Obama Administration Declares War on Medical Cannabis

author: 
Leo E. Laurence, J.D./Zenger's Newsmagazine

Obama’s Justice Department Declares War on Medical Pot

Threatens Landlords of Dispensaries Nationwide with Federal Prosecution

story and photo by LEO E. LAURENCE, J.D.

Copyright © 2011 by Leo E. Laurence, J.D. • All rights reserved

PHOTO: Eugene Davidovich

President Obama’s justice department is swiftly trying to shut down everything nationwide connected with medical marijuana, including any publication carrying ads for dispensaries such as the popular monthly magazines KUSH and NUG.

Rather than raiding dispensaries, all U.S. attorneys in California are telling landlords their property could be subject to seizure under federal law if dispensaries are not closed.

After California, the feds intend to expand their prosecutorial assault into all 15 states where medical marijuana is legal under state law, but unlawful federally, according to confidential sources inside the justice department.

Reeling In the Catch

“We are under severe attack,” said Eugene Davidovich of the San Diego chapter of Americans for Safe Access (ASA) at their October monthly meeting. “We’ve got to fight back!”

The federal assault is a “far cry from (Obama’s) pledge on the campaign trail that he was ‘not going to be using Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state laws on this issue’,” Davidovich added critically in an e-mail to supporters.

According to an editorial in the October 12 San Diego CityBeat, the Obama administration’s change in policy came after former deputy attorney general David Ogden left office in February 2010. His replacement, James Cole, “had completely rewritten the federal government’s policy towards medicinal marijuana” by June 2011, “giving U.S. attorneys the go-ahead to target those who grow or sell marijuana without regard to its intended use or any existing state laws,” CityBeat reported.

“This, presumably, came with the blessing of U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and Obama,” CityBeat argued. “It’s as if the Obama administration baited the hook in 2009 and reeled in the catch this year.”

Community Alarmed

The crisis is alarming the activists in the cannabis community and attendance at the ASA meeting October 11 nearly doubled. It was standing-room-only.

“My clients are petrified,” says attorney Jessica C. McElfresh, who represents many dispensary owners and medical-marijuana patients.

Some urged everyone to send letters to their congressional representatives. Their naïveté is astounding.

“Letters (now) will have little effect,” said attorney McElfresh.

“We need a huge outcry (to the justice department and the White House) and very, very quickly,” she emphasized.

Only the White House may be able to stop the federal prosecutors’ unprecedented actions, but does the medical marijuana community have anyone influential enough to reach the president?

“(The 70,000 patients in San Diego) are being pushed underground.

“If the dispensaries no longer exist, where are these patients going to get their (marijuana) meds,” asked Julian Cole, 26, a manager of the One-on-One dispensary at 923 Sixth Avenue in the Gaslamp area. The patients, he said, are still going to buy it — but on the street.

“Do you want taxation money (from the sales) or not?

“Do you want to increase crime, or not?” Cole asked.

“Abolish the dispensaries and you create more criminals.”

“This is a national threat and is potentially quite damaging,” said attorney McElfresh.

If prosecutors are successful in shutting down all medical marijuana dispensaries by going after their landlords in California, the feds plan to carry the attack into all 15 states where medical marijuana is legal under state law, according to a confidential source inside the U.S. attorney’s office in San Diego.

“California is on the chopping block,” McElfresh added.

While speaking on NUGRadio.com, longtime cannabis activist Rudy Reyes suggested a massive march on Sacramento. Such a huge event, however, would require lots of money and time to organize, two elements that don’t exist in the community.

Two leaders of the new Patients’ Care Association of California (PCA), Randy Welty and Will Senn, did not return phone calls at press time to determine the PCA’s response to the crisis.

Landlords and property owners of buildings with medical marijuana dispensaries will have until early December to comply, or face federal prosecutions.

What Will Happen?

If federal prosecutors are successful in shutting down all medical marijuana dispensaries in the San Diego area, which now appears likely, three former combat infantrymen, living in Mission Beach and suffering from PTSD horrors, will lose their meds.

“My first (of two) purple hearts, I was driving a vehicle in the Kunar Province of Afghanistan and we got ambushed. The Taliban hit us with a rocket-propelled grenade. I got hit with shrapnel of metal and glass in my face,” said Aaron Miller, 22.

“My second resulted while we were on patrol and somebody suddenly shot from a nearby mountain and hit me.

“I was on two meds for pain and two for severe depression, but the side effects were worse than the PTSD. Now with medical-marijuana, I take zero meds and have lost 40 pounds in two months. I’m just a happier person now,” the wounded combat veteran explained.

Josh Orcutt, 26, served in the same combat unit. “If they close the dispensaries, I’ll have to go back on Zantac and other depression pills, but I don’t want to because it’s a horrible feeling.”