Is Newsom Waiting Until the Feds Come Knocking in San Francisco?

February 07, 2008 | Kris Hermes
It was interesting today to see three local newspapers (SF Chronicle, Associated Press, and Bay Area Reporter) cover the issue of Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) interference in California's medical marijuana law and its impact on San Francisco dispensaries. No less than seven of the twenty-eight operating facilities are shutting down or have already closed due to fearful landlords. The closures are in direct response to threats of asset forfeiture and criminal prosecution the DEA has made to more than 300 landlords across California. This cynical tactic, unveiled by the DEA in July 2007 in southern California, was opposed by the Los Angeles Times and has also met with significant political opposition. Local elected officials from Los Angeles City Council member and former police officer Dennis Zine to Orange County Supervisor Chris Norby, from Oakland Mayor Ronald Dellums to SF Supervisors and Berkeley City Council have condemned the DEA tactics against patients and providers. SF State Senator Carole Migden recently introduced legislation calling on the DEA to end its interference in California and threw her support, with others, behind House Judiciary Chair John Conyers, who expressed his deep concern and called for DEA oversight hearings. So where is Mayor Newsom? It seems that Mayor Newsom is in hiding. Alex, at Drug Law Blog, rightly notes Newsom's silence on the issue and links it to the political vulnerability found around the issues of both medical marijuana and gay marriage, with pragmatism as the possible reason for his silence. However, unlike gay marriage, medical marijuana enjoys the support of at least 80% of Americans, not to mention a full 91% in SF. Regardless of any potential political justification for his actions, it is unconscionable that Newsom is refusing to say anything. Let's hope that this round of media compels Newsom, the anti-drug war Mayor, to not only defend safe access to medical marijuana for thousands of patients in his city, but to also protect the same facilities that contribute millions of dollars in sales tax to the state budget. The time for Newsom to act is now. Local and state officials must seize the opportunity to defend safe access to medical marijuana and the will of San Franciscans, Californians, and states that have fought for such assumed protections.
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