Pelosi blasts crackdown on medical marijuana
May 03, 2012
Bob Egelko, San Francisco Chronicle
House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi has joined critics of the Obama administration's campaign against medical marijuana suppliers in California, saying the government is endangering patients and undermining its own proclaimed policy of deferring to states on the issue.
"I have strong concerns about the recent actions by the federal government that threaten the safe access of medical marijuana to alleviate the suffering of patients in California," the San Francisco congresswoman said in a statement Wednesday.
It was Pelosi's first public criticism of the actions announced in October by U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag of San Francisco and federal prosecutors in the state's other three regions to crack down on marijuana dispensaries by going after their landlords.
The prosecutors accused pot suppliers of using California's 1996 medical marijuana law as a cover for making huge profits. They said they would notify dispensaries' landlords that they were violating federal drug laws and could lose their property or face criminal prosecution.
Since then, about 300 marijuana dispensaries in California have shut down because of fears of prosecution or eviction, including five in San Francisco, said Kris Hermes, spokesman for the advocacy group Americans for Safe Access. He said more than 1,000 medical marijuana suppliers are still operating.
Critics of the policy accuse President Obama of breaking a campaign pledge not to interfere with states' enforcement of their medical marijuana laws, and a 2009 Justice Department memo discouraging federal prosecutors from charging people who were complying with state laws.
Obama, in an interview with Rolling Stone magazine published April 25, said he had promised only not to "prioritize" prosecutions of medical marijuana patients, none of whom have been prosecuted.
"I never made a commitment that somehow we were going to give carte blanche to large-scale producers and operators of marijuana," he said. "I can't ask the Justice Department to say (to federal prosecutors), 'Ignore completely a federal law that's on the books.'
"What I can say is, 'Use your prosecutorial discretion and properly prioritize your resources to go after things that are really doing folks damage.' "
But Pelosi, in her statement, said the administration's actions were hurting seriously ill patients.
"I have long supported efforts in Congress to advocate federal policies that recognize the scientific evidence and clinical research demonstrating the medical benefits of medicinal marijuana (and) that respects the wishes of the states in providing relief to ill individuals," she said.