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Olympia, WA -- The federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) conducted aggressive SWAT-style raids yesterday on at least three distribution facilities in Spokane, Washington, that provided medical marijuana to qualified patients. Earlier this month, numerous facilities shut down after U.S.District Attorney Michael Ormsby threatened numerous landlords in Spokane with seizure of their property if they keep letting their tenants provide medical marijuana to state-compliant patients. These actions come as the state is trying to pass Senate Bill 5073, which modifies its current medical marijuana law to set up a licensed distribution system.
"The governor should not buckle to federal pressure," said Steph Sherer, Executive Director of the medical marijuana advocacy group Americans for Safe Access (ASA), which is currently holding raid preparedness trainings across Washington, and will host a stakeholders meeting in Seattle Saturday to discuss next steps for safe access in the state. "Hundreds if not thousands of patients in Washington are now terrified and don't know where to get their medication," Sherer continued. "It's incumbent upon Governor Gregoire to stand up for the patients in her state and provide them with a means to safely obtain medical marijuana."
Ormsby also sent a letter to the governor on April 14th threatening state officials with prosecution if a distribution licensing system, such as that proposed by SB 5073, is adopted. In response, Governor Gregoire has said she will veto parts of the bill that "subject state workers to risk of criminal liability." Gregoire has announced she will take formal action on the bill today at 2:30pm in the Governor's Conference Room. Although the patient community has several concerns with the amended legislation, it is eager to implement a distribution licensing system.
Advocates call federal Justice Department attempts to coerce state elected officials, such as yesterday's raids and the Ormsby letter, blatant intimidation in an effort to undermine the full implementation of state law. Obama's Justice Department has now made threats to state and local public officials in California, Colorado, Hawaii, Montana and Washington. "It's time for local and state officials to defend the rights and dignity of patients and to stand up to federal bullying."
As part of a coordinated national day of action in support of two medical marijuana patients surrendering to federal authorities on Monday, Noon protests will occur at federal buildings that day in Seattle and Spokane. The Obama administration fought to impose 5-year mandatory minimum prison sentences for Dr. Mollie Fry and her husband Dale Schafer, which they will begin serving Monday. Fry is a breast cancer survivor, though both are qualified medical marijuana patients and both are in need of medical attention.
ASA gave President Obama a failing grade in a report card the group issued last week as part of its "Sick and Tired" campaign, calling on the federal government to address medical marijuana as a public health issue. Despite a Justice Department memo issued in October 2009, indicating a shift in the government's enforcement policy, the Obama administration has since then conducted nearly 100 raids in six medical marijuana states. "President Obama has given us broken promises and half-measures and patients deserve better," said ASA spokesperson Kris Hermes.
Obama Report Card: http://AmericansForSafeAccess.org/downloads/Obama_Report_Card.pdf
Several threat letters from DOJ: http://AmericansForSafeAccess.org/downloads/DOJ_Threat_Letters.pdf
ASA Sick and Tired Campaign: http://AmericansForSafeAccess.org/article.php?id=6369
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