Pubdate: Tue, 20 Oct 2009
Source: Marin Independent Journal (CA)
Contact:  2009 Marin Independent Journal
Author: Richard Halstead, Marin Independent-Journal
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal - United States)

Marin Medical Pot Dispensaries Laud New Fed Policy

The managers of Marin medical marijuana dispensaries welcomed the 
news Monday that the Obama administration intends to honor state laws 
that permit the sale of marijuana for medicinal purposes.

Pot-smoking patients and their sanctioned suppliers should not be 
targeted for federal prosecution in states that allow medical 
marijuana, prosecutors were told in a new policy memo issued by the 
Justice Department. The memo advises prosecutors they "should not 
focus federal resources in your states on individuals whose actions 
are in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws 
providing for the medical use of marijuana."

"It's huge. It's long overdue and I'm starting to feel a great deal 
of personal relief, considering I've been in litigation with the 
federal government for 12 years over my medical marijuana 
dispensary," said Lynette Shaw, who has operated the Marin Alliance 
for Medical Marijuana in Fairfax for 13 years.

Berta Bollinger, co-president of the Caregiver Compassion Group, 
which opened at 495 Gate Five Road in Sausalito in August, said, 
"It's a good deal. It will help everybody feel a little bit safer. 
It's about time. Go after those commercial grows that are illegal and 
leave us alone."

Under the policy spelled out in a three-page legal memo, federal 
prosecutors are being told it is not a good use of their time to 
arrest people who use or provide medical marijuana in strict 
compliance with state law. The guidelines issued by the department do,
however, make it clear that federal agents will go after people whose 
marijuana distribution goes beyond what is permitted under state law 
or use medical marijuana as a cover for other crimes.

"It will not be a priority to use federal resources to prosecute 
patients with serious illnesses or their caregivers who are complying 
with state laws on medical marijuana, but we will not tolerate drug 
traffickers who hide behind claims of compliance with state law to 
mask activities that are clearly illegal," Attorney General Eric 
Holder said in a statement.

After California's Proposition 215 in 1996 legalized possession and 
cultivation of marijuana for medical purposes by patients who obtain 
doctor approval, individuals attempted to open medical marijuana 
dispensaries in several Marin cities. But only one club, the Marin 
Alliance, was successful in gaining the approval of the city in which 
it is located.

But over the past year new marijuana dispensaries have begun popping 
up in Marin: one in Novato, two in Sausalito and two in Corte Madera. 
The Novato dispensary, the Apela Collective, lost its lease after 
city officials applied pressure on its landlord, and Gate Five 
Caregivers in Sausalito, the first of the new dispensaries to open, 
also closed.

But the Caregiver Compassion Group in Sausalito and Corte Madera's 
two dispensaries - Marin Holistic Solution at 200 Tamal Plaza and 
Going Green at 402 Tamal Plaza - continue to operate although without 
city permits.

Shaw said she had been concerned that the Obama administration might 
pick up where the Clinton administration left off. In 1998, the 
Justice Department sued Shaw and several other medical marijuana 
dispensaries, seeking an injunction to close them down. The Marin 
Alliance was protected from closure while Shaw appealed an initial 
decision against her to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Supreme Court 
rejected her appeal last December.

Now, however, "I think they're going to leave us alone," Shaw said. 
"I'm happy to say at least in my little corner of the world my 
patients are safe."

That may not be the case for Marin's other dispensaries.

"We are pursuing the issue," Bob Pendoley, Corte Madera's assistant 
town manager, said regarding the two dispensaries in his town. What 
does that mean?

"I don't want to tell you," Pendoley said. "At this point we're 
working on it. We don't want to go into the details."
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