FEDS: No more raids on pot dispensaries

February 26, 2009

, The Desert Sun

The operators medical marijuana dispensaries were breathing easier today after U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced that federal authorities will stop raiding dispensaries in states where medical marijuana is legal.

Los Angeles officials also said the federal policy change will allow them to better regulate dispensaries in the city.

Speaking to reporters Wednesday, Holder said, ``What the president said during the campaign ... is now American policy'' in regards to stopping raids by the Drug Enforcement Administration on pot dispensaries.

Proposition 215, approved by California voters in 1996, made it legal to sell marijuana to people who have a doctor's prescription, and since then hundreds of dispensaries have sprung up throughout the state.

But marijuana is still illegal under federal law, and DEA agents have raided many of the dispensaries throughout Southern California.

In September 2007, Los Angeles enacted an ordinance that prohibits new medical marijuana dispensaries from opening in the city. The law was intended
to give police and planning officials time to draft permanent regulations for such facilities.

Representatives from the City Attorney's Office and Building and Safety are scheduled to meet next week to determine the best way to shut down clinics that have opened since the moratorium went into effect.

``I like what the federal government is doing,'' said Councilman Dennis
Zine, who has led the city's efforts to regulate the dispensaries. ``I hope that the DEA responds appropriately ... this will give us the ability to regulate those locations without the federal government interceding in our territory and wreaking havoc."

Councilman Bill Rosendahl, who supports medical marijuana, called the the federal policy change a victory for patients who use the herb.

``It takes away that incredible fear factor, disruption factor and violation of people's rights,'' Rosendahl said. ``For those who are medicinal marijuana users, it finally respects medical marijuana as a health issue and something that a doctor feels makes it a medicinal herb.''

Americans for Safe Access, a California-based group that promotes legal access to marijuana for therapeutic use and research, called Holder's comments ``the latest sign of a sea change'' in federal policy toward states with medical cannabis laws.

``There has been a lot of collateral damage in the federal campaign against medical marijuana patients,'' said Steph Sherer, executive director of Americans for Safe Access.

``We need to stop the prosecutions, bring the prisoners home and begin working to eliminate the conflict between state and federal medical marijuana laws.''

As recently as earlier this month, federal agents raided several medical marijuana dispensaries throughout Los Angeles, seizing cash and pot but not
making any arrests.



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