Protests demand end to medical pot shop raids

February 05, 2009

Michael R. Blood, Associated Press, San Francisco Chronicle

The Obama administration should halt federal raids of medical marijuana dispensaries, a long-sought turnaround from the policy of the Bush White House, protesters said Thursday. The Drug Enforcement Administration raided four dispensaries in Los Angeles this week and seized 500 pounds of marijuana, bringing fresh attention to the rift between state and federal law on medical marijuana use. President Obama said during the campaign he would not use the Justice Department, which oversees the DEA, to circumvent state laws.

Dozens of demonstrators gathered outside a downtown federal office building to call on the DEA to cease the raids, which also seized $10,000 in cash. They chanted "Obama stop the raids" and "DEA go away."

"Somebody forgot to tell them all the rules are changing," said Don Duncan of Americans for Safe Access, an advocacy group that promotes medical marijuana use and research.

California is among the states that allow the sale of marijuana for medicinal purposes, but the federal government has not recognized those laws. "Anyone possessing, distributing or cultivating marijuana for any reason is in violation of federal law," said DEA spokeswoman Sarah Pullen.

But Obama has said he will change direction.

"I think the basic concept of using medical marijuana for the same purposes and with the same controls as other drugs prescribed by doctors, I think that's entirely appropriate," Obama told the Mail Tribune of Medford, Ore., last March. "I'm not going to be using Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state laws on this issue."

Pullen directed questions on medical marijuana policy to the Justice Department in Washington. On Thursday, White House spokesman Nick Shapiro said "the president believes that federal resources should not be used to circumvent state laws. "

This article appeared on page B - 6 of the San Francisco Chronicle

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