Advocates applaud AG Holder on marijuana policy
February 27, 2009
The Associated Press, The Sacramento Bee
LOS ANGELES -- Medical marijuana advocates applauded Friday after the Obama administration signaled it will halt federal raids on dispensaries, easing a long-standing rift between California and federal law.
During the campaign, President Barack Obama indicated he would end the Justice Department raids, which continued even after he was inaugurated. California and 12 other states have laws permitting medicinal use of marijuana, but the federal government has not recognized those laws.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency raided a dispensary in South Lake Tahoe in January and four others in the Los Angeles area on Feb. 2, seizing marijuana and cash.
Asked about the raids Wednesday, Attorney General Eric Holder told reporters, "What the president said during the campaign, you'll be surprised to know, will be consistent with what we'll be doing here in law enforcement."
"What he said during the campaign ... is now American policy," Holder said.
Kris Hermes, a California-based spokesman for Americans for Safe Access, an advocacy group, said he hoped the administration would also back away from prosecutions in existing cases and expand research into therapeutic uses for marijuana.
"Holder's statement was an affirmation of promises Obama had made," Hermes said.
Asked about a policy change in Washington, Justice Department spokesman Matt Miller declined to elaborate on Holder's statement.
California voters approved Proposition 215 in 1996, which made it legal to sell marijuana to people who have a doctor's prescription. Since that time, hundreds of dispensaries have opened in the state.
During the Bush administration, federal agents raided medical marijuana clinics, prosecuted suppliers and pressured property owners to evict marijuana dispensaries.
Obama had promised a change in direction.
"I'm not going to be using Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state laws on this issue," Obama told the Mail Tribune of Medford, Ore., in March.