Medical Marijuana Activists Add to Attorney General Eric Holder's List of Woes

June 27, 2012

Chris Roberts, SF Weekly

Attorney General Eric Holder is an embattled man. For refusing to release documents related to the Fast and the Furious "gun-walking" scandal, Congress on Thursday voted to hold the country's top law enforcement officer in contempt.Holder may face criminal charges after the contempt vote, the first such move taken against a sitting Cabinet official. Senate Republicans are calling on the AG to resign -- and now medical marijuana advocates are piling on, seeking to add to Holder's woes.

On June 7, Holder told Congress what he's been saying for years: The Justice Department isn't touching state law-abiding medical marijuana. Then on June 11, the Justice Department did what they've been doing for years: They raided dispensary El Camino Wellness in Sacramento, which, according to advocates, had been obeying all the rules.
Allegedly untruthful statements made about medical marijuana enforcement are probably low on the list of Holder's priorities. But Americans for Safe Access have launched a campaign and a Website -- -- to lobby the AG to stay true to his words that state-law abiding medical marijuana distributors won't be raided by the federal government (any more).

National attention has been on Holder for his actions in the "Fast and the Furious" scandal, in which federal agents allegedly distributed weapons throughout Mexico. The Justice Department intended to "let the guns walk" to see where they ended up. As per the plan, many fell into the hands of drug cartel members, who used them to commit more of the drug-related atrocities which have plagued Mexico for much of the last 20 years.

Holder has long in been trouble with the medical marijuana community for a string of conflicting statements. In 2009, shortly after taking office, Holder said that his Justice Department would back up a campaign promise by President Barack Obama and not raid or prosecute state-legal medical marijuana users or providers. Later, a memo supporting that claim was overturned by a series of raids, prosecutions, and a conflicting memo that said  marijuana remains illegal and users, including state governments which allow its use, can be prosecuted.

Upwards of 300 state law-abiding dispensaries have been raided by federal agents, according to Americans for Safe Access. One of these is El Camino Wellness Center in Sacramento, which was raided by federal authorities on June 11, four days after Holder told Congress that Justice Department policy hasn't changed, and law-abiding dispensaries are left alone.

El Camino Wellness received a letter from US Attorney Benjamin Wagner informing its landlords of property forfeiture and prison sentences if the dispensary was not shut down. Similar letters from US Attorney Melinda Haag have shut down at least six dispensaries in Marin County, Berkeley, and San Francisco.

"Be a man of your word," Americans for Safe Access is asking Holder. "Stop raiding dispensaries!"

Maybe once he survives a possible effort to remove him from office, he'll get around to it.

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