Pubdate: Tue, 07 Jun 2005
Source: San Francisco Examiner (CA)
Copyright: 2005 San Francisco Examiner
Author: Justin Jouvenal
Cited: Gonzales v. Raich ( )
Cited: Marijuana Policy Project ( )
Cited: Common Sense for Drug Policy
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)
Bookmark: (Angel Raich)


A wave of fear rippled through San Francisco's medical marijuana
community Monday as some activists, doctors and politicians said they
feared the U.S.

Supreme Court ruling might open the door to a new round of federal
raids on The City's pot clubs, push them further underground and
stymie an attempt to regulate them.

"This case was one of the reasons there was less of a crackdown on
medical marijuana. Now that this case has been decided, The Bush
administration may feel it needs to show California who's boss," said
Steve Fox, a director for the Medical Marijuana Policy Project.

But medical marijuana advocates and state officials also emphasized
the ruling does nothing to change the status quo in the debate:
medical marijuana will remain illegal under federal law, but stay
legal under state law. The legal risks of using medical marijuana
remain the same.

"The law all stays as it is. What's different is that if the federal
government wants to begin enforcing the law it is up to them," said
Kevin Zeese, an attorney and president of the pro-medical marijuana
group Common Sense for Drug Policy. "The bigger risk is the medical
marijuana-based dispensaries. They were on challenging legal ground
and now it's even more so."

The Bush administration has vigorously opposed medical marijuana and
activists said Monday's decision could embolden it to crackdown on The
City's clubs. Such raids had tailed off recently after a string of
high-profile busts in 2002. Those led to the arrest of numerous club
owners and patients.

The U.S. Department of Justice did not return calls, but spokesman
John Nowacki stated he would not comment on whether the department
would prosecute individual users. Local officials, who prosecute all
but about 1 percent of marijuana possession and distribution cases,
would still have to follow state law protecting patients.

Or as state Attorney General Bill Lockyer put in a statement: "State
and federal laws are no different today than they were yesterday."

Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, a medical marijuana advocate, said Monday's
ruling could nix legislation he is working on to regulate the
distribution of medical marijuana and make it more difficult for
patients to get medical marijuana.

The City has placed a six-month moratorium on opening new pot clubs as
Mirkarimi and other supervisors discuss how to regulate where clubs
should go, ensure they are operating legitimately and meet health
regulations. The City's 43 dispensaries currently face few
restrictions on location, operation or the quality of marijuana.

Meanwhile, the number of registered medical marijuana users has jumped
from about 2,200 in 2002 to more than 7,000 today, according to the
San Francisco Department of Health.

Mirkarimi said the ruling might prevent City Attorney Dennis Herrera
from signing off on any legislation  Z a necessary step for approval.

Herrera said in a statement he is working with city government "to
determine if and to what extent there is any room left for local
regulation" of medical marijuana in accordance with the state law. 
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