November 24, 2003
Ethan Fletcher, San Francisco Examiner
President George Bush's drug czar John Walters came to San Francisco Monday and wanted to talk drugs, but the only drug San Franciscans wanted to hear about was pot.
Walters, the Director of the National Drug Control Policy, arrived at the Glide Health Services Recovery Center, to promote improved cooperation between the federal government and local drug treatment organizations in the nation's top 25 cities.
However, Walters spent a majority of his press conference discussing the federal government's policies on medical marijuana and how they interact with The City's
'I wish we could take this off the table, to be honest with you,' Walters said before addressing the issue of medical marijuana. 'Why can't we take this off the table? Because we have a system of federal law that uses science to devise a safe and advantageous message...I can't say it's safe when it's not.'
California passed Proposition 215 in 1996 that allowed medicinal marijuana smoking for seriously ill patients, and allowed cultivators to grow it for such uses. This butts heads with the federal laws that continue to ban all marijuana. The result has been several high-profile drug busts of local pot clubs by the Drug Enforcement Agency. To add to the tension, San Francisco passed Propisition S last year, which would explore the possibility of the city growing marijuana instead of individuals.
The drug czar emphasized that smoked marijuana has not met the medical requirements for legalization, and would still be prosecuted by the federal government. This argument was not popular to the 30 or so pro-pot protesters gathered outside Glade to protest the federal government's infringement on local marijuana law.
In recent months, Walters took on some pro-pot arguments, disputing marijuana's label as a 'soft' drug, saying that kids are smoking higher potency marijuana at younger ages, and that smokers had been shown to become dependent. He also claimed that people such as New York financier George Soros, as a front for their desire to see pot legalized, were funding the pro-marijuana movement, and challenged him to debate the idea of marijuana as medicine.
Due to his strong statements and to flush out some of the arguments, Glide Memorial's Reverend Cecil Williams, invited Walters to a marijuana forum being hosted today.
District Attorney Terence Hallinan, a long-time advocate for medical marijuana met with Walters along with public health and law enforcement representatives Monday. Hallinan said he instigated a 15-minute discussion with the 'drug czar' regarding San Francisco's desire to protest their pot clubs.
'We tried to get him into a discussion of medical marijuana, and he had a typical knee-jerk reaction to that...I said you have discretion, just give us some guidance about what's acceptable and what's not, and of course he immediately said 'Aw, follow the law,'' Hallinan said. 'He's probably never had a confrontation quite like that.'
Rev. Williams told protesters that he was glad that a dialogue had been started, and if nothing else, Walters came away with a sense of San Francisco's commitment to the marijuana laws.
Note: President Bush's drug czar addresses medical pot issue.
Source: San Francisco Examiner (CA)
Author: Ethan Fletcher Of The Examiner Staff
Published: Tuesday, November 18, 2003
Copyright: 2003 San Francisco Examiner