Rep. Sam Farr, House members question California pot club crackdown

October 30, 2011

Jason Hoppin, San Jose Mercury News

Several members of California's congressional delegation are taking their concerns about a federal crackdown on the state's medical marijuana dispensaries directly to President Barack Obama.

In a bipartisan letter signed by nine members of the U.S. House of Representatives, the lawmakers criticized what they called an "unconscionable" multi-state effort targeting medical marijuana dispensaries. They also called for the reclassification of marijuana as a controlled substance subject to fewer federal restrictions.

"It is critically important for patients to have safe access to this treatment that continues to be recommended by doctors. California voters decided to adopt clear regulations to allow patients to do just that. It is unfortunate that the federal government has decided to target these legal vendors instead of focusing limited resources on those who sell illicit drugs," said Rep. Sam Farr, D-Carmel.

Shortly after U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder took office, the Obama administration signaled a rollback in ongoing tensions between state medical marijuana laws and the federal prohibition against the drug, saying it would not target individual users.

But over the last month, U.S. attorneys in California and other states have moved against some dispensaries, executing raids and sending threatening letters to dispensaries' landlords. Last week, Americans for Safe Access, a pro-medical marijuana group, sued the federal government, accusing it of commandeering state laws.

Federal law enforcement's stance that the distribution of medical marijuana remains illegal was cited by a recent state court in striking down a local effort to regulate pot clubs. Though the city and county of Santa Cruz have similar laws, no immediate changes to local laws are planned.

The letter was signed by Farr and six other California House members, including Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher. Joining them were Democrats Steve Cohen of Tennessee and Jared Polis of Colorado.

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