay Area congresswoman will host a forum Friday that aims to empower women to stop illegal gun trafficking.

Jackie SpeierRep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, along with various public health, law enforcement and social service organizations are introducing “Operation LIPSTICK,” an attempt to disrupt illegal pipelines that deliver guns to criminals. The coalition will hold a public forum, “Empowering Women to Stop Illegal Gun Trafficking: A New Public Health Approach,” from 1 to 2:30 p.m. in the San Mateo City Council Chambers, 330 W. 20th Ave.

Brace yourself, acronym fans: LIPSTICK stands for “Ladies Involved in Putting a Stop to Inner-City Killing.” The initiative will use educational workshops, leadership development and community organizing to build support networks for women at risk of being caught up in illegal gun trafficking.

Men with criminal records who can’t pass background checks often exploit women with clean records as “straw buyers” to buy guns for them, and those often guns end up being used in street crime, Speier’s office said in a news release.

“LIPSTICK will empower women who are exploited by traffickers to say no to supplying guns to criminals,” Speier said in the news release. “They often unwittingly contribute to gun deaths in our communities. Education will make them less vulnerable to manipulation, make our streets safer and save lives.”

Speier will be joined at Friday’s forum by David Hemenway, director of the Harvard Injury Research Control Center; former ATF agent David Chipman; Nancy Robinson, executive director of Citizens for Safety; and S.T. Mayer, the San Mateo County Health System’s policy and planning director.

“As women have helped reduce drunk driving, they can mobilize to reduce firearm violence,” Hemenway said in Speier’s news release.


NRA sues San Francisco over ammo magazine ban

The San Francisco Veteran Police Officers Association, represented by the National Rifle Association, sued San Francisco in federal court Tuesday over the city’s recently enacted ban on possession of ammunition magazines that hold more than 10 rounds.

“Prohibiting the citizens of San Francisco from possessing standard firearm magazines is not an effective means of targeting behavior by violent criminals. The San Francisco Veteran Police Officers Association is challenging this law for that very reason,” said Chuck Michel, the NRA’s West Coast counsel. “This is a misguided effort to dismiss the civil rights of the residents of San Francisco. The Second Amendment forbids the city from banning common firearm magazines that are possessed by law-abiding citizens for lawful purposes.”

San Francisco supervisors on Oct. 29 unanimously approved a ban on possession of ammunition magazines that hold more than 10 rounds. The state’s assault weapon ban has forbidden their manufacture, sale or transfer since 2000, but let people who owned them before then keep them; the city’s possession ban will require owners to get rid of them – turn them over to police, remove them from the city, or transfer them to a licensed firearms dealer – within 90 days, no matter when they were bought.

The ordinance is set to take effect Dec. 8, unless a judge issues an injunction halting that.

The lawsuit filed Tuesday notes that magazines that are in common use for lawful purposes are protected by the Second Amendment, and magazines that hold more than 10 rounds have been around since the 19th century and some standard with many modern firearms.

“Self-defense is the ‘central component’ of the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms that is at its zenith within the home,” the lawsuit argues. “Millions of individual, law-abiding American citizens are currently in possession of standard-capacity magazines that are capable of holding more than ten rounds, that are now banned by Section 619.”

“Plaintiffs should not have to face criminal prosecution by the City for exercising their constitutional rights to keep and bear constitutionally-protected arms or, alternatively, give up those rights in order to comply with Section 619,” the lawsuit says.

Besides the organization for retired cops, other plaintiffs include several individual San Francisco residents who want to own higher-capacity magazines for self-defense or sporting purposes.

Sunnyvale voters this month approved Measure C, which requires gun owners to notify police within 48 hours of the loss or theft of their firearms, and to keep firearms locked up when not in the owner’s immediate possession. It also requires ammunition sellers to keep buyers’ names for two years, and includes a magazine possession ban similar to San Francisco’s. The NRA has vowed to sue that city, too.

UPDATE @ 12:58 P.M.: This just in from San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera:

“The NRA is continuing its attack on common sense with its lawsuit today, and San Francisco is prepared to litigate aggressively to defend gun safety laws that save lives.

“The NRA is clearly focused on a litigation strategy to push its extremist agenda. But the U.S. Supreme Court—even in expanding the Second Amendment’s scope—has been unequivocal that state and local governments are constitutionally entitled to enact reasonable firearms regulations. The high court has explicitly recognized that the constitution does not extend an unfettered individual right to keep and carry dangerous and unusual weapons. I have faith that the federal judiciary will agree that San Francisco’s gun laws protect public safety in a manner that’s both reasonable and constitutional. San Francisco has been one of the NRA’s top targets for years, and I’m proud of the success we’ve made to protect our sensible gun safety laws.”